Since it opened up five years ago, TaskRabbit has often been a godsend to people with more money than time. The company stocks its auction house of personal assistants with people ready to deliver cupcakes to your office, or assemble your Ikea furniture, or clean your home. But last summer, executives at TaskRabbit noticed a problem. The percentage of completed tasks posted to the service's auction house had leveled off and was beginning to decline. Individual tasks were seeing fewer bids, indicating frustration on the part of the workers who used the site. The company was stumped: TaskRabbit added 1.25 million users to its system in 2013 and doubled its force of contractors to 25,000. Supply and demand were as big as they had ever been, the company says, but something wasn’t working.

In July, the company reorganized its staff, leading to the layoffs of an undisclosed number of employees. As part of the new structure, TaskRabbit expanded its marketplace operations team, which sifted through the data until they found a likely culprit for the decline. The auction model, in which the company's contractors bid to complete tasks posted by customers, had proven unsatisfying to both. People who posted tasks complained that they never knew what starting price to set and that it took too long for contractors to bid on their jobs. The contractors (which the company now calls "taskers") complained it was taking too long to find jobs — on average, they were spending two hours a week scrolling through endless pages of open tasks looking for matches.