25. June 2012–
It's like a real-time, location-based Craigslist with a bit of social networking thrown in and a much more attractive interface. Once signed up, Milk.ly users can list tasks for other users to carry out - anything from urgently picking up a SIM card so your phone works during LeWeb to assembling IKEA furniture or doing data entry. Milk.ly sets a suggested minimum price for tasks based on category and leaves it up to the marketplace from there.
Users carrying out tasks ("milkmen") go through CV screening, interviews, background checks and training, and earn "levels" from activity and "ratings" from employer feedback. There's no screening or rating for employers but milkmen can flag suspicious activity or make complaints if needed. Everyone is encouraged to fill out a profile and link to other social networks, so you at least know you're dealing with real people.
Does Milk.ly herald a future of 21st century barter and micro-entrepreneurs?
Founders Sal Matteis, 32, ex-Yahoo, and Karim Amrani, 25, met on Twitter. "Karim was making the point that education and economy are broken systems: both failing at matching skills with real opportunities. I responded to the tweet saying we should do something about it," Matteis says.
Milk.ly wants to encourage micro-entrepreneurship and create new jobs and do it more efficiently than anything else on the market in Europe. For some users, Milk.ly might become regular work; struggling creatives or students may just use it for a quick income top-up every so often.
While it's still early days, Milk.ly is off to a good start. The team won a spot in Seedcamp London 2012, timed it just right with a public beta release at LeWeb, partnered with TEDx Houses of Parliament in London - and are about to close their first investment round.
Not just a European TaskRabbit
Milk.ly is not the first of its kind and that's probably the biggest threat to its success at this point. TaskRabbit (San Francisco, founded 2008) and Exec (also in San Francisco - "an Uber for TaskRabbit", according to its founder) run similar models. TaskRabbit raised $17.8 million at the end of 2011 and spokeswoman Jamie Viggiano tells me the company plans to enter Europe in the next few months.
But Milk.ly, currently available in London, is the first in Europe and Matteis tells me a few thousand users are already on board - a pretty decent head start.
There are other differences - in pricing, for example. TaskRabbit offers two pricing options. One, TaskRabbit automatically matches tasks with the closest user willing to do the work at the lowest price (TaskRabbit's Viggiano tells me this doesn't drive down earnings, as TaskRabbits can't see what others are bidding so don't actively compete on price). Two, the task poster can review all bids (the same as Milk.ly) and select the bidder with the most appropriate experience and skills. Exec is different again, with a flat fee of $25 per task and is less of a community, more of a taxi-style professional service.
I've still got a few questions about the model. If you're the kind of professional who regularly needs your drycleaning picked up or Diet Cokes fetched, wouldn't it be better for everyone if you just hired an executive assistant?
For everyone else, though, the likes of Milk.ly could come in very handy and it's a new option for finding work at a time when unemployment in Europe is high. Regular milkmen should be able to pull a pretty decent income - and hopefully have fun, meet interesting people and pick up a few useful business skills at the same time.
If you're in London and keen to list or carry out tasks, sign up now for Milk.ly's public beta. If you're in Berlin then we're sure Milk.ly will be coming your way before too long.