TaskUs has spent seven years bootstrapping and quietly becoming the go-to outsourcing company for some of the tech industry's hottest startups. Now the company is gearing up to get on its own fast track: On Monday it announced it has raised $15 million from Philippines-based private equity firm Navegar.

The company already is talking of an eventual IPO as well. "It's always been an ambition of mine to grow TaskUs into a multibillion-dollar company," says Bryce Maddock, co-founder and CEO of the Santa Monica, California-based business, which employs more than 3,000 people in the Philippines to handle business process tasks for American-based startups. "You will see a public TaskUs probably within five years time."

If you missed the part where this startup seemed to come out of nowhere and grow like crazy, you're not the only one. TaskUs has made it onto Inc.'s annual list of fastest growing companies the last two years and predicts $35 million in revenue this year, up from $6.2 million in 2013.

TaskUs boasts more than 200 customers, but up until fairly recently few of them wanted to say much about the company--or even admit that they use its services. "The vast majority of clients do not allow us to say that we work with them," Maddock says, citing their concern over the stigma that comes along with outsourcing jobs overseas, as well as a reluctance to reveal a potential competitive advantage. Fortunately, that tide is starting to turn: TaskUs is now able to prominently display the logos of Uber, Groupon, Tinder, AutoDesk, Wikipedia, Whisper, and others on its website.

For their first chunk of outside funding, Maddock and co-founder and president Jaspar Weir favored Navegar over five other interested American firms, because of its ties to the outsourcing industry in the Philippines. Navegar co-founder Javier Infante also is a co-founder of one of the major call center companies, Telus International.

The money will help the startup triple its workforce by the end of 2016. Attrition rates at customer contact centers in the Philippines tend to be higher than 56 percent on average, according to one estimate by Towers Watson. Maddock says TaskUs retains 86 percent of its employees on an annual basis. And it's not because the startup pays higher salaries. Instead, TaskUs has tried to bring Silicon Valley-type benefits and culture to an industry that has a reputation for treating employees as commodities. Its three offices feature fitness centers, massages, open-floor plans, and company cafeterias. It also helps that TaskUs puts its offices in the provinces, near where its employees live, instead of in major cities that would require longer commutes.

In the near future, the company also plans to expand to Latin America with offices in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Colombia. Those locations will be a little closer to home for clients who might be apprehensive about the Philippines and will give TaskUs some redundancy for Spanish-language support. It's also helpful during typhoon season to have an office up and running in another part of the world.  

The funding also will go toward developing technology that will help its employees "deliver service better," Maddock says. Part of this comes out of a need to preserve the value of its services. For example, anonymous social apps such as Whisper, which have faced pressure to step up content policing efforts, rely on TaskUs employees to manually flag inappropriate messages--nude photos, threats of violence, etc.--and keep them off its networks. But if and when clients consider moving such services in-house with more automated solutions, powerful proprietary technology could prove a useful selling point. The company also plans to keep a focus on high-value services that require a human touch, such as photo editing. (It no longer performs voice-to-text transcription because dictation technology has become highly accurate.)

To keep up its ambitious growth plans--TaskUs aims to triple revenue to $105 million by the end of 2016--it also needs to keep up an ambitious hiring schedule. Currently, that means bringing on more than 100 people a week--and multiple trips to the Philippines each month for the founders.

But for now, they're still reeling from the look of their bank account now that the check from Navegar has cleared. "I sent my mom a screenshot of the bank account," says Maddock, who lived with his parents while TaskUs was getting off the ground. "I still can't believe how much has changed in the last few years."  

Published on: Jun 8, 2015