Bryce Maddock and Jaspar Weir | TaskUs
Bryce Maddock, CEO
Jaspar Weir, President
Santa Monica, CA
Taking conventional wisdom to task
Investing in their employees is the key to success for Bryce Maddock and Jaspar Weir of outsourcing startup TaskUs.
t’s a tried and (sometimes) true formula: provide services at the lowest cost, secure the most customers, save on high-ticket expenses like labor and benefits.
But Bryce Maddock and Jaspar Weir are more interested in rewriting formulas than following them — in their personal lives and at TaskUs, their business process outsourcing (BPO) firm.
“The standard route of getting a job and working at a big firm and working your way up the corporate ladder never appealed to me,” Weir says. “I always knew I was going to do my own thing.”
Maddock and Weir wanted to take their idea — a BPO business that prioritizes positive experiences for employees as a way to retain top talent — and bring it to life on their terms.
That’s how they ended up in the Philippines, sleeping on their first employees’ couches, after buying one-way plane tickets and arriving with a little luggage and a load of confidence.
Converging on innovation
Choosing the road less traveled is in character for the longtime friends. They were out‑of‑the‑box thinkers even at Santa Monica High School, where they began their entrepreneurial pursuits by charging their classmates admission to parties they planned and hosted. In college — Maddock at New York University and Weir at the University of Southern California — they turned the concept into a formal nightclub business for teens.
While Weir expanded the business to include parties for adults, Maddock took a detour into investment banking, where he learned about the unconventional staffing needs of high‑growth tech startups. The entrepreneurial itch started again for Maddock, and he approached his old friend at a fortuitous moment: Weir had just read The 4-Hour Workweek, in which author Tim Ferriss preaches a philosophy of “outsourcing your life” for fun and profit.
“It painted a picture of a professional life worth aspiring toward,” Weir says.
These thoughts on new ways of living and working intersected, and the idea for TaskUs was born: invest in the smartest and hardest‑working people they could find to perform administrative tasks online for companies dedicated to disrupting the status quo. Turning that idea into reality led them to the Philippines, where Maddock and Weir put all their savings into the company, taking on large and well‑established rivals.
About a decade later, TaskUs now has a workforce of over 15,000 people in more than 20 offices across five countries (India, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan and the US). These teammates provide exceptional customer service and back-office support for some of the hottest — and coolest — high-growth startups in the world, including Mailchimp, Deliveroo and Turo.
In an industry marked by high turnover and razor-thin margins, Maddock and Weir have found success (and no longer need to sleep on their employees’ couches). Their secret: by focusing on putting people first, TaskUs boasts an attrition rate half that of a traditional BPO.
We took a risk by overinvesting in the employee experience.
“One of the things that is striking about our industry is that labor is the most expensive portion of business by far,” Maddock says. “As a result, many of our competitors focus on how they can reduce cost by reducing what they are spending on their employees.”
Maddock and Weir were skeptical of that strategy: “It seemed like a really silly approach because inevitably your best talent would leave.”
They instead say that placing too much emphasis on reducing labor costs triggers a “spiral of death,” which begins with delivering inconsistent results. That, in turn, leads to clients either going elsewhere or demanding lower prices. With fewer clients, companies are forced to reduce wages even further, causing continued deterioration of services.
“We took a risk by overinvesting in the employee experience,” Maddock says.
Each TaskUs office is bright and open, with an on-site gym and showers, and some sites have nurseries as well. The benefits go beyond what you might typically see at a BPO company. For example, in the Philippines, teammates are granted four months of maternity leave, and the TaskUs Scholars Program fully funds the education of one child of any teammate who has worked at the company for at least a year.
The success they found with their disruptive formula attracted a $500 million investment in 2018, which allowed them to expand their global footprint. The company holds its own against BPO giants like Accenture, IBM and Convergys. Many of the startups TaskUs supports have scaled into huge companies with growth exceeding a million new users per week.
From 2017 to 2018, revenue at TaskUs more than doubled, and it is forecast to grow by a double-digit percentage in 2019. But, true to form, Maddock and Weir aren’t just focused on the numbers on a balance sheet.
“The stories of teammates who have changed their lives and their families’ lives never get old,” Weir says. “It’s the most inspiring and rewarding part of what we have built.”