Sunday Strategist: Where tech freelancers can make more money

Sunday Strategist
Bloomberg

 

Online platforms like Uber Technologies Inc. do good by matching buyers (of car rides or whatever) with sellers (drivers, etc.) They reduce friction in commerce. But they charge a lot for their lubrication, scarfing up most of what economists call the consumer surplus. Here's how a guy named Gabriel Luna-Ostaseski puts it in his LinkedIn profile:

"We'd hoped the gig economy would usher in a new era of autonomy and abundance, but the economics didn't pan out. A few wealthy people became even wealthier, and the average worker is still scrambling to make a living."

Lots of people have made that complaint. The difference is that Luna-Ostaseski and some friends are trying to do something about it. He is the co-founder and chief revenue officer of the Braintrust Foundation, a non-profit middleman that matches infotech freelancers with employers. His co-founder and chief executive officer is Adam Jackson. (Braintrust's URL is usebraintrust.com because the shorter one was already taken.)

The freelancers on the Braintrust platform include veterans of companies like Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google. They publish the rates they're willing to work for and get paid that full sum, although the companies that hire them also pay a 10% "success fee" to Braintrust.

There's a blockchain angle: Once the Braintrust blockchain is up and running, freelancers will earn Btrust tokens by recruiting more employers to the platform and by recruiting or vetting other freelancers. The tokens give their holders the ability to vote on the direction of the foundation--essentially, the users become the owners.

Braintrust pays a for-profit company called Freelance Labs Inc., also run by Jackson and Luna-Ostaseski, for some of its services.

It's still tiny but so far, so good. Despite Covid-19 and the recession, the startup is generating revenue at an annual run rate of "seven figures," and that amount has lately been growing 40% a month, says Luna-Ostaseski. The website lists clients including Deloitte, Nestle, Netflix, Nike, Four Seasons, and Task Rabbit, among others. Luna-Ostaseski adds NASA, Porsche, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Pacific Life. 

Luna-Ostaseski sums up the strategy in one sentence: "Software is eating the middleman."

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