A booming market emerges: The Freelancer Economy is predicted to be 40% of the American workforce in just five years, and the startups that power them have been funded over $10B - and a whole new class of organizations have emerged to support, empower, and connect freelancers.
Over the last decade, the Social Media industry birthed many groups to serve content providers.
The birth of the social media industry resulted in many realizing that the audience gave way to participants. Nearly everyone is now creating, sharing, chatting, rating and ranking alongside the mainstream media. Just as we saw in the social media and blogging industry the rise of organizations to cater to these new influencers, such as BlogHer, Federated Media, Clever Girls, Glam and IZEA to offer events, gifts, sample products, services, and more, we're beginning to see it repeat.
The Collaborative Economy industry is birthing many groups to help service providers.
That same metaphor is now repeating in the Collaborative Economy. Individuals, called "micro-entrepreneurs" or "freelancers" or "Makers" or "hosts/drivers/taskrabbits" are now creating their own goods and experiences, alongside Fortune 500 companies. To help standardize the language being used in the Collaborative Economy, these folks are called Providers, who offer rides, homes, goods, and services to Partakers, learn more about the three Ps, on this definitive post.
The following organizations and startups provide services, goods, tools, community, and even activism for these new Providers:
- Freelancers Union: Founded over a decade ago in NY, this organization has 254,000 members. They offer wellness centers, insurance, training, and community. They have a thriving community, physical centers, and offer a variety of financial services products. We have been pleased to host Freelancers Union at Crowd Companies events and member webinars.
- Peers.org. Originally founded as an activist group to promote sharing, backed by some of the popular startups, they've recently shifted to a new direction under a new leader, after criticism for astroturfing. Meet Shelby Clark. Under his direction, this organization is now an online marketplace that offers services and products, to hosts, drivers, and others, including their own insurance programs for ride sharing providers.
- Get kungfu: This interesting startup powers the Collaborative Economy and helps Providers find the right gigs and jobs that match their lifestyle, skills, and more. I had the opportunity to learn from this growing startup on a briefing call, and was interested to hear about their early adoption numbers.
- Groove: This newly emerged organization offers a clubhouse for ride sharing drivers, a place to take bathroom breaks, get food, and other services. I had the pleasure of meeting Manny after reading this article covering Groove from Carolyn Said, of the SF Gate. Manny shared with me his broader ambitions for the emerging ecosystem of drivers bubbling up.
- Zampl: A new startup in SF, offers ride sharing Providers and drivers local artisan goods to sample and to share with their passengers, fostering word of mouth from trusted drivers. This player reminds me of Izea, offering sponsored conversations in the new economy.
- Ride Share Guy, a popular blog written for ride sharing drivers (the Providers). Harry Campbell, offers nearly daily media, podcasts, and tips and tricks for this growing workforce. Harry has been open in communication with me. He reaches out to the community to source predictions from the broader industry.
- Analytics Players: There's a fast-rising set of new startups emerging that offer services, analytics, and more to the hosts, drivers, and freelancers in this market. They include, but are not limited to: ZettaDriver, SherpaShare, and Whats The Fare for drivers. But also, RateCoaster, Smart Host, Beyond Pricing, and Everbooked for home hosts. See this broader list of startups on the Collaborative Economy Honeycomb 2 Infographic.
- Gas4Ads: This startup provides ads in exchange for money, a clear cut sponsorship programs for Uber and Lyft drivers. I'm expecting to see iPad versions emerge, perhaps a sleeker and less obtrusive version as the NY cabbie forced karaoke experience.
- There are dozens, if not hundreds, of online communities for drivers and hosts, including this closed Facebook group for Uber drivers who often share their wins, challenges, and gripes with their role. It's a closed group, so you'll need to request access. Also, see UberPeople, a very active forum of raw discussion from and about drivers and the industry. I was introduced to this group from this cabby on twitter, @chi1cabby.
This brief listing (I'm sure we're leaving out many other players) indicates there's an entire industry being birthed to serve the Providers (hosts, drivers, makers, cooks, couriers, and rabbits). This offers incredible opportunities for connecting to this ecosystem to learn from them, support them, but also to provide new resources, offerings, sponsorships, and more to enable this rising class of workers. If you're working at a very large company, learn more about this space by joining my organization, Crowd Companies.
(Photo by Porsche Jones, used with Creative Commons license)