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Blockchain talent network Braintrust takes on Upwork, Fivver

Braintrust, a blockchain-enabled freelance network for tech and design talent, recently unveiled its own token on the Ethereum mainnet.

What’s happening: Braintrust, a Pantera-backed company, launched the BTRST token on Sept. 1, enabling its more than 50,000 users to become community owners and govern the Braintrust network. The tokens allow Braintrust freelancers to vote on key decisions and to control the future of the platform. BTRST is set with a fixed supply of 250 million tokens. For comparison, Bitcoin has 21 million.

“We’re ushering extractive economics out the door by replacing them with a true ownership economy, one in which workers control the network they make their living on — with the help of crypto.” —Braintrust

The background: Launched in June of 2020, Braintrust is the first decentralized talent network built on a blockchain. Technical freelancers on the platform have the chance to work with brands like Nestle, Porsche, Atlassian, Goldman Sachs, and Nike. Unlike most every other freelancer platform, Braintrust doesn’t take a cut from freelancers’ contracts. Instead, the network charges companies a platform fee of 10 percent of the contract. Freelancers are only charged a $5 withdrawal fee to Transferwise and any associated currency exchange fees.

Braintrust swells: Since launching in 2020, Braintrust has grown from $3.5 million in contract values to a $30 million run rate in 2021. Braintrust says freelancers average nearly $100 per hour on the platform.

Why blockchain? Braintrust built itself on the blockchain to transparently distribute control of its network to its community members — i.e. freelancers — who contribute to building it. Braintrust co-founder Adam Jackson said the blockchain model aligns the incentives of the network with freelancers rather than a centralized platform that would take disproportionate value from workers.

Big backing: Braintrust landed an $18 million round in October of 2020. In total, Braintrust has raised $31 million from investors like ACME Ventures, Blockchange, Coinbase Ventures, Multicoin Capital, Pantera, and Tiger Global.

Comparison: When compared to other popular talent networks, Braintrust is a compelling option for freelancers. Fiverr charges freelancers 20 percent of their earnings and a 5 percent fee to job listers. Upwork charges its freelancers a sliding fee of 5 to to 20 percent per payment — a rate that lowers as the two parties work together longer. Catalant tacks on 20 to 30 percent mark up on freelancers’ contracts that clients pay. Toptal requires a $500 deposit from companies looking for talent on their platform and the platform’s NDA policies prevent freelancers from discussing their rates.

U.S. freelancing: There were about 59 million freelancers in the U.S. in 2020, representing 36 percent of the total U.S. workforce. That’s an increase of about 8 percent since 2019, and researchers expect more professionals to freelance in the coming years.

Generational trends: It seems the younger you are, the more likely you are to freelance. About 50 percent of Gen Z workers have completed some freelance work in the last year, compared to 44 percent of Millennials, 30 percent of Gen X, and about 26 of Baby Boomers, according to Upwork’s Freelance Forward report.

Fight for freelancers: The global market size of freelance platforms — including Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal, Freelancer.com, TaskRabbit, and others — hit nearly $3.4 billion in 2020. Researchers expect the total market to grow to nearly $9.2 billion by 2027.

Why it matters: Companies hoping to tap the growing gig economy are facing stiff competition. As a result, we’re seeing more creative solutions from companies like Braintrust, which are forcing these networks to consider how to attract freelancers in the future. If trends continue, freelancers will have a plethora of choices of where they can find new opportunities.

Do you use Braintrust? What are your thoughts on a decentralized talent network? Share your experience below!

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    To be clear, the way Braintrust handle payments, sounds really cool... but..

    Launched in June of 2020, Braintrust is the first decentralized talent network built on a blockchain.

    That is just beyond stupid. Why?

    Braintrust built itself on the blockchain to transparently distribute control of its network to its community members — i.e. freelancers — who contribute to building it. Braintrust co-founder Adam Jackson said the blockchain model aligns the incentives of the network with freelancers rather than a centralized platform that would take disproportionate value from workers.

    Wtf does that mean? You mean, without blockchain, you can't really take a 10% cut from the companies?

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      Fair arguments here John. I believe businesses may have an incentive to build a solution that would work well without the blockchain solution, but the buzzword is very attractive for funding... and these guys raised US$23mm so far.

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        Yeah, it's so sad... I can bet you without the bullshit blockchain, they would deliver 5-10x faster.

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          I suppose so... I've just been through the hiring process of a freelancer with Toptal and it was very smooth and the quality of the candidate was great - they are really nailing it. The business model needs to be focused on Sales and pre-screening of the candidates to guarantee high quality.

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            Cool! I'll take a look at Toptal myself -- I wasn't even aware of them until reading this :)

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              They are pricey though. But they commit to give you the top 3% of freelances in the world. It seems to be working

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                I see... I was looking to actually apply myself, as a freelancer, until my project takes off. Since I'm slowly running out of money 😁

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                  If I would ever focus on working as a freelancer I would definitely go with toptal.

                  The screening process seem to be a little bit more strict with tests and other requirements but people would be willing to pay more than other platforms.

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                    Thanks, I'll definitely check them out!

  2. 2

    Interesting read, Bobby 🤓

    1. 1

      Thank you Dennis! Interesting times for gig workers

  3. 1

    I actually had an interview with braintrust, and I have to say it was one of the worst experiences I've ever had. They paired me with a "machine learning expert" who, for example, didn't seem to know what a compiler was. I hope for their sake this is just growing pains!

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      What were the best platforms you worked with? I've recently hired someone from TopTal and have been extremely satisfied with not only the freelancer but the whole hiring and payment process... Not sure if that was just luck or if that's consistent across the platform!

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