Despite the fact that the so-called ‘gig economy’ is growing, there are common criticisms of inequity and inefficiency in the way a lot of gig work is organised, carried out, and compensated. In 2018, two entrepreneurs named Adam Jackson and Gabe Luna-Ostaseski founded Braintrust, a decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO) aimed at disrupting and democratising the gig work industry. Braintrust’s network is built around blockchain, smart contracts, and value tokens, and is governed by its own users. The model enables workers to keep 100 per cent of their market rate without the platform taking a percentage; it also allows companies to engage with talent directly and hire workers for projects more efficiently. One example of an organisation helped by Braintrust’s network is multinational food and drinks giant Nestle, which used it to quickly scale up its IT team.
Nestle’s Purina range of pet food is popular all over the world. The company recently launched an initiative to create a “direct-to-consumer buying experience for pet owners in Peru”. However, in order to successfully achieve this before its competition completed similar initiatives, the company’s IT team needed to grow rapidly in just days. Traditional hiring methods, such as sourcing talent in-house or using recruitment agencies, simply wouldn’t be quick enough and would be subject to significant hiring fees. Nestle’s chief innovation officer Goran Kukic recounts: “to keep up with innovation, we needed an easy way to find verified talent without the pain of searching, hiring, and onboarding.”
Kukic decided to use Braintrust’s network to source the new members of his team. The network’s decentralised, blockchain-powered model works by using ‘BTRST’ tokens that are awarded to users based on their contributions. For talent, this means providing valuable work for clients. For clients, on the other hand, it means paying invoices on time and referring new clients to the network. This incentivises all users to collaborate fairly and helpfully so that the community grows steadily while remaining reliable.
The Braintrust network only provides a fixed number of tokens (250 million) in circulation at any one time. Traditional, centralised freelancing platforms place no such limits, which leads to high fees being paid by users and this value concentrating at ‘the top’. This community-focused, trust-based model means that no user has the incentive to exploit another. Braintrust’s algorithm that matches freelancers to clients is also extremely accurate and efficient. Within 48 hours, six suitable workers were matched to Kukic, and they were onboarded in just two weeks. This happened at a fraction of the cost of traditional hiring methods.
Using a decentralised talent network was certainly a fruitful decision for Kukic’s team, which was able to scale up in the timeframe needed without incurring huge costs. The question of whether or not networks like Braintrust can replace traditional talent networks remains, however. Freelance networks like Fiverr replaced traditional labour markets in many industries, although these labour markets still remain. While decentralisation and Web3 may not entirely replace more traditional freelance networks or labour markets, they are surely likely at least to diversify them. There is certainly much to be learned from the democratisation that they have enabled, and more and more organisations are sure to benefit from exploring DAOs to find new talent.
With remote working and the gig economy on the rise, decentralised talent networks can not only improve equity in freelance work, but they can also significantly streamline and optimise hiring processes for organisations. In addition to this, more and more skilled technical workers are leaving large employers to build careers as freelancers on networks like Braintrust – recruiters would be wise to look for talent in these places.