The Gig Economy

Warning: This post touches politics. The comments will likely be incendiary and polarizing. Don’t go into the comments if you don’t want to be annoyed or irritated.

Many in the tech industry are taking these comments by Hillary Clinton yesterday as an ‘attack on Uber and the tech sector’:

Meanwhile, many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation.

But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

The first example is Airbnb, the second example is oDesk, the third example is Etsy, and the fourth example is Uber.

My view on these comments is that Hillary is right. These companies are creating exciting new economies and unleashing innovation. And she is also right that these companies raise questions about work place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

We should not be afraid of this discussion. We should embrace it and have it.

Can you be a freelance worker if you don’t own the data about your work and earnings history and be able to take it with you when you leave a platform or export it to a third party for optimization? Can you be a freelance worker if you are indentured to your employer because they loaned you the money to purchase the asset you are using to earn your income? I think the answer to both is obviously no. But there are companies who argue that it is yes.

Let’s have that argument. It is important and it is also a good idea to have a President who understands where the economy is headed and the significance of the policy issues raised by all of this.

I also really liked what she had to say about women and the workforce. The entire transcript of her remarks is here.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    The 1099/W2 conundrum I believe sums up the issues from a policy and tax issue of where the entire economy is heading.

  2. Tom Labus

    I was shocked the WSJ printed it.

    1. fredwilson

      going soft

    2. pointsnfigures

      The print Alan Blinder and other lefty stuff too. Hate their paywall, and sort of dislike the new format.

  3. obarthelemy

    I don’t think the big philosophical issue is specific to the new e-jobs: workers have been paid by the hour or by the act, and been employed at will w/ no health/retirement coverage forever, especially in the US and other low protection countries. that has both drawback and advantages. I’d argue it’s a sub-issue from the general capital vs workers and wealth distribution questions.There’s a specific technical issue though: assuming the goal is not to grow the “no coverage” underclass, the social support system (health, retirement, worker’s rights…) is not designed for a massively “independent” workforce. The system probably needs to be tweaked so that those can be taken into account somehow, either as an option or mandatory.

  4. Michael Turk

    It is interesting that my view and opinion on this topic would have been completely the opposite of what I now think not long ago… I currently reside in the Middle East where, if your not familiar, has substantial control over who, what, where and when you work for…It is quite humbling and eyeopening.Ironically the “Uber” drivers here are single status Indians that live in a villa, made for 4 people, with 8-10 other drivers and that is their full time job. Uber, or any other job other than what is stated on your residency permit, is not allow by law.Unfortunately, the other Airbnb isn’t an option either, even if you are a national citizen, considering the constraints on living occupants and their relationship.All in all, I would agree with obarthelemy, in that their will need to be concessions made to the support systems in order to compliment these new employment scenarios because I doubt they will be eliminated or constrained. However, I would pose the same argument of system strain is experienced through our immigration issues with far greater impacts.

  5. Toby Lewis

    Definitely a good thing for society that a future president has a good grasp of the sharing economy both in the positive sense, and also clearly understands the extent to which some of the more aggressive companies are playing regulatory arbitrage with their users. The sharing economy companies themselves will lose out and have their brands hurt if a stable regulatory regime for their users doesn’t emerge soon, and they do not proactively manage how their users are treated. Stories about Uber sound particularly distasteful.

  6. David Semeria

    The aspect I hated most about being an employee was losing control over my time. I suspect many people would feel the same way. Therefore, I would argue the freedom to choose one’s own hours is valuable and should be taken into account when weighing the pros and cons of employee vs freelancer.

    1. Sierra Choi

      Corporations like Google allow employees to work as many hours as they like. They are project driven, not 9-5 driven. Some even have an option to work from home a day In the week.

      1. David Semeria

        Yeah, they have playrooms too. Except no-one is dumb enough to actually use them on a regular basis.

      2. Steve_Dodd

        True, but are they compensated appropriately or just driven to complete the task for fear of being beaten out by someone else?

        1. Sierra Choi

          They are considered full time workers who have all the usual Google benefits. I think their offices are built on the philosophy of being at university- people tend to be productive at different times of the project cycle. I know that some employees at Samsung just sit at their desk and pretend to do busywork because they have a strict culture of always having to be in the office. Google has the polar opposite philosophy and I think it works.

          1. Steve_Dodd

            This should not be a comparison between American work policies and that of other nations. There is no question you are right about the differing policies and cultures. We (Canadians included) need to fix ourselves not just be arguably better than someone else. This (Google) is also the same company that buries the profits earned from these hard working people in offshore tax havens and certainly doesn’t pay its fair share to support the economy (and worker) who helped create its wealth. I feel like there is a more fundamental question here.

          2. LE

            Google does what google can do because it’s a defacto monopoly and awash in cash. Take that away and none of that would be possible.

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Exactly. I can’t think of a bigger productivity killer than having to come into the office every day at a set time.

          4. Joe Cardillo

            Agreed. There’s enough research on remote vs. office work to suggest that creativity thrives in group or collaborative environments, but productivity suffers.

          5. awaldstein

            I just don’t know about this.There have been <counting> 4 times where I’ve built teams of over 200 people and companies of over 3000 people and global connected organizations.I like face to face. I liked being in to lead. I liked getting on a plane 4 times a year and going round the globe touching flesh with remote groups and partners and companies.Schedule and discipline and face to face is maybe my frailty but a part of how leadership happens.Flextime to me is about vacations.

      3. pointsnfigures

        Google employees work directly for Google, and their intellectual property and production become a part of Google. Uber’s drivers aren’t like that.

        1. Sierra Choi

          Uber drivers own no intellectual property, neither do people at elance or at any on demand startup. In addition, uber drivers are solely responsible for paying damages. They get the short end of the stick in every aspect.The only reason I, and others like uber is because it’s cheaper than cabs.

          1. christopolis

            and more convenient and friendlier

          2. LE

            Yeah I am not seeing the tie in that pointsnfigures is making to intellectual property at all. And cut it any way you like Uber drivers can think they are self employed but they are not self employed in the way that they think they are. They have serve one master and have 1 “customer” to keep happy, Uber. Fail to keep Uber happy or do what Uber wants and said driver has to find a new Uber. There is very little latitude.Otoh if you run your own “black car service” and have a book of customers you can actually make mistakes with 5% or even 15% of those customers and still keep the book of customers that represents the other 95%. Being a driver for Uber is like “self employed theater”. Don’t ever confuse it with “owning your own business”.This concept isn’t limited to Uber. The entire idea of services like Yelp or odesk ( now) is to have a rating system which means you are serving one customer (the rating service). Back in the past if a restaurant served a number of bad meals word would spread slowly. Now if they screw up word spreads much quicker because everybody knows what is happening. For the business that is not good and I would argue for the customer that is not good either in the end even though that is not the way people see it. [1][1] Because businesses then spend a great deal of time dealing with the squeaky wheels that cause costs to go up over minor bullshit…

          3. Tarun U

            If Uber is considered an employer because they set the rules and enforce them; then, why is City Taxi Commission not an employer?

          4. LE

            To me, the City Taxi Commission is a way of limiting the supply to keep prices at a livable level for people who drive. An artifact created by that is the value of the medallions has risen. Not seeing any way that the CTC would be considered an employer but I am not well informed on this subject in any way.Making things better for consumers does not necessarily equate to making things better for drivers or people supplying services to consumers (or businesses) if it leads to a race to the bottom in terms of pricing.

          5. falicon

            I think it’s more to do with who sets and controls the price, who actually pays the vendor/employee their share, and who controls the vendor/employee freedoms and benefits.If you work for yourself or own the busienss, you set the prices and determine your take, and of course enforce your own constraints, rules, and freedoms (and the market helps correct these things for you)…I don’t believe Uber drivers get very much say in any of these things (do they?).

          6. Tarun U

            If you drive a taxi in NYC – you don’t set the prices, you don’t determine any constraints, rules or freedoms any more than Uber allows (except Uber takes a cut while Taxi Commission is paid by tax dollars).Why are you not an employee of NYC Taxi Commission?

          7. falicon

            I guess you could argue that you are in many fashions…you have to pay a hefty sum for your medalion right? That’s basically a franchise fee…and/or you have to work for one of the larger companies.Regardless, you aren’t *really* working for yourself or owning your own business…you are at best, a hybrid of some sorts no?

          8. Joe Cardillo

            Good distinction re: ownership and I think that’s one of the mistakes that even smart people make, the gig economy isn’t entrepreneurship or business ownership even though it may share some characteristics.The other thing is that in a large ecosystem like the ones that Yelp, Uber, Airbnb etc. are creating, you need a series of checks and balances. Reviews are given far too much credence as the Great Equalizer when they are only one aspect. Ask any small business owner who deals with Yelp, for example. Some leverage but most hate it.

          9. LE

            you need a series of checks and balancesTo that point when I tried recently to assess a low rating on an Amazon product they wouldn’t let me even do that. They put friction in front of the process presumably because they recognized the danger to the merchant (and therefore their business) of having to many whiners spoil the party. Plus if you try to leave feedback the one or two times I have (gave up after that I mean who cares?) they wanted what appeared to be an essay. Wasn’t worth it to me anyway.By the way “large ecosystem” similar to “large corporation” is like a big ship that doesn’t really care for minor details which might slow them down. They don’t really concentrate on quality but quantity of the experience. They can afford to have leakage in the model because the rest of the boat is so big.

          10. Joe Cardillo

            Yeah I think reviews are a sort of red herring for the gig / collaborative economy. Important, but the broader dynamics behind them not well understood. Agreed re: ecosystem, not having managed a billion dollars worth of anything in my life (yet), it’s easy for me to say. Still something there I’m sure, at least in terms of long term viability of a company.

          11. deetelecare

            If you drive your personal car for Uber or any car service, you’d better check your car insurance. Most policies are for personal use only. If you are using commercially, they won’t pay for accident damage. Many Uber drivers loan cars to friends who also want to drive. That is generally a no-go with insurance as well. And there is always licensing as in many states if you transport passengers (car for hire), you will need a livery or commercial plate–if you are pulled over for a traffic violation with an obvious for-hire passenger in the car, you’ll be ticketed for that.

          12. LE

            Most policies are for personal use only.More likely “all”. Can’t imagine an auto insurer letting this fall through the cracks.Auto insurance is already not evenly paid for as it is. For example a policy is typically the same cost if you drive 5000 miles per year or 50,000 miles per year. They might ask you how much you commute to work but they won’t typically (from my experience) ask how many miles per year you drive or assess (fme) miles driven. Which they should do since it’s obvious there is a greater risk with more miles. Ditto for driving for Uber where you are driving in ways you are not familiar with and with people that are strangers. So of course the risk is much higher and insurance is all about risk.Many Uber drivers loan cars to friends who also want to drive.You need to have your head and maturity examined for doing that type of thing.if you are pulled over for a traffic violation with an obvious for-hire passenger in the car, you’ll be ticketed for that.Well at least with that we have a probability of a probability with a finite cost and outcome. So that is the least of the evils.

          13. Dave Stagner

            Interestingly, I’ve talked with several Uber drivers who are former cabbies, and they all praise Uber as a MUCH better employer than the cab companies. Sample is anecdotal and of course excludes drivers who tried Uber and went back to cabs, but it seems to match observation, and after a half dozen a pattern matters.

      4. Jeff Jones

        treehouse ( ) has a 32 hour work week. And some companies provide cash incentives for employees ONLY if they take two weeks vacation and don’t check email or work. More hours doesn’t equate to more productivity.

    2. JimHirshfield

      Salespeople have flexibility if they’re successful at selling. Hit your quota and I don’t care if you leave at 4:30p.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Their production and intellectual property go to the corporation. If I put my gig up on Airbnb or Etsy, the intellectual property and liability for it rest with me.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Yeah. I was just addressing the point posed that you couldn’t work for someone else and still have flexibility of your time; I think you can.

          1. pointsnfigures

            My first job was a sales job. No daily supervision. Company car. When I was done making calls I was done. But, if I didn’t produce, I was gone. But the company owned all my production, supplied all the products I sold, etc. In the same job, I competed against independent sales reps that were 1099 employees. They repped a few different lines-owned their car (and wrote it off as a bus expense). If they didn’t produce, they were broke.

          2. falicon

            That’s a good way to break it down really…broke vs. fired (which often leads to broke as well)…that’s the ‘risk’ or ‘failure’ you are weighing between the two options really (and let’s be honest, a large % are going to end up with that fate regardless of which path they chose).Control or freedom actually comes via execution in both paths…it’s only perception and hype that makes people think one path is more or less freedom or risk than another really.

          3. LE

            Being an outside salesperson is one of the most time flexible jobs you can have. You can easily work in “personal shit” and all sorts of time benefits that simply don’t come with any job where you have to be in an office.

        2. LE

          However salespeople have reputations that go with them. Anyone who has ever dealt with professional salespeople is well aware when they leave their current employer and in many cases will follow them to their new gig if at all possible and subject to any restrictive covenants (of which may or may not be enforceable or can be worked around).A smart salesperson will also try to develop as much of a personal relationship with their customers as possible so that it’s almost a given that they will bring a book of business to their new job. Obviously all of this depends on the job and the business. [1][1] One of the things that a business can do to prevent this from happening is to make sure that others interact with the sales prospect so if the key salesman leaves there is at least some obligation to continue the relationship with the business (because you deal with not just one person) and not jump ship.

          1. pointsnfigures

            Reputation has no bearing over whether you are a 1099 employee or not.

          2. LE

            Not seeing the tie in to the relevance of being a 1099 employee or not.

          3. pointsnfigures

            No one except the people that talk about you own your reputation. It’s not an asset to a firm, hence no relevance to a discussion if you are a 1099 employee or not.

      2. Steve_Dodd

        But few (if any) highly successful sales people EVER leave at 4:30 or if they do, are back at it by 10p.

        1. JimHirshfield

          thumbs up!

      3. LE

        A good way to make sure a salesman busts their ass and makes quoted is to get them married with a kid on the way.

      4. Harry Dean Stockwell

        “I didn’t expect to find a salesman drinking coffee this late in the morning. How long you been here, Joe?””Oh, I don’t know, I guess 30, 45 minutes maybe. Why do you ask?””You must be making a lot of sales, piling up a good income.””Oh… uh… I’m doing all right. I could do better, but… Ohahaha – I get it Paul. Back on that old ‘Time is Money’ kick, right?””Not back on it, Joe, still on it.”

      5. alg0rhythm

        Leaving @ 4:30 after hitting weekly quota sounds not terribly flexible, though I agree, not everything can be flexible.

    3. Dan Moore

      I think many folks feel the same way, but are willing to trade that flexibility for the (perceived) safety of a regular paycheck. When I am on my own (as an LLC), I realize how how many services an employer provides to an employee–from keeping the sales pipeline full to filing needed taxes to complying with local laws to monitoring cash flow, and so on.So, yes flexibility is good, but many people will choose consistency. If offered the choice, would you rather have a defined contribution retirement plan or a defined benefits plan? Ithink most would choose the latter, because safety is worth a lot.(Of course, the analogy is slightly flawed, because employment is nowhere near as safe as a defined benefit plan, which in itself is less secure than it used to be.)

      1. Tat45

        The taxes, oh my god, the taxes.I pay a nanny and do the taxes myself. The amount of time it took me to research it all is ridiculous.If the government intended to incentivize me to pay her under the table, they couldn’t have possibly provided better motivation to do so. We’d both save a ton of money, that’s for damn sure.

        1. alg0rhythm

          Tax code is insane. Okay, death and taxes, necessary, (I wouldn’t say evil) but why is the second harder than the first.

    4. Matt A. Myers

      Flexibility is healthy and good for everyone – it also needs to be integrated into education for higher productivity and more efficiency.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        “Flexibility is healthy and good for everyone” – including the economy 🙂

        1. Matt A. Myers

          The new term I keep hearing used is resilience..

    5. Anne Libby

      The freedom to choose one’s hours is a lot different when you have a 6 figure income than it is at 19K.Even in the 6 figure range, the “freedom” is not always so complete. In the last century, I subcontracted to a boutique consulting firm. If they had work for me, I could take it or leave it. I watched people who said “no” too many times fall off the roster…

      1. Lucas Dailey

        I agree but you’ve got it the wrong way around.Tons of studies have shown how time-inflexibility of the working poor causes myriad difficulties in health and family choices. Child care for the poor is one of the greatest expenses, which causes many to leave work entirely because they can’t afford not to.

        1. Cam MacRae

          Anne is saying that time-inflexibility also occurs in the 6 figure range, not that it doesn’t occur for the working poor.

          1. Lucas Dailey

            I understand, I didn’t assume she said otherwise. But I may have mistakenly thought she was suggesting that time control is less critical for those that can’t afford not to be working full time.

          2. Anne Libby

            What I was saying — not well — is that time control/aka “freedom” is illusory at all income levels. There are precious few “gigs” where the choices you make about when to work won’t have an impact on your future gig income from that employer.If you can’t be there when staffing needs are greatest, maybe you get dropped from the game completely. I’ve read about this in low-income retail employment, and the scheduling software being used to optimize flexibility — for employers. I’ve seen it firsthand with highly compensated contractors.Result is discontinuous income, which has a bigger impact on lower income people.

    6. Kirsten Lambertsen

      We’re entering an age, driven by the new generations entering the workforce, where people are saying that having to choose between control over their time and a fair wage and good benefits is a false dichotomy.More and more of the newly founded tech companies offer both. Granted, it’s because in tech right now competition for talent is fierce. But nonetheless, it is becoming almost a requirement if you want your company to be seen as a great place to work.I work in a company like this right now. It is all remote and the team is trusted to work when and where it makes sense for them. I am 1000% certain that we get as much, but almost certainly more productivity from our team as a company that either offers a good wage and benefits or scheduling freedom (but not both).Abandoning the false dichotomy is not just the trend, it’s better for business.

      1. andyswan

        Hillary hates the idea of labor being an individual choice rather than a collective mass to be campaigned to and organized as a mass of flesh

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I definitely don’t expect you to be a Hillary supporter. No one I want to be our president is running. So I’ll take the least worst option.

          1. andyswan

            I like her way more than Obama so I can see where you’re coming from. Maybe someone else great will run.  A true outsider.

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Who knew you had a little of the idealist in you 😉

          3. Anne Libby


        2. Pete Griffiths

          Andy, you’re totally bonkers but endearingly consistent in your bonkersdom. 🙂

          1. andyswan

            I’ll take it!

      2. awaldstein

        Nicely said.Of course then this is only about products that sell online services.If you make stuff out of atoms (aka manufacturing) sell stuff face to face (aka retail) this idea of flexibility is not relevant except for the service side of the biz.If you supermarket or gas station or coffee worked like that you are kinda screwed.

        1. LE

          Agree and the new economy gets way to much press (for what they do) compared to what happens in the rest of the world day to day in small business.

        2. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Yep, undeniable.Although, it would be really fun and interesting to imagine or model what the service economy would look like if everyone had great healthcare, regardless of employment status. I think a lot of people work these jobs just for the health insurance, therefore actually robbing other people who’d like the job as a stepping stone to something else of the opportunity.

      3. Joe Cardillo

        Absolutely agree with this. And even at the non-tech level, it makes sense.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Yes, and I think it will make its way there (where possible).

      4. Anne Libby

        Yes. It takes strong management/leadership skills and practices to organize work to fit the way that human lives work…

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Right, and we’re starting to get some nice models for that.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            What are good examples, in your opinion?

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Automattic, Inc., Stack Overflow, Buffer are three that come to mind immediately.

          3. Anne Libby

            I hear good things about IBM on this front, too. Anyone out there have actual experience there?

          4. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Oh yes! My cousin and her husband both work for IBM and are very very happy there.

          5. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I should include that, yes, they both work from home.

          6. Anne Libby

            A couple of bschool classmates worked there, one worked from home.

      5. andyidsinga

        I really like 4 day work model a la 37 signals . my interpretation of this is better focus time for work and better leisure time for health/family/other me, that model creates a better team environment where the contractor model do better where teams aren’t critical.what’s often must in the high level debates is that these things aren’t either-or 🙂

      6. David Semeria

        I’m glad you’re 1000% certain, but remote productivity falls off a cliff when the initial euphoria inevitably evaporates. All business is a slog, and I find it’s much easier to motivate people when I can see in their faces the doubts setting in.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Well, we still get together in person now and then. And we also do Skype calls. It’s not like we’re sending telegrams 😉 Sometimes I think I can sense more in a person’s written communication, quite frankly.

      7. taxtodd

        I work with a tech company who took this flexibility so far that they allow their (well-trained) customer service people to backpack in Europe and Asia and log on for customer service shifts whenever they felt like they needed to earn some money. Sounds like a great idea.One issue that came up was that foreign countries wanted to tax the customer service team’s earnings (they backpacked in groups) in each foreign country they “worked” from. From a policy point of view, which state, which country, which government has a right to tax the earnings could be a major stumbling block to these type of work arrangements.

    7. DisentAgain

      A fair company offer both the ability to time-shift *and* fair wages and benefits. It’s only an advantage when dealing with companies who need to change policy.

    8. Richard

      the rest of the story shows great employers offering jobs of a lifetime.

    9. Donna Brewington White

      Although I am a harder slave driver over myself than any employer ever was.

  7. kenberger

    except her examples in that paragraph aren’t actually airbnb, odesk, and etsy, they are really the [American] people that use them.And these trends of people’s wishes to make livings from these gigs are here to stay.So it seems that she and others may attempt to go after the platforms (companies like those three), but in the end, maybe de-centralized methods prevail, such as discussed in your recent post. A case for blockchain technologies, etc?

  8. JimHirshfield

    Global implications, not just US. But good that the conversation is happening.

  9. christopolis

    “indentured servant” yep both incendiary and annoying and it wasnt even in the comments. You sure they arent slaves of some sort?

    1. pointsnfigures

      No, they choose to work there. No one is whipping them or forcing them to work there. As a matter of fact, no one is forcing anyone to take a job with anyone anywhere in the US. You choose to work there. You are free to leave. You have to accept the consequences and benefits of each.

    2. fredwilson

      Check out what an Uber driver signs and agrees to when getting a loan to buy a car. Indentured servitude seems the best way to describe it

      1. pointsnfigures

        If Uber is providing financing it’s a different deal than if someone already owns a car. I have not seen their “agreements” with drivers they help purchase a car for. I could definitely be persuaded that if Uber provides the financing (and probably the entire supply chain behind the purchase of a car), then the person that drives that car is an employee of Uber.

  10. Farhan Lalji

    Think balance is the key, I’m happy to have the dialogue (pro dialogue even) as long as it’s balanced and not scare mongering about the downfall. The future of work, the protection of and classification of “employees” versus “contractors” etc, all come alongside consumer choice, flexibility, new wealth creation etc. The key is how do you protect the individual and allow for the freedom of technology to help shape our future.

  11. Sierra Choi

    Hillary Clinton also sits on the board of Walmart, a company notorious for giving employees part-time status to avoid paying benefits. Let’s hope that our future Madame President will also think about corporations’ usage of part-time status in addition to the demand economy’s contractor status.It used to be Americans lead rather leisurely lives before the turn of the century. Factories in the industrial era were supposed to make people’s lives easier, but instead it turned people into slave workers and nations into lowly paid economies. If the on-demand economy wants to avoid the mistakes of the post industrial era, then uber really should stop fighting so hard to rule their users as contractors. They’re not going to win.

    1. andyswan

      I love the argument that people’s lives haven’t gotten easier since the industrial era started.Maybe instead of typing this drivel to 1000s of people with the push of a button on a device in your pocket, you should walk a plow in 1926 with my Grandpa Rock for a few days. I’m sure he’d be interested in your oppression.

      1. LIAD

        When Andy is on form. He’s on form. Boom.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Ease is very different than quality of life, and the competitiveness and pressure on systems is much greater than it was in 1926 as well.

        1. andyswan

          The Amish just 45 miles from here have never turned away a new member….

          1. Matt A. Myers

            That doesn’t negate my argument..

          2. andyswan

            I disagree with your argument.  I think it’s absurd.I’m giving you a solution for you that doesn’t impact people like me who are enjoying the competitive, high-tech, high-health, high-wealth world being created by awesome individuals working together for mutual benefit

          3. Matt A. Myers

            You’re benefitting from it, yet you’re not taking into account the side-effects of it – is it because you’re unaware or you’re an asshole who doesn’t care about other people? Just curious.

          4. andyswan

            I care about other people.  I’m pretty selective, and far from altruistic. I don’t initiate force or try to restrict anyone.  I sleep very well. I don’t care which of your little boxes you decide to put me in.

          5. Matt A. Myers

            Indeed you don’t and your argument style helps you fill that role by doing things like playing a victim.

      3. LE

        My god yes! I can start my car w/o even putting a key in the ignition. And I remember when, as a kid, I had to actually roll down the windows manually!!Anyway said parent comment is really missing the point of why Walmart sucks. The reason is that they get the stupid people to spend money and buy things that they don’t actually need with money that they don’t really have. Same as the food industrial machine or the alcohol industrial machine.Oh one thing though. At least back in Grandpa Rock’s day if you had 10 kids you figured out a way to feed them and didn’t rely on the state.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Walmart has pushed out all the grocery stores in my in-laws farm community. It’s now their only option.

      4. kidmercury

        absolute wealth has increased but relative wealth has decreased for most people. i honestly think there are a lot of people who would enjoy the 50s or 60s in the US more than their current life, in spite of having more toys now. this may relate to why mental illness is growing in the US — a by-product of industrialization.

        1. LE

          1968 was a great year!!

        2. andyswan

          Envy is a terrible mental illness.

          1. LE

            Think for a second, as just one small example, of what the impact of Facebook has been on mental health.

          2. Richard

            I did. I don’t see any?

          3. kidmercury

            attributing all mental illness to “envy” is oversimplification of the highest order.

          4. andyswan

            Don’t put words in my mouth through inductive reasoning.

          5. kidmercury

            i think my interpretation of your comment was logical when viewed in context of the statement. no need to be so sensitive, or be thorough in your statements if sensitivity is paramount.

          6. andyswan


        3. LE

          a by-product of industrialization.It’s a by product of keeping up with the Jones whereby by you get to see the Jones all over the world.When I was growing up all I knew about was the one rich guy [1] in the neighborhood (he bought his 16 year old kid a brand new Firebird) and that there was “Howard Hughes” a billionaire and the Rockefellers and the traditional old money. There was no visibility of really what anyone else had and all you knew of was the kids in your own school and the pecking order there.[1] This was the guy that I mentioned that owned a donut factor but lost a big supermarket contract and eventually went bankrupt.

      5. Kirsten Lambertsen

        My parents and my husband’s parents (as well as their parents) did not have to both work full-time in order to have a middle class lifestyle. That is not true for my husband and me.

        1. LE

          As I have mentioned that is simply the “you can only be as honest as your competition” theory at work. If your (the collective) competition is working two jobs then you have to work two jobs to keep up with your neighbors the Jones.This is a human behavioral issue, nothing more than that. You can’t reign in the behavior of a crowd of people all acting independently following like lemmings what others do and how they piss away and spend their money. Look at what people spend on Weddings and Bar Mitsvahs today. You know when I was growing up girls didn’t even get fancy Bar Mitzvahs only boys did! Now you need the extra income to pay for that. The first girls that I was engaged to but didn’t marry (dodged a bullet on that one for sure) her mother was going to mortgage their house to pay for our wedding. Her parents were both public school teachers. So you have people pissing away money on things that simply didn’t happen in your parents day and age. I got toys only at Hanukah and my birthday. And they were cheap and shitty nothing like kids today get. Why do kids today get so much? Because other kids get so much and parents don’t draw a line in the sand.You know when I was growing up we went out to a restaurant perhaps 3 times per year and Mom cooked dinner every night and the dinner wasn’t something that Joanne Wilson would ever write about either.Today the lower class wants what the middle class has and the middle class wants what the upper middle class has. That is the root of all of the evil. People spending money (as a collective group) on things that they can’t afford and/or emulating people with more money than they have.

        2. andyswan

          That’s because the “middle class lifestyle” of today is very similar to the “low upper class” lifestyle of their generation, which required similar amounts of productivity to achieve. _____________________________

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I dunno about that. I live in a similarly-sized house as the one I grew up in. It cost over 10X what my parents paid for theirs.It’s pretty well-established that the middle class has shrunk in the U.S.

          2. andyswan

            Wow. You must live in an urban island.

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Oh, ha! That was a typo. Should say 10x. I’ll fix that.

          4. kidmercury

            here’s a simple question. why do you think birth rates are decreasing in the US? http://media.morristechnolo

          5. andyswan

            That chart is teen pregnancy and not supportive of your statement

          6. kidmercury

            lol sure there is no shortage of data citing birth rates are declining. here’s another:…more broadly, are you really asserting birth rates are NOT declining? or if you accept they are, do you have any hypotheses as to the cause?

          7. Grace Schroeder

            In the past, having children was an asset. You could put them in the field to work, send them to a factory, they were a net increase in family revenue. Once they became a clear COST, birth rates dropped dramatically. This is why, in part, Germany is paying people to have children. The US will have a population shortage come the latter part of this century. In part, this might explain our sloppy immigration policies. We actually need more population.

          8. andyswan

            In a word:  Feminism_____________________________

          9. kidmercury

            that is undoubtedly true, though there is a whole economic side of feminism that i’m getting at. for instance, people are also getting married less, and in japan, people are having less sex. a big part of the reason is that with women on the precipice of becoming the dominant sex in the work force, and with U6 unemployment still in double digits, many men — especially the un/under employed — may feel insecure in their worth as a prospective mate, and many women may share that view. these people may have more materially, but are they really better off and happier if their unsatisfied with the family prospects the world has left them?

          10. andyswan

            That’s what I meant too._____________________________

          11. shelley_ashfield

            Yes, the kind of feminism where my steady job has supported my husband’s “gig economy” jobs. My job provided the bennies for his heart operation and for me to have one kid.

          12. Richard

            Outside of eating out, what changes in life style really exist? (sans technology)

          13. andyswan

            Cars that don’t kill you. Middle class vacations to Cancun.  Surgeries and pills that keep you out or get you out of the hospital in days for something that would have killed you. Complete indoor climate control. Unlimited fashion choices.  Pizza to your door.  Comfortable work places. I could go on…

          14. Richard

            Kirsten is not that old. Im pretty sure she had most of these things. The issue isn’t whether technology has improved living standards, the issue is …are the days of a single household middle income earner supporting 3 kids and a mortgage in a city over. The answer is Yes.The last decade where this was the norm was the 1980s.

          15. andyswan

            That’s just competition with your peers. We wanted women in the workforce, now we got it, and as a result, the productivity per couple has almost doubled. Of course you have to both work if your goal is keeping up with both of the Joneses.

          16. Richard

            We can also add education and student loan debt as two factors that have declined and increased respectively over the last half century. If you take away technological advances, iphone and the Internet etc, one could almost make the argument that it wouldn’t even be debatable that middle income quality of life hit its peak ?

          17. andyswan

            That’s a huge if. Enormous

          18. Richard

            Yep, technology is a game changer, but marginally less and less for most (not to mention the 18 T of debt we need to service to pay for it).

        3. MickSavant

          Adjusted for family size, inflation, company benefits (health care etc.) the middle class is better off now. The average middle class family leads a tremendously better lifestyle than 20, 30, 40 years ago.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I’d like to see the numbers upon which you base this statement. Maybe what’s left of the middle class is leading a better lifestyle, but that class has a lot fewer members and they have to work twice as hard to achieve it.

    2. Christian Holck

      Uber just needs to fight it long enough for cars to become driverless. At that point, they’ll have the data, brand & technical infrastructure that will make it very hard to compete with them. Question is whether they’ll be able to disrupt their current business model and screw over their drivers or if a new startup will be quicker than them.In the end, I think market forces will be able to balance this. If Uber screws over its drivers sufficiently, another company will enter the market and offer drivers better terms. If the terms are good enough, drivers will move. It’s a touchy subject though, especially as Uber is quickly moving towards becoming a monopoly in many major areas.

      1. William Mougayar

        Thing is terms become secondary if there is no market liquidity.What good is it if I offered to take only 5% of your ride fare, but no one calls you.Un-UBERing UBER is going to be difficult.

        1. Christian Holck

          I completely agree. Tons of services have tried it, with questionable success. I don’t think cutting the fare split is sufficient. If you’re in a car where the driver has 3 phones for different apps, and you’re not Uber, you’re going to lose. It needs to be more radical — offering drivers employee status and benefits. You need to make them delete Uber off their phone. Hopefully, the best drivers will move and this along with media attention will provide liquidity in the market.This is not something I see happening now, though. From my personal experiences with Uber the drivers seem content with the flexibility & the pay they’re receiving compared to their alternatives — otherwise they would drive a yellow cab (again, market forces in play). It’s definitely Uber’s game to lose if they start (continue/accelerate?) royally screwing over their drivers.

      2. fredwilson


      3. Kirsten Lambertsen


      4. sigmaalgebra

        Uber’s business is mostly just many local businesses. So, they can be attacked by a competitor, better in whatever ways, in each locality. Net, I don’t see that they have anything at all stable.

    3. The Heasman

      That’s an ad hominem attack

    4. Alec Ross

      No she does not sit on the board of Walmart. She does not sit on any corporate boards.

      1. Sierra Choi

        She was the first woman ever to sit on the board of directors at Walmart, but if you mean she has since distanced herself from Walmart that is correct.

        1. Alec Ross

          Your comment said she “sits” on the board of WalMart. She has not sat on the board in decades.

  12. Jan Schultink

    I think there is a business opportunity here for a financial services player that can create the right product and pool the risk among gig economy workers.

    1. fredwilson

      Now that’s a startup idea. Why not do it Jan?

    2. Dan Moore

      Didn’t we already do this in the 1800s wiht mutual insurance societies?Maybe we just need to bring those back.

    3. pointsnfigures

      I have seen that one. It’s a two person operation right now. One problem that has to be negotiated is 50 different state regulations with regards to benefits. Not insurmountable.

    4. Kirsten Lambertsen

      You should talk to the Freelancers Union 🙂

  13. William Mougayar

    I realize these remarks are aimed at UBER more than others, because they are becoming a bigger monopoly than the ones they are disrupting. And questions arise about whether we overshot this type of disruption and freedom.But if employees are going to own their data while working for someone else, whether it is a traditional job or a temporary gig, then you need to change that for everybody, and that’s going to be more challenging.

    1. pointsnfigures

      They aren’t a monopoly. Just the biggest, and probably the most innovative.

      1. William Mougayar

        Correction: perceived (by some) to be a (new) monopoly

      2. fredwilson

        They are exhibiting all the classic monopoly behaviors. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …..

        1. pointsnfigures

          Hahahaha. Kind of like commodity exchanges.

        2. William Mougayar

          But if these local rideshare laws are changed, won’t it benefit all players in this space? It opens up the field I think.

  14. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Incremental effort (human or machine) is what adds value to the global economy, regardless of the nomenclature.So long as a tiny patch of land can be exploited by someone with the time and drive to do it, then the result (regardless of taxation, social security, health benefits, whatever) is a net benefit to society.When marginal jobs (knitting on the subway, picking blackberries, maintaining something) are subjected to bureaucratic burdens we lose marginal wealth – which is stupid !However, a social infrastructure for those who cannot do for themselves, provides a social good to all (even those who do not directly benefit).It seems therefore that the long term solution is to tax primary resources (eg land and mineral ownership) they are the only inherently limited sources of wealth. (And it could be argued sharing primary resources is the ultimate justice – can you own land, or do you just hold it through some defence mechanism (perhaps enshrined in law).Markets are a good way to support efficiency, but a poor way to distribute wealth

    1. pointsnfigures

      Markets are a great way to allocate resources

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Yes – >> but a poor way to distribute wealthResource allocation serves two ends (maximising productivity) and (allocating responsibility)The two are very dissimilar.Efficient resource allocation is not the same as equitable resource allocation.Simple example – just because you cannot farm a piece of land as efficiently as say a Ukrainean wheat farmer does not mean it is right that you should starveIf the big US of A objected to King George and his taxes it was only because of his standing (political power)When taking political or economic power away from those that do not warrant it – good is by definition done (the judgement is in whether they warrant it)As we see technology empowering ever smaller holders of wealth, it seems that the spectrum is being polariseda) technology will be painted as evil (I can’t subscribe) orb) we better get our political position together fast or there will be faster more aggressive revolutions and civil strife than ever before.

        1. JLM

          .The focus on wealth should be to “create” not to “distribute” or “re-distribute” it.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            JLMI disagree with you more than I disagree with yourself !On this occasion !First I agree1) No point worrying about anything you cannot create2) Try to maximize the cake before worrying about carvingHowever -3) If you believe in equity or share-holding, participation or engagement, then by definition you have a position on distribution. Given no focus on distribution, military might becomes meaningless. There is simply no differential to defend. Positioning takes place around and favours discontinuities (defending the high ground, the river crossing, the redoubt, the harbour is easier than the exposed plain, the open sea etc)So wars are generally fought around relative wealth not absolute wealth, because these are the remarkable discontinuities.Consider Africa – where there is oil or minerals and poverty there is strife. Where there is only poverty (setting aside religious fanaticism) there may be misery (or not) but not generally warfare.So Sir, as a man who I do understand to love the military but hate warfare, I see you in full disagreement with yourself on this occasion.

      2. fredwilson

        Markets can overshoot and result in no competition in some cases

        1. pointsnfigures

          In a truly free competitive market though, the market will self correct. Or, if a monopoly ensues, some sort of innovation needs to enter and cause disruption. To be clear, I don’t see a lot of unfettered freely competitive markets anywhere these days. They all have price floors, ceilings, or subsidies or taxes which cause distortion.

  15. Twain Twain

    Where the sharing economy poses a risk to employment is when automation >>> human (especially artisanal) USP — as is the case with Uber buying up the robotics team at Carnegie Mellon with a view to self-driving cars and not needing to pay human drivers:*…Meanwhile, in terms of job security from days past, some women have no option but to leave big companies and to work from home (maybe crafting things to sell on Etsy or earning income from renting out rooms on AirBnB) because:(1.) Big companies aren’t offering GREAT childcare provisions;(2.) Big companies aren’t properly valuing female employees (pay, training, responsibility and promotion opportunities); and(3.) Big companies adopt one-size-fits all when flexibility is much more productive.In the UK, this was announced today:*…If a woman working part-time wasn’t so disadvantaged by earning only 80% what a man doing the same job earns, she’d have more in her pocket to pay towards her children’s education and childcare.In the startup sector, people take “gigs” and have “portfolio careers” to support themselves until investors enter and enable them to focus full-time.

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      She doesn’t earn less – but is merely paid less !Seems the problem is one of what society values rather than how one rewards what one values. Is an artisanal product inherently better than a 3D printed facsimile of the same ?Yes if – A) Work is valuable to the human conditionB) The relative inefficiency of artisinal production does not deprive unknown third parties to enjoy a (perhaps inferior) alternativeC) Gut instinct is right !

      1. Twain Twain

        A good point on different phrasing, thanks!The thing is that women are similar to men in this respect: we like to feel we’ve earned our value during a day’s hard work.

  16. pointsnfigures

    The employees of these companies are 1099 employees period. They choose when to work. The apps enable them to work at their own discretion. The apps take idle assets and utilize them which is good for the economy. Many apps enable people that otherwise wouldn’t be in the work force to be in the work force and that’s a good thing. (If government wasn’t such a nanny, we’d have more apps and more people able to pursue the American dream).The fact is most of the people that work in the gig economy use the income as extra income. It’s the student that works odd hours when they aren’t in class or studying. It’s the mom that earns extra income on the side. Why do we want to penalize these people by making it tougher for them to earn money?I am invested in a company that has people making $20-$30k a year teaching ( I am sure Fred knows of people in Etsy and other companies he has backed doing the same thing. Those people built mini businesses off those platforms and what’s illegal or wrong about that? Many ridesharing drivers are earning similar amounts. Not all of course, but it can be done.Hillary says, “I hear this everywhere I go. A single mom talked about juggling a job and classes at community college while raising three kids. She doesn’t expect anything to come easy. But if she got a raise, everything would not be quite so hard.”-What if that person had access to various jobs in the gig economy instead of having to work only when her employers said she could work? What if she was free to choose? Hillary wants to limit her choice and shut her out.Hillary says, “we also need fair growth”-can anyone tell me exactly what’s fair? What’s fair to you might not be fair to someone else.Hillary says, “Republican governors like Scott Walker have made their names stomping on workers’ rights”-when the facts are he created more jobs and more economic opportunity in the state of Wisconsin than any governor prior. She just doesn’t like Right to Work states because they are anti-union. Walker saved Wisconsin municipalities billions of dollars and allowed for balanced budgets across the state. Hillary is owned by unions.Hillary says, “A quarter of young black men and nearly 15 percent of all Latino youth cannot find a job.”-and her policies will make it worse, not better. Raising minimum wage increases unemployment. It sets a price floor.Yes, let’s have an honest clear eyed debate. Let’s expose the Clinton proposals for what they are. Let’s have honest economic analysis of them. Because it’s clear they don’t work for everyone, but only the people that get chosen.

    1. andyswan

      These are the same people that oppose Walker’s legislation allowing workers to work 7 days if they want to.Quite simply, they are anti-liberty.

    2. Anne Libby

      Jeff, I could make you a spreadsheet to show you the differences between people who are working using Dabble, Uber and Etsy.It’s like the difference between selling some stuff at your neighbor’s garage sale, and working in your neighbor’s sandwich shop. Garage sale: you’re not an employee. Sandwich shop: you usually are.

      1. pointsnfigures

        When I worked for 3M, I sold adhesives. I competed against independent reps that sold competing adhesives. We had the same customers. Clearly, I was an employee of 3M (benefits,withholding etc)-my competitors were 1099. All Dabble, Etsy, Uber, Airbnb employees are independent contractors. By the way, when in doubt use #8001 and some duct tape. Always works.

        1. Anne Libby

          Dabble, Etsy, Airbnb, yes. Uber, no. Not all “gig economy” gigs are equal.

    3. Sierra Choi

      I see companies like etsy, airbnb and alibaba differently from service-oriented sectors like uber, homehero and homejoy.Even Starbucks and McDonald’s give all their employees benefits; uber is currently valuated at higher than 80% of the companies in the s&p. They need to make an example of what the demand economy is going to change in the next 30 years; whether they will exploit desperate people who need extra income or if they will own up to the responsibility of being a top corporation because other startups will follow their lead.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Valuation of company doesn’t matter. Facebook is more valuable than all of them. If you are on Facebook, you create content for them. Are you an employee of Facebook? I am creating content for Disqus right now-should I get something for it?When I work at a McD or Starbucks, who is on the hook for liability? Who owns all the physical stuff I use to earn a living? Who owns the intellectual property that is created?

        1. fredwilson

          It doesn’t matter to you or me but you are fooling yourself if you think it doesn’t matter to the average person. The idea that Uber drivers are barely making a living while Uber goes from an idea to $50bn in a few years is a powerful narrative in the hands of a good politician. I’m hoping we don’t go down that rat hole and I’m really hoping Hillary doesn’t. But someone will

          1. pointsnfigures

            If they aren’t making money, they shouldn’t drive for Uber. It’s their choice. The value of Uber the company is not relevant. BTW, I know drivers that switched from Uber to Sidecar because they are making more money with Sidecar.

    4. fredwilson

      I think that’s true in some cases and not true in others.

      1. kidmercury

        have to side with fred in this beef. in some cases uber is loaning the driver the car and the driver is doing it full-time. that’s not exactly spare asset utilization.

        1. ErikSchwartz

          It’s worse than that. Uber is loaning the driver the money to buy the asset so that every moment he’s not driving for Uber the driver is taking the depreciation on the asset, not Uber. If Uber doesn’t have a fare for the driver they are shit out of luck.The brilliant thing about Uber is they get someone else to take the loss in building for peak (the costs of a business) vs building for average (the revenues).

          1. sade1

            Nailed it. Uber advocates generally miss this point.Uber’s great innovation is not a technological one. It is a financial one. That is, they completely move the cost of depreciation of assets onto contract workers in an asset intensive business. Individuals are generally pretty terrible at actually accounting for depreciation in private assets.

          2. ErikSchwartz

            Right!This is why I am skeptical of the whole Uber self driving car thing. The one thing that will kill Uber is an expensive self driving car that Uber actually owns sitting around depreciating with no passenger in it.They go there they are in the airline business.

    5. awaldstein

      not cut and dry.if you have to be at any place at any time doing a type of work that requires a specific type of behavior you are not a 1099.that’s the rules.they need to change but that is that.try getting in between that grey area and the need of chicago and new york for tax revenues.this is going to be a damn cage fight.

    6. Dan Moore

      Here’s a story about Walker’s record that examines stats:…Wouldn’t say it has been a roaring success. From the article: the data “shows that measured by relative economic outcomes, Walker’s tenure falls somewhere between lackluster and a failure.”

      1. pointsnfigures

        Don’t believe the liberal press. The Right to Work legislation was signed early this year. The tax reform took place in 2012. It takes time to work. Wisconsin is in far better shape, with more people working than it was prior. Contrast that to Illinois.

        1. Jim Day

          Contrast modern Wisconsin to (progressive) Minnesota; Minnesota fares much better.

    7. sigmaalgebra

      Hillary wants to limit her choice and shut her out.Hillary has a vision that can only be achieved by having such a mother dependent on DC and, there, Hillary.

  17. andyswan

    Hillary clearly understands the Uber model.She hasn’t driven herself for 19 years.

    1. LE

      Yeah she also missed the mark by using as an example “web site design”. She wasn’t aware that that was widely done since the start of the web (a simple search for “web site designer” in 1996 would yield freelancers). And before that same thing happened with graphic designers for, as only one example, printed products. My point being the other examples are valid in the sense that Uber is unique and a specific execution but even room sharing was around and not a new idea but a better implementation of an already existing idea. [1] I remember my mom telling me they had a rooming house and she would get kicked out of bed in the middle of the night when my grandmother needed to rent her room (this was probably the late 1930’s…). [2][1] All SNL skits are just rehashes of SNL skits from the 70’s in a sense.[2] My grandfather died and they had 4 kids and needed the money…a single mom back before people whined about being a single mom (in this day and age of power windows and keyless entry in other words..)

  18. Steve_Dodd

    Disclosure, I am not American and not at all taking sides. Clinton “said” many interesting things but whether you agree or disagree, the real question is do you believe her? Or, like most politicians before her, is this just rhetoric to polarize what she believes is the larger share of the voting majority? Then once elected, ssdd (same s###, different day)?There is no question, something has to change, but will it?

  19. Anne Libby

    Another disclaimer that you could have issued: people might state and re-state some of their (erroneous) beliefs about the boundaries of 1099 work. Many of us have had this discussion here — and elsewhere. So I won’t totally go there.When intelligent people who aren’t lawyers or employment geeks can’t see/understand the legal structure of employment, something’s got to give there.Yes, there’s some element of “oh hell yes, we’re going to do what we want, f-the law, and deal with the consequences later” in some portions of the gig economy. But making clearer boundaries in the law would be helpful.

  20. Jim Day

    I don’t see what the problem is here. In less than a decade when self-driving cars are available, Uber will “fire” most of its drivers and then those “jobs” will be gone. Problem solved, right?

    1. christopolis

      actually what happens is do-gooders will create so many burdens that it will further incentivize companies to figure out how to outsource to technology.

      1. Dan Moore

        That’s OK. Then the tremendous productivity of the technology implementation will provide more than enough wealth to pay for that investment and additional taxation/redistribution to support the displaced. Right?Or will companies expect to sell to consumers who don’t have jobs because of automation?

    2. sigmaalgebra

      You really believe that self-driving cars will catch on within, say, 20 years? I don’t.IMHO the bottleneck will be the insurance companies — there will be enough data on accidents and losses that the rates will be too high.Why? It takes some intelligence to drive a car. Machine intelligence? I’ve published peer-reviewed original research in artificial intelligence — what a really bad joke.For a long time, to be safe, self-driving cars will need at least essentially tracks to follow.

  21. Donna Brewington White

    Instead of getting a job this summer between high school and college, my daughter is starting her own little business, making garlands out of dried flowers. She was inspired by Etsy. It was fun to watch her negotiate her first sale to a local merchant and then talk the local Trader Joe’s into giving her their unsold flowers. She probably won’t earn as much as she would at a part-time job, but what she is learning is invaluable. And she is learning that you can turn things that you love to do into ways to earn income and that rather than getting a job you can create your own work, on your own terms.There is an empowerment that comes with entrepreneurship and the more it becomes part of our culture, the more disruption we will see in the world of work. The more it becomes an option, the more employers will not just compete with each other for talent, they will “compete” with the broader range of options that individuals face in making work choices.For instance, I come across a lot of people who were forced to become “consultants” during the recession and now that it’s over they have remained as consultants.I am really excited by this revolution coming to the workforce, even with all the messiness and problems that will be caused. Even this will bring on more innovation. We could end up with a way of working and thinking about work that is better for the human spirit. It’s been a long time coming.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Good for your daughter to take some risk! Hope she is successful.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Thanks, Jeff. I am proud of her, but I think she represents something larger that is happening in our society.

        1. pointsnfigures

          She does. Let us know how it works out. Maybe I can become a customer.

    2. falicon

      Awesome to hear about your daughter…if she’s the sort that likes to read, have her check out “Ask” (… )…it has a few interesting ideas directly stemming from some Etsy experiences that she might find interesting/useful.Best of luck to her…and don’t forget to share her Etsy store on twitter with the rest of us so we can help promote (and maybe even buy a bit) 😉

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Thank you Kevin! I think it surprised her to get such a big order on her first sales call, so now she has put the Etsy store on hold to complete the order. But I will share the link when she’s operational.And thanks for the reading suggestion. I appreciate you!

  22. William Mougayar

    Btw- I love that Warning statement. It’s like saying – put your helmets on, and don’t get offended.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Or an invitation to duke it out.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Fight to the death?

    2. LissIsMore

      Let the Games begin. 🙂

      1. William Mougayar

        The Pan Am games? They are on now in Toronto 🙂

        1. LissIsMore


    3. fredwilson


    4. JaredMermey

      These are the days where the comments are the best and the AVC Community shines the brightest.

  23. Anne Libby

    Good 3 part podcast series on “Instaserfs,” on Benjamen Walker’s The Theory of Everything.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Good share. Thanks!

  24. andrewparker

    After Hilary’s quote in your post above, you raise some hypothetical questions that come from her prompt. They are exciting and interesting questions, but I don’t think they are they they conversation that Hilary is trying to force. Instead of data assets and loans, she is trying to force the issue of contractor vs employee that is the hot topic of Silicon Valley head on.Quite specifically, she doesn’t like that there will be a new generation of labor that lacks the social safety net that our laws have created for employees. Hilary is pushing issues like: payroll taxes, sick days, employer-paid health insurance, vacation time, Social Security, Medicare, workers’ comp, overtime, shift differentials, etc. I don’t think she’s concerned about the nuances of how to classify workers properly. Instead, she’s black boxing the problem, and just trying to find a way to get more of the US labor force to benefit from the social safety net. And, I agree, that would be ideal.

    1. Anne Libby

      It’s probably also the simplest solution.

    2. William Mougayar

      I agree with you Andrew. I’m not sure Hillary was thinking “data”. That’s a far more advanced topic than social safety, taxation & services.

      1. fredwilson

        She is now

        1. William Mougayar

          😉 saw your reply to Andrew

    3. fredwilson

      I’ve been taking to her policy people and wrote this post and sent it to them partially to reinforce that this issue should be debated in new territory not old territory. I don’t know if I will be successful with that argument but I’m making it

      1. andrewparker

        That context makes more sense then.

      2. pointsnfigures

        It is tough to get old school Washington people to think out of the box. (Have similar problems on the Republican side)

        1. Alec Ross

          I would argue that many of the people working closely with Hillary Clinton on these issues are not “old school Washington people” Speaking for myself, I was an entrepreneur and have never lived in DC. I worked there for 4 of my 21 years in the work world

      3. Alec Ross

        Yes you will be successful with that argument

      4. JJ Donovan

        Why stop with just Hillary? Why not forward to all of the candidates policy people? The issue is pertinent to the election on both sides.

      5. Brandon Burns

        Maybe talk to Bernie Sanders’ people, too.

    4. Dan Moore

      Social safety nets are there for a reason, but we may have to relearn the lessons of the early labor movement.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I think we will, but at a super accelerated rate.

      2. JLM

        .As a high school and college kid, I worked in construction for a double breasted construction company — union shop and non-union shop.The union held classes on cement finishing and I learned how to “trowel the snot” and finish concrete. We all started in the union shop for the apprenticeship training program.I also learned how to run the big three blade finishers and the nine blade finishers for which I received an additional $0.50/hr pay and a lot of OT because I was there until two in the morning finishing big slabs. I made a lot of money for a kid.I also worked most Saturdays at OT rates. There was a lot of work in those days.My union dues were $0.25/hour. It was money well spent.I worked on big union jobs and then I put in a lot of sidewalks on subdivisions which was non-union.The boss sent me and another guy to put in 2-300 LF per day of six inch forty inch wide sidewalk with troweled edges and joints. No supervision of any kind and we could go home when we hit our daily quota.The union provided that contractor almost unlimited workers and I never had to go to the union hall to find a job. I just kept reporting to the contractor’s shop. Nothing to it.The union and the contractor worked together seamlessly. Not a cross word. The shop foreman came by once a week to talk to everyone.I left that first year as an accomplished cement finisher and the next year I made one phone call and worked the entire summer — for about 4 straight years. Each year I got a $0.50/hr raise, a machine differential and all the freakin’ OT I could handle plus as much non-union work as possible.That was a great experience.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    5. LE

      Yeah seat of the pants to me this is bad for workers. That is, all of what Fred refers to as “the new economy”. A race to the bottom in terms of what people make for what labor they provide. I was never a supporter of unions (or political patronage) in the past until I decided that they were actually needed in order to provide a basic income that if not earned would end up having that labor being a bigger burden on society. (Not to mention the economic multiplier). A chapter in the book I will never write will be titled “Why the Port Authority of NY and NJ is actually good”. At the same time I would perhaps reign in some of the powers that unions have traditionally have.

    6. sigmaalgebra

      I can’t believe that she was thinking nearly that deeply. Instead, some staffer noticed Uber, etc. thought of the lines, and she justdropped them into her speech to sound up to date and thoughtful.

    7. albert

      Agree. My take here is that she is caught up in traditional thinking about jobs and not yet ready to go past it. That’s probably for good reason if you want to get elected president in the upcoming race. But since I am not, here is a different take on what we should do.

      1. andrewparker

        I love your post, but I’m pessimistic enough about our sound bite driven news cycle and instincts for stereotyping that any candidate that mentions ideas along the lines of UBI will be quickly labeled a pinko commie and dismissed into Trump’s corner of “entertaining but unelectable”. You’re talking about real long term macro economic trends that are super interesting. I wish there was a vehicle usable to teach a majority of the U.S. Public about these macro trends. But I’m at a loss for what that vehicle is.

        1. albert

          Yup — highly unlikely to happen in this election cycle for exactly the reason you point out. Got to get there slowly over time.

        2. Tat45

          As a libertarian I’d be all for UBI if it allows us to shrink the federal bureaucracy by axing the rest of the welfare state.

  25. btrautsc

    Politics aside:I am glad to see Fred bringing this up. This is not a popular argument in our industry and its a topic thats worried me for quite a while.When many people I know in there 20s-30s drive Uber on the side or rent their apt out for 1-2 weekends a month, there are two distinct groups. A. the people doing it for extra income (this is the significantly smaller group), B. the people who’s job does not pay enough (for them to live the lifestyle the want), so they utilize these services to increase their overall pay.These are not uneducated people – they have college degrees and in other decades would have respectable jobs with good wages at firms. A lot of those jobs don’t exist anymore (or pay has not risen in 5-10 years). Its an easy trend to miss if you’re an engineer in SV.The gig companies are great opportunities to utilize – but it says something about the American economy and what my generation will be living through in the next decade(s).In the 90s, you heard about people who had “thriving businesses on eBay”… how many of those people created a steady middle class income, acquired health/ retirement benefits, and were eventually able to retire based on their eBay earnings? My guess is very few.

    1. Anne Libby

      I heard a number the other day, represented as a statistic: percentage of recent college grads who are unemployed. It was such a large number that I actually couldn’t take it in: I’ve sort of blocked it out!It might not have been accurate.Does anyone here know this statistic? (Or even a credible source for such a number?)

      1. btrautsc

        That would be fascinating to hear.I think we’re seeing a big shift to a constant “structural under-employment” for potentially a huge segment(s) of people.A lot of these marketplaces will laud their accomplishments and (1099) workforces – which is marketing to grow their marketplace economics.Maybe we can imagine a “benevolent” marketplace that eventually dedicates a high enough percentage of revenue along with benefits/ etc to these workers that the economics are in the workers favor (could be a competitive advantage right). I’m not sure that exists yet.

        1. Anne Libby

          Thank you, I will have to take a harder look at these later!And, I found the news story, AP reports that half of recent college grads are unemployed OR underemployed, will have to look at this later, too.

      2. Matt Zagaja

        At no other time in the history of our people has so much raw talent been available at such incredible prices.

  26. Marissa_NYx

    Hillary wants every child to reach their full potential – the way to do that is to invest in an education rich in learning & experiences for every child .Hillary is worried that the average person has lost control over wage growth and job security :1. Welcome to the freelance economy – 55 m Americans and growing rapidly . This is the default career choice of this and the next generation.2. Education needs to prepare kids to thrive in the freelance economy by actively teaching and immersing kids into it .3. The most durable institution on earth – you . You will outlive and outlast any bank, corporation, and most laws. Invest in you . Hillary, you will have noticed that the rules of the economy have changed . Clinging to the model of wages growth is wrong -it may have been ok 30 yrs ago but it ain’t going to happen in 2015. It’s the wrong model for economic growth . Instead , teach your kids how to embrace and evaluate opportunity . Teach them this . Teach them , show them the economics of being an Uber driver , an etsy seller and a property manager on airbnb. Teach them how to take on risk and how to create wealth through business and entrepreneurship . Close the gap so that it is available as a choice at the grassroots. With that knowledge comes choice . You can choose to be the driver or choose to create the next Uber platform or choose to do neither . Teach this and you teach a generation how to create opportunity not just be a wage slave for life.

  27. JLM

    .There is no question that there is a proliferation of “gigs” that have hit our eye all at the same time because, in part, of the organizational power of the platform, the network and the Internet.The notion that it is “new” is a little silly.Take, as an example, the construction industry which has been run on a “gig” basis for a century or more.A guy gets a pickup truck, the tools of a trade and goes out and hustles work. Today, he uses the internet to stand up a web site and what we used to call “word of mouth” is now testimonials and reputation management.I used to have enough initiative to cut my own firewood which was good because I always had a tree falling down. I would also ask a rancher if I could cut down a mesquite or two. Now, there is a Craigslist full of firewood opportunities. Hell, they even actually know the correct measurements for a “cord” and will stack it neatly. [A cord is 4′ x 4′ x 8′. Let’s not wander into “face cords” or “ricks”. A pickup holds a half cord if stacked tight.]The gig economy is, in part, the result of a floundering economy in which we are now enduring the lowest labor force participation rate since the 1970s. The attached graphic shows how bad it is.The gig economy is here to stay and why not — it’s really been around for a long, long, long time. It’s just now out in the open.”Your generation didn’t invent sex or business or the gig economy.”Know this — the injection of 5-20MM illegal immigrants with low skills, low wage expectations means that the continuing slide of skill based compensation will continue for a couple more decades. There will be no upward pressure on muscle driven labor for a long time.I don’t care so much about the utterances of any politician as much as I care about the policies. The policies that have driven this reality are not sound policies.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. JLM

      .Here is a graph of the labor force participation rate. Draw your own conclusions.Maybe we need a “reset” button. That worked out great, no?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Tom Labus

        Oil rig count is probably 50% + off but we’re producing record amounts of oil.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          The rig count today and the barrels of oil pumped today are only very loosely connected.

      2. mike

        Is this adjusted for aging demo?

        1. JLM

          .The LFPR is a definition that has been around for several decades.How would you think it would be adjusted?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. MickSavant

      but it really isn’t a trend. These companies and their contract workers get a lot of press, but it doesn’t show up in the data. There is no gig economy, at least not yet. I believe it is a red herring, but at best it is a predicted problem that has not hit the economy yet.

      1. JLM

        .I agree with you more than you agree with yourself.It is a discernible ripple on a very, very big pond but it is a discernible phenomenon.The debate of contract employee v direct employee and Uber’s legal travails are, for this community, a driver of the attention.One other observation — the anemic rate of job creation in the US makes a company like Uber with 2K direct employees worldwide and about 160K drivers look impressive.If one marked the Obama tenure to market, there are something like 1.4MM new net jobs in the last 7 years. Not the phony accounting of trying to count “new” jobs from the low point to the high point but counting new net jobs from the first day of the administration to the current.Most of those jobs are in Texas BTW.Further, many of those sharing economy jobs are P/T jobs.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. MickSavant

          I just moved back to Boston from Austin. I was there for 5 years and loved it. There is a lot the rest of the nation can learn from Texas. A running joke amongst my friends and I (mostly in the tech space) in Austin was “if Obama created all of these jobs, why did he give them all to Texas?”. The Texas phenomenon is often written off as exclusively energy related. Tell that to the 4,000+ seats Apple has in Austin. Similarly with Facebook. And Samsung. Dozens of others.There is merit to the debate about contract vs. full time employment and whether the promise of these opportunities lives up to the reality for the average contract worker. But I don’t see this as any different than other schemes such as Herbalife. Its just sexier now because it is tech oriented.In college I was a 1099er selling knives. It was an interesting experience. There were a lot of problems with the business model but I learned a lot more doing that than I did as a unionized grocery store clerk.

          1. JLM

            .I am holding your spot. You have through the beginning of the Longhorn football season to return with no penalty.Do the right thing here, Mick.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  28. laude05

    I agree we need to have the discussion. I have been working as a contract worker or freelancing since 1997 and have NEVER met anyone who is freelancing or working contract work by choice. Everyone I know is working those “models” because that’s all they can find. The few people I know who want to be self employed have created companies that are working toward having employees or contract workers actually doing the work while the owner is a salesperson/manager. The vast majority of people just want to do the work and not be bothered with all the extras that self employment demands.

  29. LissIsMore

    Why is it a good idea to have a President who understands these questions?I am constantly puzzled by the search for the Philosopher-King who will know the “right” thing to do and save us all from ourselves. This Pretense of Knowledge (thank you, Hayek) is a dangerous and damaging bit of hubris.

    1. Joseph Zaccardi

      This is the most important thing to remember in my opinion. The truth is that NO ONE can accurately predict what is best for the people that make up the economy going forward. The “market” isn’t an actual place or thing, and it is far more complex than even the brightest among us can understand.The only way to ensure the best possible outcome is to have as many people making as many decisions as possible.We can have a conversation about helping people that make poor decisions or have bad luck, but it should not come in the form of restricting when, how, or who they work for.

      1. JLM

        .Policy is like strategy — a view from on high that covers the entire landscape but does not dictate specific tactics.An example might be the regulatory environment to drill an oil well on private land in Texas v the same regulatory environment to drill an oil well on Federal land or offshore.Texas has a streamlined process that has resulted, in part, in extraordinary employment in the Oil Patch (tempered a bit by the digestion of a lot of activity and the palliative effect of $65/BBL oil) while the national picture is more of “in spite of” the antagonistic efforts of the Federal gov’t.If the right environment is set, then the marketplace will react in predictable manners.Examples:If you mandate wage rates, rather than allowing the marketplace to set them, then employers will attempt to eliminate as much labor as possible in order to forego upward wage pressure.If you enforce the immigration laws of the US — both at the border and at the employer level (eVerify) — then wages will not be dampened by the presence of millions of low skill and low wage expectation labor.If you fully fund the SBA — which runs out of money in the first quarter of each FY — then small businesses will hire more people and buy more physical plant.If you tinker with tax policy such that you look to the wages of new, incremental labor to fund the Treasury (which is at record levels of tax collection, as we speak) and don’t attempt to penalize employers, then jobs will be created.Texas, a famously low tax and regulatory environment, has enjoyed a robust job creation environment. This is policy driven.If you do not allow manufacturers to access prison, child and predatory offshore labor, while enjoying unfettered access to US markets, you will underpin American labor and jobs.These are all fairly simple policy decisions that could be done tom’w.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. LissIsMore

          Policy, specifically government policy, constrains tactics. By definition you have limited the number of possible actions. It is a fallacy that one person, or a small number of people, can know what the right course of action is for 300+ million individual Americans.

          1. JLM

            .I am certain I could not possibly disagree more with your characterization. We are only disagreeing on the use of the words policy, strategy, tactics.Take as an example “energy independence.” That is a policy level consideration. The strategy and tactics are something else altogether.Similarly, universal health care is a policy level consideration. The strategy and tactics, also, are something else altogether.Our system is set up to do just that on several different levels. Take as an example the US Supreme Court whereat a single vote by Justice Kennedy — only one, but a very important one of 330MM Americans on that day — determines the resolution of a 5-4 contest and sets in motion substantial changes in our society.This is not a protest against that system in any manner. The process was transparent and obvious and any fair minded person should be able to embrace the process while preserving the right to disagree with the decision and to even suggest it was made in error.As to policy, there are enormous opportunities to change outcomes by embracing the right policies.Strategy and tactics will have to be thrashed out.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Joseph Zaccardi

            You still imply that there is a person, that happens to be in a position of power and can make decisions for millions of people without being influenced by their biases, lobbyists, or personal greed.

          3. JLM

            .Are you dealing with reality? Of course, everyone is influenced by their biases, lobbyists and personal considerations.In spite of this, at a policy level, I agree completely with the policy direction of Pres Obama as it relates to universal healthcare. I disagree with the plan, the implementation and the manner in which it was sold to the American people.The future will not be made by saints. It will be made by us sinners. Sorry about that.Whether we agree or not, the future will be coming and it isn’t waiting for us to get ready.As to biases — some biases are brilliant. I provided healthcare insurance, life insurance, dental, vision and wellness for all of my employees for over 30+ years. I did it before the gov’t told me to do it. Biases are not bad.Lobbyists are sometimes a great source of info and expertise. I personally lobbied more than a few state legislatures in furtherance of certain business policies. I never did anything I was ashamed of.As to personal interest — that is supposedly illegal.The President could change the course of America’s economy with a few very simple policy decisions in much the same way he had impacted health care and immigration.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          4. LissIsMore

            In your example, I would label “energy independence” as a Goal. Your earlier statement that “policy is like strategy” would then give that some context. If the Goal is energy independence, then Policy is created to further that goal. Semantics, maybe – but helpful. :-)Your Supreme court anecdote is an interesting one. I believe I am a “fair minded person”, and I embrace the decision – but reject the process. Simply put – I would argue that it is none of the Government’s business who I marry. Why is it that the Government has any say at all in that personal matter? To laud the fact that the Government actually got this one right is to miss the fact that Government shouldn’t even have a voice in the discussion. It misses the forest for the trees.Yes, Policy has enormous effect on outcomes. It always does. That was my original point – that Policy constrains some actions and encourages others. But determining the “right policies” is the fool’s gold of the process. To continue your Supreme Court example, did they get it with the Citizens United decision? Or the Dredd Scott decision? Yes – these decisions set in motion substantial changes in society. We agree on that. My point is that they shouldn’t be mucking around in most of our daily decisions. Too much power and the unintended consequences are huge.

          5. JLM

            .You have wandered off the game board, friend. I did not suggest that the Supreme Court had gotten anything “right” nor did I even mention the word “marriage.”In fact, what I did say was: “…preserving the right to disagree with the decision and to even suggest it was made in error.” This clearly reserves the notion that they might have gotten it wrong.I did not say anybody got anything “right” but rather that the process was fair. My only real opinion was to the nature of the process and not to any decision.I note this with some specificity because I went out of my way not to offer an opinion on the matter and did not even mention a specific decision that the SCOTUS had made.My only intention was to suggest that, in fact, a single person in our 330MM person democracy can have a significant impact on things.As to policy v goal, that is purely semantics — on your part. I don’t know that the difference really is a distinction as the words have been used by both of us.Clearly the utterance of a policy of energy independence would drive a myriad of ensuing government decisions — goals — in support of that policy.From a classic planning perspective policy would drive strategy which would drive tactics which would drive objectives. There is nothing new there. Objectives would be the fairest proxy for the word “goals.”I can tell you that a policy, in a governmental sense, drives all other decisions thereafter — many of which are goals.An example of a real and specific governmental policy used to be that the US would have a force structure that would enable it to fight and win two major wars simultaneously. This came out of the WWII experience and was policy until recently abandoned by this administration.This policy drove strategy, tactics, objectives for the Pentagon for half a century. It determined the size and nature of the force necessary to support that policy.BTW, saw that you are in Black Mtn, NC? I spend a lot of time in that part of NC — lucky guy. Nice pic on your blog.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          6. LissIsMore

            Sorry if I wandered off the reservation. :-)I will agree with your point that, in our current structure, a single person (or policy) can have real and profound affect. I guess my point is that I am not convinced that that is a desirable mode of operation.And, yeah – Black Mountain is wonderful. We moved here recently (November) and I pinch myself every day to see if I am dreaming. I am reminded of the line from Field of Dreams:”Is this Heaven?””No. It’s North Carolina.”Peace.

          7. JLM

            .You are a lucky guy. I am getting ready to leave Texas having moved here in the 1970s. My children are going to be living in Charlotte and Savannah, so I want to be a bit closer.I am considering two or three of Savannah, Charleston, Wrightsville Beach, Highlands, Cashiers, Hilton Head. Wife is from Winston-Salem so NC is a logical choice.I love those mountains and have spent a lot of time in Highlands and Cashiers.I have a great story about roaring through Black Mtn en route to W-S at three in the morning about thirty years ago. I will tell it to you one time.Peace to us all and abundance within our barns.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. sigmaalgebra

          > These are all fairly simple policy decisions that could be done tom’w.Yes, yes, yes, but, but, but, for the real issue: Are they politically correct? And, and, and what about the environment, I mean, the 100% all-natural, pure, precious, pristine, delicate, life giving, Mother Earth, environment? And what about fairness, equality, and the income distribution? And what about the whales? Plastics harm the whales! And, and, and, you left out a lot of stuff.But, don’t worry, Hillary is on the case and will bring up all the reasons business shouldn’t, not with coal, not with oil, not with natural gas, not with nuclear, etc.

      2. LissIsMore


    2. sigmaalgebra

      Don’t worry: There’s no real chance that Hillary actually understands such issues. Even if she did, it wouldn’t matter: Why? Because all she is doing is pandering, manipulating some people for her real political ends. And those are? Sure:

  30. Matt Zagaja

    The thing about many of these freelance type gigs is they look better than say McDonald’s or Wal-Mart jobs to many, but in many cases they do not look better than UPS or TD Bank. One major issue is that there is lots of value to certainty (which is why financial services people spend so much time trying to engineer it). A world where you earn a steady paycheck for 25 years with the same company is the same one where you can figure out how much of a house you can buy for that much salary and then project when you’ll pay off that mortgage. Why would you even risk buying a home if your gig could end in a year and you could end up having to move from Palo Alto to Cambridge?Buffet may say that he’d prefer a lumpy 15% to a smooth 8% but most people aren’t living their lives like investors and lots of financial products don’t play that way.

  31. TeddyBeingTeddy

    Part of the problem in Greece is that it has a disproportionately high amount of “entraprenuers” that avoid paying taxes. I think POTUS can’t ignore this trend is inevitable here if FICA responsibility shifts to people instead of companies or even contractors. Entitlement to avoid taxes creeps into entraprenuers, whereas companies are audited.politicians are keen on the strategy to grow too quickly for regulation to catch you (Uber/AirBnB/cash advance loans). Now they’re trying to stay ahead of the economic/tax implications I’m sure. Obamacare makes us closer to France. Hoping the gig economy doesn’t turn us into Greece…

  32. Matt A. Myers

    Comment on oDesk – who merged with Elance and now they’re renaming it all to Upwork: I had been blackmailed before by a contractor on oDesk. When I contacted oDesk support their response was that blackmail wasn’t considered a high-risk activity and therefore the contractor wouldn’t be ban from the platform.

  33. LE

    The first example is Airbnb, the second example is oDesk, the third example is Etsy, and the fourth example is Uber.I am now seeing that odesk has been renamed

  34. DJL

    I love it when Hillary stumps for Republicans! What she was actually trying to say was this: “This is nice, but we are Democrats and we are going to have to tax and regulate this market (and thus destroy it.)” But it will be done in the name of “worker rights.”This “gig economy” or “sharing economy” is here to stay. It is a result of new technology and the overall loss of jobs across all sectors driven by Government over-reach and regulation. It is a beautiful, freeing thing to escape the grips of corporate American. But Remember: Democrats will want and need to try regulate this industry – thus destroying it. (The local unions are already trying.) This is be best argument I have seen yet to vote for free markets in 2016. Thanks, Mrs. Clinton.

  35. sigmaalgebra

    1099 versus W-2? Let the economy sort it out. Will it be pretty? Nope. How to make it pretty? Sure: Get the economy going again; then the employers will have to offer good jobs again. How to get the economy going again? Not with Hillary!So, it’s Hillary again.The last time she was running for President, in the debates, IMHO, she usually seemed to be the brightest person on the stage. She’s bright.I know some things about bright women, much brighter than Hillary: Sorry, Hillary, you’re not up even to carrying the books for my wife: Sure, audit a course in European History, as the prof wants, do take the tests, don’t even try in the course, a lecture hall with 300 students, and make the highest score in the class. Try that some semester in school. Not a chance Hillary. Lucky you were not in a course with my wife — the best you could have done was a distant second. Sorry ’bout that. My wife was Valedictorian, PBK, Summa Cum Laude, Woodrow Wilson, NSF, and top research university Ph.D. Sorry Hillary.But being bright alone is not enough; trust me on this one.Bright or not, my view is that Hillary is mostly about Hillary. After that she has issues, some deep and serious psychological problems, in particular, (i) doesn’t like being a woman, wife, or mother, has always wanted to be a man, and is bitter because she is not, (ii) wants all women to be as much as possible like men and, where biology is a problem, wants the Federal Government to step in, (iii) wants security for herself and everyone else, especially women, from a Big Daddy Government, and (iv) wants praise, acceptance, approval, and power from trying to get (ii) and (iii).In particular, she wants to get power by pandering and selling cliches of what is essentially old central planning.In simplest terms, I don’t think that she can be effective at actually doing good practical things. My opinion of her practical abilities would be improved if, not joking, she (i) actually baked from scratch four dozen good, soft oatmeal cookies, (ii) got a child of six to run a good front yard lemonade stand, (iii) did a good job cooking, from scratch, a Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen people. For doing a good job managing an e-mail client computer for important work — not a chance. For the US health care system, tax laws, or economy, she’d at best just create waste and otherwise create serious harm.If Hillary were President, then about the best we could hope for would be that she wouldn’t do much harm because checks and balances from our Founding Fathers would keep her from doing very much at all. If we needed a real president, then we’d be in trouble.Hillary, honey, the crash of 2008 was from just the kind of DC central planning you have in mind. You are hot on blaming Wall Street for lots of bad stuff. But Wall Street is not that bad, and it was not to blame for the crash of 2008 and instead just reacted, at times badly, to the dangerous nonsense from the Federal Government.Look not at AIG, etc. but at Fannie, Freddie, Franklin Rains, etc. The situation and the massive manipulations were fully deliberate: Sure it was a disastrous bubble. Anyone at all close to the situation knew it was and knew in clear terms what was going on and what was going to happen. It is just with the politically correct, social engineering objectives of the massive manipulations via central planning that no one wanted to speak out.E.g., see…with Richard Kovacevich, Chair, Wells Fargo (2001-09), with And we would just go around the room. And when they came to me, I would say: “This is toxic waste. We’re building a bubble. We’re not going to like the outcome. I’m very concerned.” The situation was from DC, Hillary, not Wall Street, and it was deliberate and no secret.More generally, Hillary, your goals and approaches are as in: Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.Dwight D. Eisenhower, From a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953 at, say,http://www.quotationspage.c…orhttp://www.presidency.ucsb….Hillary, honey, can say much the same for each new regulation you want to impose and just the same for a major fraction, IMHO commonly over 50%, of each dollar you want to flow through DC for your programs.E.g., in medical insurance, there’s community rating. Yup, it’s nice. NYS has it and a few other of the wealthier states. But the poor states? Nope. Why not? Simple: They looked at it and concluded that they can’t afford it. So, yes, find a way in effect to have community rating in all 50 states and paid for via DC. Hillary, honey, still, as a country, we can’t afford it. So, impose it, and force employers to pay for it. So, prices go up, sales go down, employment goes down, sales go further down, employment goes further down, etc.Another example? Unions? So, right, pass a bunch of labor laws. Let the UAW grab the Detroit Big Three by some sensitive body parts. Result: Current Detroit!Or, sweetheart, I know you want a perfect world, etc., but your actions via your central planning are, net, too darned inefficient and expensive. We really can and should do much better, but your approaches would have us do much worse.Hillary, sweetheart, central planning is too darned inefficient, and the result is devastation of the lives of nearly all the citizens.Hillary, honey, want to put people back to work? Okay: Dump Dodd-Frank. Yup, that will enable some sleazy creative accounting. So, why dump it? Because your cure is much worse than the disease; your cure is way, way, way too darned expensive which means that too many companies can’t afford it and, thus, can’t hire; then people can’t work, can’t buy, and companies again can’t sell and can’t hire. Dodd-Frank is theft from the economy very much like what Ike was saying about military equipment.Hillary, sweetheart, want to put people back to work? Okay, f’get about “clean, renewable” energy. Why? Because it’s another case of too darned expensive, wasteful, just as Ike said about military equipment. So, our energy prices go up, our prices go up, fewer people can buy, fewer people have jobs, fewer people can buy, companies sell less and hire less. Getting it now?Hillary, babe, your plans go into the economy and steal the seed corn. DC is like leaches bleeding the crucial blood and, thus, strength from the US economy. No wonder the economy is sick.Each time you raise another tax dollar, pass another expensive regulation, etc., you raise costs, raise prices, lower revenues, lower earnings, lower employment, and draw crucial blood and strength from the economy.Hillary, we are now having DC draw too much money from the economy. Just do some simple arithmetic: Taxing the billionaires won’t solve the problem. Further, your plans would have us draw much more of too much money from the economy and, then, largely waste that money; that’s a major reason the economy is sick. Sweetheart, the economy can do much better but not via what you have in mind.Taxing the billionaires and simple arithmetic? Easy:Let’s look a little at the wealthiest people in the US; for some data, let’s look, say, at the 2014 Forbes 400 as at…There we see that the 400 people on that list are worth in total$2.29 trillion.The least wealthy person on that list is worth$1.55 billion.Oh, let’s be generous: Let’s take the 1000 richest US citizens and assume that the 600 least wealthy are also each worth$1.55 billion.Then the total wealth of the 1000 wealthiest US citizens would be2.29 * 10^12 + 600 * 1.55 * 10^9 = 3,220,000,000,000dollars.Suppose we redistribute all this wealth across all US citizens. So, from Google search”US population”we see that the US population in 2014 was318.9 millionpeople.So, let’s just confiscate the full$3,220,000,000,000and redistribute it among the318.9 millionpeople and, thus, get3,220,000,000,000 / ( 318.9 * 10^6 ) = 10,097.21dollars per person. This amount is not each year but essentially just once, at least for decades.So, that’s what we’re talking about per person from full redistribution, i.e., confiscation, of the wealth of the 1000 wealthiest US citizens.So, right, $10,097.21 per person is not enough for a yacht, a house, a new car, or one year of college.So, where is the real wealth for individuals in the US? Sure, just where it long has been: In (1) Social Security obligations, (2) the rest of the US social safety net, and (3) employee pension funds.So, if want US citizens, including the poorest, to be much richer, which is a terrific goal, then, rather than confiscate the wealth of the 1000 wealthiest, find a ways for the318.9 millionpeople to be more productive — i.e., let the economy grow so that it can provide those people good jobs.Confiscation won’t work; instead, the problem is much bigger than that; the problem is getting good jobs for several tens of millions of US citizens.Oh, by the way, it is also just crucial that we retain the concept and importance of US citizenship in spite of Obama’s efforts to destroy it.Of course, now the richest part of the country is, and the candidates are, Silicon Valley, Stamford, CT, and DC. May I have the envelope, please? And the winner (drum roll, please) is, yes, DC!For now, f’get about CO2, chlorofluorocarbons, and other nonsense of people just trying to make a career out of screaming “the sky is falling”!Hillary, honey, none of this means that I like George W. Bush or the Republicans. Instead, just because you and most of the Democrats are wrong doesn’t mean that anything else is right. Instead, there are many ways to be wrong. E.g., what W did in Iraq was one of the worst disasters in US history, quite comparable with Viet Nam, and a huge “theft” from the US economy, people, and families.Hillary, here’s one of your pieces of silly analysis that deserves a grade of F in eighth grade arithmetic: I want you to hear this. Bringing millions of hardworking people into the formal economy would increase our gross domestic product by an estimated $700 billion over 10 years. Upchuck. Political pandering. Excuse making. Shooting our economy in the gut. Hillary, honey, the people we’re importing stand to lower our average standard of living, not raise it.With immigration you just want to create more voters that are dependent on DC and will vote for what you want, more power in DC. So, right, a revolution is from “kicking in the rotten door”, and if the door is not rotten then take steps to make it so. Hillary, I don’t want you to do such things to our country. Hillary, from remarks such as yours above on immigration, you seem to want to hurt the US; I don’t trust you.Hillary, babe, you are losing it: If you want a political manipulation of the immigration issue, then you need a better piece of deception than you gave there. Back in college you would have had brighter ideas for manipulation than that.But Hillary’s statements that Fred quoted were, for a candidate for President (a very low standard), relatively insightful, not actually good but just relatively so compared with a low standard. E.g., yesterday I wanted to hear what the heck Scott Walker said so looked athttps://caffeinatedthoughts……Maybe he’s a good guy to drink a beer with. Great smile, handshake. Looks good giving a speech. Looks like he’d do really well getting elected to school board, mayor, even governor — yup.But good ideas? Not very — instead pandering with cliches. Net, Hillary’s remarks that Fred quoted look more insightful and, thus, relatively good.Good enough to indicate that Hillary could help the economy and country? Not even close!

  36. David Fleck

    Flexibility is a key indicator here. But not necessarily flexibility of time. Many jobs have that either formally or informally. I think it’s more flexibility of what you must (or must not) do. In essence can you say no.

  37. leigh

    For the Pan Am Games happening in Toronto right now, we have these new lanes across the city that for 3+ people or you get stuck in hellish traffic. I’ve been bringing people to meetings who don’t really need to come, all to avoid this hell.What does Uber do? They start a car-pooling offering. FREAKING BRILLIANT.The culture of the Internet is to go around obstructions. People will continue to innovative faster than regulators can regulate. What is fair, and what is right, has become relative to the generation that evaluates it. Millennials who were brought up with the Network are soon going to be in positions of power and be creating the policies.The current command and control policies of many governments will have to change.(uber article here:… )

    1. William Mougayar

      And it’s free today. There’s also where you can ride with anyone. Have you tried it?

      1. leigh

        nah, i find it too weird riding with strangers. Still think it’s brilliant though…

        1. William Mougayar

          That’s the 64K question, although you know something about the driver because their profile is available to you.Even for UBER Pool, not everyone likes that, although it’s routine in some other parts of the world, although it’s more commonly used by the lower classes generally (because it’s cheaper).

          1. leigh

            and everyone i know under the age of 25

  38. The Heasman

    What a brave new world we’re entering.Soon the definition of a successful Graduate, won’t be one who gets onto a Grad-Scheme, but one who learns enough Marketable skills on the side to freelance out of College.Of course there is a difference in marketable value for the fully self employed freelancer, who is control of their own sales and marketing mechanisms vs those who rely on an external party to provide them the work.However people always choose the path of least resistance. Which is easier? Advertising consistently on Craigslist to fix iPhone screens, or apply to who give you the parts and the gigs?This choice sadly gives third parties the negotiating power, a fact which many freelancers will not consider until it’s too late.

  39. iggyfanlo

    IF the whole discussion is really around W-2 versus 1099, then we should make them equivalent … and charge the employer equally for both… I”m not necessarily arguing what those taxes/charges (FICA, health care, etc) should be, but they should be the same and make this argument moot.

  40. Terry J Leach

    Cold hard facts politics aside! Freelancers are locked into platforms. We are committed to being part of the solution.

  41. Alec Ross

    I appreciate Fred making this post. For what it’s worth, pretty much the entire senior policy team for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign read Fred’s post. Some of the reporting has been intellectually lazy. I encourage you to read the full transcript of her remarks here

  42. Kirsten Lambertsen

    While I like that she’s addressing this, I do worry about lumping those examples together.I doubt that anyone is selling on Etsy because it’s the only way they can make a living. And anyone who has ever used ODesk can tell you that most of the vendors there are not located in the U.S. I don’t think anyone with a bankable skill set is driving for Uber because of the flexible work hours.It’s dangerous to classify all this stuff together.

  43. Salt Shaker

    Within today’s labor pool, I’m curious what % are independent contractors by choice vs. by default? Is there hard data avail to answer this Q? Many 1099’s I know would kill for a steady job with benefits but don’t have that option. Conversely, there are obv many 1099’s who value their freedom and ability to manage their time. I get it…it’s a personal choice (and, of course, often it isn’t). For most of my career, I worked for companies that provided solid healthcare, profit sharing, 401K’s, etc., that fundamentally put me in a financial position for early retirement, if so desired. Perhaps that ecosystem doesn’t exist any more.With 700 start ups today having a valuation of $100M+ how many employees and independent contractors are gonna find themselves w/out a chair when the music stops? Yes, it’s a game of risk/reward, and many will cash out, but far too many fully don’t understand the long term consequences of their career decisions and are caught up in this game of “fools gold.” It’s a probability game with poor odds and (sadly) far, far too many are gonna end up w/ a scratch and sniff Lotto card vs. the jackpot. And then what?

  44. Justin Fyles

    If the companies don’t provide the benefits themselves, the workforce will probably unionize and demand them. It’ll balance out at some point. The question is whether or not the companies want to be proactive and do it now or wait for shit to hit the fan.

  45. Lucas Dailey

    Basic Income. We’ll need it as jobs or increasingly atomized and scarcer.Stop government fiddling with employment and get it focused on social security (small ‘S’s).

  46. Grace Schroeder

    I consistently ask my Uber drivers what they like most about driving for Uber. “Freedom” is the answer 100% of the time. Many have a Lyft sign in the back seat. The arrangement works for Uber, it works for the drivers, and it works for the humans that use the service. It was the taxi industry’s to lose, and they lost it. Specifically, the medallion owners lost — not so much the drivers. They had a harsh deal to begin with. (Denver drivers paid upwards of $700/week to the medallion owner for the privilege to drive — rain or shine or snow, vacation or not.)I cannot help but believe that lots of humans would love this sort of freedom.If we take the concept of freedom forward, I can see a day when new products and services are designed by one company, yet manufactured, marketed, and sold by independently owned companies that are running gig economies for their disciplines. The people that operate for these companies can therefore be project based, and can move freely among ecosystems of companies allowing for better distribution of opportunity and presumably happiness for employees.. Leadership might become more entrepreneurial than political. Sounds healthy.The social safety net needs a do-over. Should not sit with employers.The world is changing, and I say we let it change alongside a healthy dose of confidence and courage.

  47. Katrina Scotto Di Carlo

    Stoked Hillary framed this so thoughtfully (and that she didn’t use the term ‘sharing economy’). These harder questions are the stuff of a democracy and our political leaders *should* be pausing to consider the future.

  48. Pedro Israel

    I come from a country with a lot of government intervention. I do hope US does not go that rout. A central planning that dictates what is good and what is bad will lead to a economy where government gets more power, leading to corruption and waste of resources, where companies are more interested in having strong lobbyists to trade influence than actually creating value to consumers. Uber, Etsy and ODesk can only survive today if they provide value to consumers / freelancers, the consumer is the one with power to change the rules. I hope US don’t start believing that government and regulation is the solution, it only moves the power from consumers to the government itself. We all lose in the long term.

  49. Alex Meyer

    I think a lot of the discussion around W2 vs 1099 workers misses some critical points, namely that the arguments assume the current working environment doesn’t change. For example, most argue that 1099 workers are worse off because they have to find and finance their own benefits, have unpredictable hours, are at the mercy of the demand of the service, and are treated poorly by the on-demand companies.However, these arguments assume nothing in the working environment will change. The Affordable Care Act actually helps this new economy because it makes it easier for self-employed workers to get basic health insurance coverage. And what about services that come along like Even, which provides a steady paycheck no matter what the demand for your service is? You could also imagine newer companies coming along to help give 1099 workers access to more information and help them answer questions like: what service will pay me the most money right now where I am? or what available on-demand jobs can I get with my current skills/resources? If there is a gap to be filled in the market, I am confident many smart and innovative entrepreneurs will be all over it. I also believe there is room for public services to help out here.I think the debate on the future work environment needs to consider the types of services that will be created instead of just assuming everything stays the same. I hope that’s something future presidential candidates are considering when they talk about this topic.

  50. William Mougayar

    Here’s a key question – will this be fixed by laws/policies or by market forces. Or both together, or which comes first?

  51. Dave W Baldwin

    Sorry, I’m more excited about the arrival at Pluto.

  52. Sheena

    I agree with David Semeria but I can also appreciate the feeling of being employed. There is something so comforting about the monthly pay check and yet I struggle with the 9-5 environment. I recently have gone back to being self employed and am rediscovering how motivational fear can be. My ideal way to earn a living would be working on a number of short term projects throughout the year leaving me enough time to look after myself and my family. I am yet to discover if this is feasible here in the UK.

  53. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Once again, the elephant in the room is *healthcare*. We’re all health insurance slaves.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      Fortunately not nearly as bad as before healthcare reform though. 🙂

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Yeah, for a lot of people (who need it badly). In all though, I think it’s like rearranging the deck chairs. And, if you’ve ever been on Medicare, you’ll know that’s it’s better than nothing, but not what we like to think of for ‘mericans 😉

    2. leigh

      Except if you live in Canada or Sweden 🙂

  54. laurie kalmanson

    People with skills and drive will always have tools and choicesPeople who stock shelves, make pizza and clean offices can live in poverty with below subsistence wages and the profits of their employers subsidized by the rest of us or employers can pay people who do menial work enough to live on

  55. Rob K

    I think the big issue around the freelance economy is that virtually all benefits are tied to the old concept of “full time employment.” The NY Times referenced this recent piece http://www.democracyjournal… which outlined one possible solution, that of more portable, less employer-tied benefits. I am not advocating it, but I agree with Fred that we need to have the discussion. I feel that we do need to find ways to bolster the middle class, for economic growth, not (necessarily) for fairness.

  56. MickSavant

    politics or no politics it is kind of a red herring. There is no real gig economy (at least not yet) and individual self employment is at an all time low despite the rise of some of these services. The facts just don’t bear the argument out.…tldr;* individual self employment is at an all time low* people holding multiple jobs is at a 20 year low * full time employment is on the rise

  57. DisentAgain

    Basic income guarantee. Real social security. Real public health care (not insurance). This solves the problem entirely. We need to stop tying basic social safety nets to working for corporations entirely. When the society provides the benefits, the employers must compete on other items – namely salary, flexibility, and profit sharing.The “gig” economy would have nothing to disrupt if corporations were not incented to provide the minimum possible benefits.

  58. Joel Natividad

    We should look at how Germans do it – http://www.washingtonpost.c….Have strong worker protection and becoming a export superpower not despite of these protections, but because of it.IMHO, relying exclusively on the free market, that is purely driven by the bottom line and not counting “externalities” (your externality is my reality), will only accelerate the race to the bottom.Ultimately, if we just leave it to the market, the people who get left out become wards of the state, and not the “consumer” that powers the economy from which tax dollars are derived to support the social safety net in the first place.Nowadays, optimization often means automation. Once all companies are super-productive and highly optimized with only a skeletal crew – what is left for us, never mind our children to do?Will robots buy stuff too? Apart from maintenance, will they buy houses, furnish them, go on vacations, raise children, start up companies, etc?I’m no Luddite and I embrace and celebrate innovation, but these are hard questions we should definitely consider.However, during the next election cycle, I’m not optimistic we’ll have an intelligent and considered discussion around these issues.It’s therefore heartening that people like Fred are starting this discussion. Perhaps he can assemble a group of “celebrity capitalists” to shepherd the issue?After all, “it took Nixon to go to China” (

  59. BuckRogers

    Biggest issue from where I stand is the attempt to erase the 8 hour workday. If they would just put strict limits on this, and working 1 minute over 8 hours resulted in serious economic penalties.. we’d all be better off.That’s without the fact that the US work culture is completely upside down. It’s not just management pushing this, employees are as much of part of the problem. They encourage the attitude that your work should be your life.One easy way to ridding the over 8 hour workday is to just ban salaries and require everyone to be hourly.Of course all of this flies in the face of business interests to squeeze us as lemons, so none of it will happen. To achieve the 8 hour workday, people had to literally die at the hands of the corporations 100 years ago. It’ll require the same again.

  60. Cyberats

    You touched upon a truth sandwich that is very controversial indeed.There is no argument that large corporations want to stomp competition from its very earliest stages and they will use their middle “made men” government to do so. Practices ongoing for the last 20+ years.However, companies like Uber are completely Out of Control.A cab company with no experienced drivers, no collective logistics system and no responsible fiscal system (to clients), where some people got charged up to $50,000 for a single trip. No injury or death liability insurance. I don’t support government granted medallions for taxis & cab companies, but a business such as this needs monitored by the people in the least, to do all that is right for their safety & security.

    1. scottythebody

      not to mention a criminal-level aversion to following the laws of the nations in which they do business with the full expectation that they will either succeed in “disruption” or get into legal issues and get booted. The app is really nice, the idea of on-demand cars from your phone is good, even the “sharing economy” aspects are nice. But I don’t call it innovation if your business model is to break the law.

  61. Pradeep Chauhan

    I suspect Uber and other startups are targeted only because of their crazy-high valuations. The staffing industry has been around for decades, employs 12M workers/year and adds the entire size of an Uber driver pool in just one good year (with comparable hourly rates and far more hours worked). It doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar and no one is asking for temps that work 9-5 at the client site- to be converted to fulltime employees of their clients. http://www.staffingindustry

  62. alg0rhythm

    Realistically,while this is a concern, it is really for the future. The kinds of jobs that will be there and holding down the economy,(and getting us back to a “real” one) is infrastructure, and building retrofits, and we really need 7-15 trillion in that kind of work

  63. ErikSchwartz

    I am really curious about how many of these casual gig workers end up in trouble with the IRS in a few years.They need to be squirreling away for self employment taxes. They need to be paying quarterlies. They need to be keeping careful records for schedule A deductions. They’ve got multi year depreciation of assets (in the case of car services).This is a cohort of workers many of whom have probably been filing 1040EZ and now have non trivial small business tax returns.

    1. JLM

      .This is, of course, at the root of the IRS’s unwillingness to consider any flexibility on the issue of independent contractors (1099 “employees”).The IRS would much rather collect from a single employer of 160K workers than 160K individual tax returns filled with deductions that are not arguably available to an employer.The revenue to the Treasury is nowhere near equivalent while it is arithmetically and theoretically supposed to be.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  64. greyenlightenment

    There is a major reason for this: ObamacareCompanies are more reluctant to hire for fear of having to pay employee insurance if they have over 50 employees.Other factors include the inexorable trend towards more efficiency and productivity. These are forces beyond anyone’s control. Until recently, you had a job glut of too many people being overpaid, and the 2008 financial problem changed that, putting much more emphasis on productivity, profits and efficiency, which is great for stock prices but not so great, I suppose, for lower-skill workers.

  65. Twain Twain

    Wanted to put this on ‘No stack startup’ post as comment to @LIAD but comments are now closed there.Relevancy to the “Gig Economy” post is to do with third party developers on oDesk and @pointsnfigures:disqus insightful comments about ownership and IP.Today’s TechCrunch article on Twitter: “Said Williams (in an answer certain to upset some of those same third-party developers): ” Yes. We had an API really early and we didn’t have a platform and people conflated those things and people built apps or clients for Twitter or things that were ostensibly on top of Twitter. But it wasn’t a well-designed platform and it didn’t create a win for developers or users or the company. It was a strategic error that we had to wind down, and the company [received] a lot of critiques for that. But the story that [third-party developers drove] all this growth and innovation for Twitter was completely overblown.”@LIAD had written: “for those who’ve been burnt before building on others infrastructure only to be told one day “hey kid, get off my lawn!!” – the idea of a leveraged stack startup is as appealing as getting poked in the eye with a rusty fork. access/ownership of the large networks of engaged users. no control of the user experience and no means of defensibility as the network effects are not yours.the old mantra was be the gorilla. the new mantra seems to be, be the fly hovering on the gorillas back.makes perfect sense. until the gorilla kills you.#Bah #Humbug.”———————————-What protection do freelance third party developers have in these situations?

  66. Cristiano Santos

    Very interesting discussion on economic models and related forecasting techniques.Everyone is surely having the breakfast of the champions around here.The intrinsic considerations that ought to be asked, though, involve a far broader spectrum. For instance, we, the prowess of “evolution”, The Human Race, are mounting to seven billion individuals now. And Mother Earth’s size is just the same as ever (maybe a little too depleted of minerals and fossil fuel, actually).Our dependency on the aforementioned resources is so strong that those who control it (more about control later) cannot admit the existence of alternatives, since this is a real “death threat” to their empire, hence leading to power struggles and the politics of fear.Governments are becoming less and less influential worldwide, loosing ground to international conglomerates that are pulling all the strings presently.The so-called “knowledge society” is both a blessing and a curse to such system of domination; a blessing in terms of the mass-programming possibilities allowed by social media towards the weak-mined, and a curse in terms of those who can see through the thin, subtle layer of manipulation and decide to “set fire to the circus”.The harsh truth is that no one in a “position of power” knows what to do.Everyone is absolutely and thoroughly lost on their intended track to “rule the world”.Remembering that sci-fi movie: “What is the matrix? – The matrix IS ‘control’.”And what better way to “shape the future” other that literally creating it?The “successful human being model” (= money, power and fame) is not enough to hold the clockwork altogether anymore. We have reached the exact point where many historians and researchers of ancient civilizations have been asking themselves:”If such society (from the Sumerians to the Incas) lived so well, how come they disappeared?”The twenty-first century is a hammering indicator to a not-so-pleasant answer.

  67. Stephen Voris

    One more thing to keep in mind when designing regulation (in general, really) – size matters.No one wants to read fifty pages of legalese.Companies dilute this burden in proportion to their size – they hire a few accountants or lawyers – but individuals, especially the ones most likely to be using gigs as primary income, are rather less likely to spring for that expense.The fifty pages may well end up being necessary to cover all the edge cases… but at the very least make sure the main thrust fits on page one.

  68. Matt Zagaja

    So I finally had a chance to read her remarks and now I’ve been thinking further about the challenges posed by the gig economy.Clinton talks about the fact that companies do not invest in job training, but I do not think the tax credit idea will make a big dent. The issue is not that job training is too expensive but that in the gig economy once you train someone recruiters on the prowl from other companies that do not invest in training offer those trained workers higher wages (which they invest in lieu of training programs). Many sectors like manufacturing have managed to shed their training programs and associated cost onto the public sector through vocational partnerships with community (and even non-community) colleges. Others have shed them onto workers (and by proxy the public via student loans) through highly specialized college majors. They then exploit regulatory rules that allow them to not pay interns. I think a model like Hacker School (vocational training org functions as recruiting pipeline and gets the associated salary commission) is much more creative and in line with what industries should follow.Another issue that I think exists with the gig economy is that employees no longer share in the success of the corporations they work for. Start-ups and some Fortune 500s will offer things like profit-sharing and equity but it does not seem to be the norm for many jobs. Again I think the start-up model is good (at least in theory) but wonder if we need some kind of model that provides some liquidity for workers/investors (maybe pegged only to certain events like leaving the company or retirement) without subjecting companies to the tremors of the public market. My expertise is limited here. Maybe in addition to a minimum wage the government should mandate that all workers receive some kind of equity compensation. Furthermore I don’t see any reason for government to privilege capital gain taxes over other income, people with money will continue to invest in profitable enterprises whether they’re taxed at 5% or 35%. When corporations succeed workers should succeed and their communities should succeed with them.A third issue relates to the negotiating power mismatch. In a world where you can learn anything online your skills are not a defensible competitive advantage. Companies can arbitrarily fire you and replace you with a cheaper worker. Hillary is right that unions used to be the bulwark against this race to the bottom, but today it’s the minimum wage. I wonder if imposing some kind of additional penalty on companies that “churn” workforce while generating profit could also discourage this practice. The Basic Income Guarantee is also an interesting way to tackle it.The negotiating power mismatch also manifests itself in contract clauses like non-competes, anti-moonlighting provisions, etc. that more sensible places like California have voided for public policy. The rest of the country should follow California’s lead here, and take it a step further by voiding IP assignment clauses excepting bona fide employment contracts (i.e. not at-will employment) that have a specific term associated with them of at least one year. In the alternative maybe employees that are at will are granted an automatic option to purchase their IP back if they leave (much in the way Copyright provides today). I think this could inject a larger modicum of stability into the gig economy on the knowledge side. As Beyonce says, if you like it then you should put a ring on it.

  69. vruz

    The “gig economy” is better branding for the fact that most work will be done informally, and there will be no safety net for anyone. If you lose, you lose, you’re dead. But “gig economy” sounds so much better!The day you get Hillary to say something about serious innovation… like Bitcoin, you will be onto something.Surely her views on Bitcoin can’t be worse than Putin’s, no?

  70. sotanez

    In Spain we have coined the term “fake autonomous employees”: companies make their “employees” register as “freelancers” and pay them as if they are contracting their services, but these fake freelancers work full time in the company office, using company assets, for a regular salary disguised as a contract. This way the company does not have to pay social security, severance, holidays and other taxes.It is a fraud, but desperate people looking for a job accept it.

  71. Dr Washington Y. Sanchez

    MRW when I see the number of comments

  72. rodvdka

    It’s not ODesk or Elance anymore, but UpWork.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks. i need to read the news more often!

  73. Stephan Froede

    Interestingly the question regarding being a freelancer or not, is defined by tax regulation (1099?) in the U.S.In Germany it only depends on social security, as long as you don’t have a fake freelance relationship (working only for one customer), it’s pretty easy.But the logic is the same, it depends solely on the extent of freedom. You’re not free if you are only driving for Uber and you don’t have no other income, it is probably not enough to say “they could drive for Lyft” they also have to do it in practice. Otherwise Uber could discriminate drivers indirectly with faked bad customer feedbacks (would be bad practice but probably not illegal).It also necessary to prevent that platforms do lock-in, especially regarding Uber’s business practices I’m very suspicious.

  74. kevrmoore

    It wasn’t what she said, but what she meant. Her comments were veiled support for Big Labor and unions. Hills does not want to have an honest debate about the gig economy. She is driving forth a political agenda.

  75. jaredran

    I did a quick command-F and it looks like nobody has brought up Nick Hanuer’s essay on this topic: http://www.democracyjournal…He puts the issues at hand in stark terms and offers a really interesting policy idea: a Shared Security Account. Unclear if it would be gov’t run or privatized, but the idea is every employer and freelance worker pays a little into this fund out of every check and in return gets benefits normally available to only full-time workers such as paid vacation, paid sick leave, paid family leave, overtime, 401(k), etc. The benefits are accrued by hour worked and independent of any one job so you can contribute from multiple jobs at once or in sequence.Whether or not it’s the exact right path forward, it’s a really interesting idea to entertain.

  76. Nick Lashinsky

    We do need a President (and other leaders) who understand the direction the economy is headed. Unfortunately, in government, those people seem extremely difficult to come by. So I guess that means it’s up to those of us working in tech, or participating in the sharing economy, to communicate with them.I am glad Hilary is tackling these questions head on, and I respect her willingness to crack down on companies who are less careful about taking advantage of workers by classifying them as contractors. But I’m also hoping she’s willing to discuss the antiquated worker classifications we have.Neither 1099 contractor or W-2 employee classifications seem to fit what being an Uber driver entails. Nor does renting out your home as a land-lord the same thing as being an Airbnb host.Even still, as aggressive as we’ve seen companies like Uber behave (they’ve had to in order to get where they are), it’s probably important government step in at some point to reign in how they treat and share the wealth created with their workers.

  77. JJ Donovan

    Looks like it did not take long for other “Policy People” to pick up on this. Jeb Bush, Uber and the new American contract workerPlus, Uber faces potential $7.3 million California fine…

  78. newe1344

    The only thing i don’t own is the laptop i use at work. I definitely don’t feel “indentured” and the use of that word feels a bit manipulative in this context. The “gig” economy is fantastic in the short term, but more needs to be done to make sure these people know how to properly save & manage their assets appropriately…

  79. Leigh Drogen

    What makes me mad about the way politicians approach this discussion is that there isn’t one of them that truly believes we’re not moving broadly in the direction of marketplaces for the sharing of assets and acquisition of labor. They all believe it’s inevitable, but they are using scare tactics in order to pool votes via populist rhetoric. This is all happening instead of having the real conversations around exactly what you write about Fred, the real issues. It’s indicative of the broader political issue in the US today, there are very few actual conversations about how to fix or improve or plan for anything, every conversation is a politician trying to scare an electorate into a voting pattern.And then you get crap like DeBlasio saying Uber adds too many cars to the roads in NYC after having his campaign financed by Taxi owners. It’s hard to take any of these people seriously.

  80. Lauren

    Exactly right – Hillary Clinton is publicizing an important discussion about the “Gig economy” which needs to be had, and it isn’t just about labor rights and protections for free lancers (which is an important topic on its own). There are a whole host of implications that haven’t been discussed, such as whether our economic indicators are valid anymore, or by how far they are off. Much of our financial system is influenced by numbers like unemployment rates, GDP and per capita income, etc., but anecdotally, it seems like they must be off by some statistically significant amount (more than 5%). The world is changing, it is going to keep changing, and hopefully we can elect a president who is capable of understanding the changes and building consensus around how best to adapt/evolve.

  81. LE

    You have both industries gutted and you have people (and the government) spending money on things that they don’t really need (entertainment ‘HBO’ and/or food entertainment) that they never had or needed money for in the 50’s and 60’s. Plus you have advances in healthcare and a way of looking at the world that says “leave no stone unturned and not a single person should die or be harmed or be disadvantaged”.I read the other day that the military has to now deal with transgender people and make it fair for them to serve. Because you know there are just so many transgender people apparently (not!) that we will now spend money to take care of those people and treat them like everyone else, even at great expense. Most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. So fucked up I must be missing something about this.All of this six sigma costs money. Money does not grow on trees. There is a reason we only celebrate Christmas and make a big deal of it and not Hanukkah (as a national holiday). It’s because a line needs to be drawn somewhere based on number of people actually impacted. Not everyone can have everything.

  82. LE

    I think the minute you get further away from “discrete definable tasks” you have a harder time implementing a Uber model.Construction and renovation is a clusterfuck in the opposite direction from riding from 30th Street station to 43rd and Chestnut street (which is narrowly defined). Or renting a spare bedroom.Plus in theory the dollar value of a construction undertaking is much higher than designing a website or a car ride. Once that construction labor is tied up it won’t be able to do work for others.There are venues for construction (such as Angies list in a small way) but if you mean “renovate my new bread company HQ” it doesn’t appear to be able to fit the model.One of the things that I learned from being in the printing industry (for the type of work that we did anyway) was that since everything we did was custom the problem was not getting work (sales) it was not fucking up the jobs. And that required a good crew of people which took years to develop. Not the same as running a bagging machine on a bread line for the same exact packing every single day. (Not saying that the job that you have is easy, just that it’s a different evil to deal with when each and every day the work changes and the customers and their expectations change..)

  83. falicon

    angieslist or something like that on the smaller jobs/scale at the very least…my guess is that there are players at all levels that us ‘common’ folk probably just don’t know about though…if not yet, it’s coming.

  84. JLM

    .This is not really “new” territory. It all started with the wholesale offshoring of American jobs to places that use prison, child and predatory labor.The jobs lost are those of the now chronically unemployed who are making the social safety net hang so low. We have over 50MM people on food stamps in a country that essentially pays people not to grow food.We allow such employers to have unfettered access to American markets for their toxic goods. Then, we wonder how we allowed this to happen.You are not likely a fan of Ted Cruz but he gets this and has spoken of it often. He is an odd Hispanic being Cuban and Texan. I don’t see him being President but he’s likely the smartest guy out there today. I wouldn’t likely vote for him but I respect his intellect and the power of his arguments.We need an advocate for American workers.The injection of 5-20MM illegal, low skill, low wage workers into the American work force will crush wages for the next 20 years.Have a degree in CS — everything is likely going to be just fine. Make a living with your muscles? You are screwed.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  85. William Mougayar

    Friendly fire?

  86. Rob K

    Yes we sure do need an advocate for American workers. Most pols (on both sides) miss the “middle out” version of economic development that I advocate and that helped build the economy for decades. I’m not sure that low-skill, low-wage jobs will get filled by Americans if we do away with illegals.

  87. William Mougayar

    The warning helped set expectations. It was like entering a R movie, knowing it was an R, versus expecting to enter a G rated one and being surprised.

  88. Cam MacRae

    You and me both. I have read them all and it is nothing short of remarkable. Fred setting the tone in this way was quite clever.