TL;DR: Passionfruit’s distinctive, forward-looking founders are making freelance work not only a viable possibility, however a superior possibility for expert professionals. By constructing a particular platform for loyal Gen Z freelancers to work, study and earn, they’re fixing the expertise disaster for people and firms alike, and constructing a category-defining enterprise in a large and rising market.
The way it began
I first met Raffi Salama whereas learning at Cambridge College after which met Issah Abdul-Moomin as Raffi’s cofounder in September 2021. It was very early days for Passionfruit, however even then, I used to be struck by the drive and foresight that radiated off these two founders as they mapped out learn how to construct their imaginative and prescient of the way forward for freelance work.
After studying extra concerning the firm they wished to create, and seeing the uptake and natural development that they skilled in only a few early months, we have been decided to guide their $700k pre-seed spherical in December 2021.
Seven months later, we’re delighted to be co-leading their oversubscribed $3.6m seed spherical ($4.3m whole), alongside firstminute Capital and a powerful line up of different traders, together with FJ Labs, Portfolio Ventures, and the Atomico, Accel and Notion scout networks. Angels Mandeep Singh (Trouva), Xav Collins (Turo), and execs from Stripe, Airbnb and Workday have invested too.
Right here’s why we determined to again Passionfruit initially and are doubling down immediately.
The freelance market is huge and rising with the emergence of the Gen Z workforce
Within the US, the freelance market is price over $1tn yearly. That’s 5% of the US economic system. Within the UK, the mixed annual earnings of distant information employees is £162bn. Extremely expert freelancers now make up 49% of the self-employed economic system of two.2m employees.
Within the US, extra of Gen Z already work freelance than in conventional employment, freelancers are getting paid greater than regular employees, and freelancers’ attitudes have shifted to seeing freelance as an equal profession alternative.
It’s clear that this market is now coming into a second wave of development, pushed by key future of labor developments.
Macro and micro-influencers, from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who backs a 4 day week, to the 19 million weekly energetic servers on Discord, are encouraging increasingly more white collar staff to wonder if the office-based 9 to five (or later) is admittedly their most suitable choice. Even whether it is, they’re more and more open to freelancing on the aspect for supplementary earnings.
However freelancing solely works for a number of
Regardless of this, freelancing is way from optimised. As Raffi and Issah found once they surveyed lots of of younger white collar professionals, it’s one thing that many dream about doing. Finally, nonetheless, they’re deterred by the monetary and emotional obstacles of leaving the construction, security and camaraderie of a company job, the place their work, pay and growth is dealt with centrally.
New freelancers not often have pre-existing networks that assist them discover work, or assist buildings that assist them upskill and navigate administrative duties. They spend at the very least 45% of their time looking for new shoppers, managing administrative burdens and attempting to upskill. An annual examine by the US Freelancers Union and Upwork discovered that 81% of freelancers discover freelance enterprise abilities are essential to their work and would love further coaching.
Because of this, the general pool of high-quality expertise that’s obtainable to companies is unnecessarily restricted.
The answer: A freelancing platform for Gen Z
Passionfruit transforms the day-to-day expertise of being a freelancer, in the end changing into their digital residence to work, study and earn. Moderately than looking round for work, planning funds in Excel and feeling remoted, freelancers — or “specialists” as they’re referred to as at Passionfruit — are despatched briefs tailor-made to their abilities and pursuits. They’ve insights into their annual earnings, and are a part of a neighborhood by means of peer-driven mentorship programmes and coaching.
Though different on-line platforms for freelancers exist, they have an inclination to give attention to the demand aspect: the businesses who want a freelancer. By prioritising the specialists — a lot of whom haven’t freelanced earlier than, however are specialists of their area — and displaying them the incomes potential and freedom of freelancing, Passionfruit attracts solely the easiest expertise.
The demand aspect follows
This interprets into nice outcomes for shoppers. Portfolio corporations from 65 of the world’s prime 100 VC companies at the moment are utilizing the platform, and 80% of shoppers come from referrals and phrase of mouth. Specialists are matched with 93% of jobs in beneath 72 hours, on a versatile month-to-month rolling foundation.
Advertising and marketing, which Passionfruit is specializing in initially, is at present structured round company fashions. However there’s a robust financial argument for dismantling the normal price buildings that include businesses (e.g. fastened wage and workplace prices) in favour of a distributed, versatile mannequin. By chopping out the middlemen, the businesses pay much less for expertise, and the freelancers earn considerably extra. Win-win.
Corporations’ different to the company mannequin is to go on to a freelancer. However guaranteeing that the freelancer will produce high quality work is a significant problem, and the executive negotiation course of is a drain for each events. Passionfruit handles the entire administration and rate-setting, so freelancers and firms can give attention to the work.
It ensures high quality by vetting specialists and solely accepting the highest 3%. Actually, this piece itself has been co-written with the superior Pascale Hughes, a content material author who was capable of go freelance full time due to Passionfruit.
A brand-led imaginative and prescient and a give attention to neighborhood
Specialists profit from being a part of the Passionfruit neighborhood. There are upskilling alternatives, a rising information community and operational assist on invoicing and admin giving all of them the advantages (profession growth, compensation and colleagues) of an company with not one of the drawbacks (paperwork, rigid hours and places, and poisonous working cultures).
This, and Passionfruit’s distinctive model identification — constructed with assist from their glorious specialists — is a comparatively intangible however extremely highly effective, defensible asset.
One in every of Raffi and Issah’s core strengths is model and neighborhood constructing and we consider that is key to the success of the enterprise.
Extremely smart, pushed, passionate founders
Raffi and Issah met on Sir Martin Sorrell’s extremely selective WPP Fellowship programme. Since graduating from Cambridge and Oxford respectively, they’ve constructed direct trade expertise and a deep ambition to construct a category-defining enterprise. Raffi grew to become a part of the launch staff of David Beckham and Softbank’s new MLS franchise Inter Miami, whereas Issah grew to become Company Improvement Director at Group M, the world’s largest media shopping for enterprise.
Their expertise within the advertising and marketing trade and in businesses offers us deep confidence of their understanding of the market and the issue they’re attempting to resolve. That is backed up by the in depth market analysis and product-market-fit work they’ve each led over the previous yr.
What comes subsequent
Passionfruit will proceed so as to add to the lots of of specialists and prospects from throughout the EU, UK and US that already use and love the platform. The plan is to develop the product providing and work with ever-larger companies throughout Europe and North America. Whereas the corporate’s preliminary focus has been advertising and marketing specialists, over time this can even broaden into adjoining disciplines to satisfy buyer demand.
A private notice
My expertise working with Raffi and Issah over the previous seven months epitomises why I like investing and dealing on the earliest pre-seed phases of startup constructing right here at Playfair. On a enterprise stage, discovering that delicate steadiness between setting clear macro-level strategic objectives and diving into the micro-level element is what the pre-seed stage is all about. The opposite half is all about individuals: being shut sufficient as a founder-investor staff that you could overtly and genuinely discuss concerning the inevitable points and anxieties of being a pre-seed founder is priceless. I additionally consider it means you’ll be able to remedy them twice as successfully.
The added bonus from a relationship the place as an investor you really really feel a part of the staff is that when the corporate reaches the lofty milestones you set collectively, the celebration is that a lot sweeter and deeper. I can’t wait to see what heights these two distinctive founders will hit over the following few years and I’m very fortunate to be a trusted a part of that journey.
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In the event you’re a startup, scale-up or enterprise searching for high-quality, versatile advertising and marketing expertise, you’ll be able to attain out to the Passionfruit staff immediately right here: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the event you’re a founder on the very earliest phases of constructing your organization, I’d love to satisfy to debate and brainstorm your imaginative and prescient for the world. You could find me on LinkedIn right here or pitch the broader staff at Playfair right here.