Partner Highlight: Braintrust
Q&A with Gabriel Luna-Ostaseski, Braintrust Co-Founder & CRO
Gabriel Luna-Ostaseski is the co-founder and CRO of Braintrust, a company creating a new model for how work gets done. Braintrust is a marketplace that connects organizations directly to top tech talent that matches their needs and helps them keep pace with innovation. Prior to founding Braintrust, Gabe co-founded the home improvement marketplace Calfinder. Recently he has consulted, advised, and invested in 30+ Silicon Valley startups including Thumbtack, Uber, Surfair and Lendinghome. The first five companies he advised raised over $300M in follow on funding.
Braintrust is a marketplace that aims to connect organizations with top tech talent around the world. Let’s start with hearing a bit about the Braintrust origin story, and how it will shift the way people work.
I’ve been an investor and entrepreneur since I was 18-years-old. I grew up on a hippy commune where I didn’t know anyone with traditional jobs, and I have always operated outside of the traditional workforce, either as an investor, advisor or founder.
My co-founder Adam and I met through mutual friends and investment opportunities, and in addition to our shared love of entrepreneurship, we were both fascinated by how technology, new work models and demographics were coming together to reshape “work” as we know it.
After considering how these evolutions were impacting business, we began to evaluate what challenges could be solved by using technology in a new way to drive innovation even faster. We quickly identified that companies of all stages and industries are facing challenges related to sourcing, vetting and hiring of full-time or freelance talent without wasting time, resources or budget. Furthermore, it’s holding back their pace of introducing new innovations into the market. To support these companies, we came up with the idea for Braintrust, a platform that connects global organizations with elite tech talent without middlemen or markups.
This revolutionary model leverages blockchain technology to attract high quality freelancers to the platform and incentivizes them to do their best work, while also referring other top talent onto the platform. This results in a virtuous cycle; freelancers are paid a fair market rate and the network enables employers to innovate at a faster pace. We’ve developed a platform designed to support the Future of Work, Today.
The “alternative workforce” (freelance, contract, and gig employment) has recently become mainstream, and is predicted to triple in size by 2020. As a freelance marketplace, what role do you envision Braintrust playing within the management of this rapidly growing workforce?
Braintrust is redefining the future of work. As you alluded to, more high quality talent are leaving their jobs at Google, Amazon, and the like, to go freelance. They crave the flexibility and autonomy a freelance lifestyle provides. For employers, this is scary and all too often leads to chaos. The employer brings on highly skilled freelancers with only a vague sense of the freelancer’s skillset (never mind if they’re right for the role) and no idea of how to manage them to get the output they need.
Our entire model is predicated on quality, transparency, and alignment. We fully vet every freelancer on the platform, and take an active role in scoping the employer’s projects to match them with precisely the talent they need to get the job done. You know who is doing the work, and we monitor the progress and incentivize talent by allowing them not only to retain 100 percent of the value they create on the platform, and also earn ownership in the network by helping to refer talent and employers.
A big theme in “future of work” discussions is agility. For most companies, this consists of building more quickly and coordinating projects amongst small, nimble teams. How do you see this trend developing and how might Braintrust contribute to it?
Today all companies are being forced to innovate at the speed of tech companies, or risk becoming obsolete, legitimately overnight. And with technological forces at play — machine learning, AI, etc. — what already seems a rapid iteration cycle is only going to increase in speed.
Hiring for full-time makes very little sense these days; its slow, the talent pool is extremely limited, plus as we discussed earlier, all the best talent is going freelance. To solve for this, companies typically turn to an agency, where they’re likely to pay an exorbitant fee with no transparency into who is actually doing the work. Finally, there are other hiring platforms, which have poor incentive models and high fees, both of which leave employers and talent dissatisfied.
There is no world in which companies can remain competitive with traditional hiring methods. What Braintrust offers is a way to quickly spin up or wind down teams of elite and highly specialized tech talent to develop and iterate in sprints to help accomplish big goals in a shorter period of time.
Technology is disrupting nearly every industry, and as a result tech teams in many companies have shifted from being operators to co-creators. Braintrust sources talent that is technically top-notch. What kind of emphasis (if any) is placed on cross-functional developers that can prioritize consumer values and business outcomes in addition to operational success?
Great question. We pride ourselves on offering a range of high quality tech talent, with varying skills and abilities, and making sure there is alignment between the organization and talent. We certainly have “utility players” on the platform; people whom as you describe, have cross-functional skills. But we also have highly specialized people you won’t find anywhere else, due to our unique incentives for freelance professionals.
What’s most important here is that we have a clear sense of what the employer is trying to achieve. From there we help to make sure we build a team with the right skillset, who will work well within the culture, and we take an active role in helping to manage the project to completion.
Staying on the topic of the future — Braintrust is the first ever blockchain-driven freelancer marketplace. Can you tell use more about how you are leveraging blockchain technology to align incentives across all the participants in your network?
Ah yes; this is the secret sauce! Traditionally, values have been vastly misaligned between employers and talent, primarily due to extractionary third parties. Talent were seeing 30 percent of their paycheck go to a third party, and employers were paying hefty recruiting fees to source high quality talent. This leaves both sides feeling perpetually dissatisfied.
We leverage blockchain technology to create a new ownership model similar to a Co-Op. The ownership in the Braintrust network is represented by the Btrust Token rather than traditional equity. The token has 2 core use cases, paying out referral incentives to talent that refer other talent to the network and for employers to pay a 10% fee when using the network to hire. Our incentive as founders is to grow the network and increase the value of the token… when we do this everyone including our investors, talent and team benefit. We believe this is a new low fee, highly transparent and completely aligned incentive model will be how firms will organize in the future.