Solo team members, from left: Keith Ng (Co-Founder), Araceli Benitez (Growth Lead), Bryce Bennett (CEO & Co-Founder), Keith Ho (Software Engineer) and Thushara Wijeratna (Founder & Lead Engineer). (Single photos)
Gig economy companies like Uber, Instacart, goPuff, and others have given workers a new way to make money on their own schedule. However, with this flexibility comes a degree of income instability – adequate work and regular paychecks are not always guaranteed, as is the case with a traditional 9-to-5 job.
This is where solo comes in. The new Seattle-based startup, which has just announced a $ 5.5 million seed round, plans to help gig employees by providing hourly income forecasts over the course of a week. Solo is so confident of its data that the company offers a guarantee that if workers end up making less, it will make up the difference. The predictions use aggregated historical data from solo users as well as the potential impact of real-time events.
The idea is to give workers a better understanding of when, where and what kind of work to do on the different platforms. Solo’s bigger vision is to provide gig employees with extra help with insurance, taxes, mileage tracking, and more.
“We always felt the deck was against gig workers,” said Bryce Bennett, Solo co-founder and CEO. “They don’t have a lot of tools or information to use their time effectively or efficiently. It’s kind of a guessing game. “
Bennett formed Solo with Keith Ng last year. They spent time together in Seattle and Portland for Uber and trucking startup Convoy. The experience in each company gave them an in-depth look at the challenges facing independent contractors who are part of a gig economy that has grown over the past decade in part due to technology-driven services like Uber.
Devin Jansa is one of those workers. He quit his traditional full-time job in Seattle three years ago because he “never wanted to be an employee again”. He uses Solo to figure out when to work for Uber, Lyft, Grubhub, and DoorDash. His income has increased 30% since using the app.
“It’s a very useful tool,” said Jansa.
The increase in various gig job opportunities over the past five years has created a need for solos, Bennett said. It is beneficial for employees to use multiple platforms, but it also adds complexity.
“It’s great for workers that there are so many more options now, but it makes calculating when, where and what jobs to work a lot more complicated than if it was just Uber and Lyft,” he said.
The income can fluctuate from one day to the next. The following graphic shows the hourly earnings of DoorDash, Uber and Shipt on a Tuesday of the last week.
There are other startups offering tools to gig employees, but Bennett said Solo’s earnings forecasts are unique.
Solo has a number of well-known investors including former Amazon Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke and former Uber General Counsel Salle Yoo.
Slow Ventures led the seed round. Managing Director Kevin Colleran said his company had already considered the idea of Solo, so the investment was a quick decision.
“We believe Solo is uniquely positioned to resolve key issues related to financial and professional instability and we look forward to supporting those who make a living doing app-based work,” he said via email.
There are over 1,000 workers on Solo. The 5-person company plans to expand beyond Seattle later this year. The app is free to use for now, but Bennett said there are plans for premium services.
Other supporters include Expa, Red Sea, Fuse, Ascend, Harry Campbell (The Rideshare Guy), Dan Lewis (CEO of Convoy), Rob Hayes (First Round Capital) and Kindergarten, a new fund created by David Rosenthal, a former director from Madrona Venture Group and co-host of the “Acquired” podcast.
“When I learned what Bryce and Keith were trying to achieve with Solo, the need was so obvious and the market opportunity so great that an investment was a given,” said Rosenthal.