A new on-demand tech freelancer job platform called Gigged.AI has launched. Katherine Steiner-Dicks asks its CEO Rich Wilson some detailed questions to see if the HR tech startup is just another freelancer platform or one that high-calibre tech talent can believe in.
When I first read the press release of Gigged.AI’s fundraising I was intrigued. But I also had my doubts. This was despite the platform and model being built on feedback from freelancer focus groups over the last 18 months and raising another round of venture capital and grant funding.
So, who’s running the show over at Gigged.AI?
CEO Rich Wilson spent 12 years in the recruitment industry and a two-year stint as an adviser to the research and consulting group Gartner before founding Gigged.AI in 2021. He didn’t do it alone, but with the guidance of CTO Craig Short, who had spent 12 years as a freelancer in the Banking sector with RBS and Lloyds Banking Group.
The Glasgow-headquartered startup has secured its latest investment, a £1.6m seed round led by Par Equity alongside existing investor Techstart Ventures, Edinburgh-based strategic design firm Nile HQ, and a number of leading entrepreneurs. That means there is some cash to invest in AI, and hopefully freelancer experience. The startup team has attracted the love of entrepreneurs, so that’s another bonus because at some point they too were probably freelancers.
When you look at Gen Z, almost two out of three now engage in freelance work, and within our own talent community on the platform we are seeing around 70 per cent of people with second jobs, or ‘side hustles’ as they’re commonly known.Rich Wilson, CEO Gigged.AI
Freelancer numbers are rising so we need more companies to serve them. So, why did I still have some reservations about yet another freelancer platform?
On a personal level, I have an issue with freelancers having to pay for the opportunity to work. I also have doubts about AI-matching algorithms because they could be missing something intrinsically valuable about a person that can’t be found on paper.
So, why would highly skilled and experienced tech talent flock to yet another freelancer platform? The main driver of freelance tech talent checking out Gigged.AI is more than likely the fact that the platform is offering outside IR35-only jobs with contracts that are insurance-backed by Qdos.
So there you have it. IR35 and Off-payroll umbrella company risks are compelling highly skilled tech talent to pay a recruitment platform up to 5% of their project fee just to get access to outside IR35 freelance opportunities and avoid becoming employees of an unregulated umbrella company.
Our platform only accepts outside IR35 gigs and the projects are deliverable-based. We have a partnership with Qdos to ensure all gigs are determined and insured. We reject any gigs that are inside IR35. All our projects are fixed-priced with milestones built in.Rich Wilson, CEO Gigged.AI
Of course, I had more questions.
FI: Seasoned tech professionals entering the jobs market following tech layoffs may find it discouraging or even worrying about putting their career or next assignment in the hands of AI candidate selection and a startup. What’s your response to that?
RW: Our AI works to help improve the quality of the gig and match skills. The final selection is still down to the client and freelancer. Our tech is there to help decrease risk but not make the decision. As a startup, we have to ensure we have an experienced board and investors to provide as much trust as possible.
FI: I take it because AI is largely making the initial selections, there is the risk that people looking to go freelance and into a new sector/industry will unlikely be selected because they do not have a personalised experience and can’t show transferable skills. Or is that not the case?
RW: At this stage, it is a skills-matching algorithm based on information we pull from their portfolio, CV etc. We are looking to add transferable skills later this year.
FI: Many freelancers want to avoid inside IR35 assignments. How are you meeting the demand of freelancers that want to keep independent and do not want to accept inside IR35 roles or join an umbrella company?
RW: Our platform only accepts outside IR35 gigs and the projects are deliverable-based. We have a partnership with Qdos to ensure all gigs are determined and insured. We reject any gigs that are inside IR35. All our projects are fixed-priced with milestones built in.
We use our tech to qualify a really robust Statement of Work (SOW) which reduces spam gigs and misunderstandings between clients and freelancers.
Most of the reviews on here are from freelancers: https://www.g2.com/products/gigged-ai/reviews
FI: What is Gigged.AI’s fee structure? In other words, do freelancers have to pay to use your service?
RW: For freelancers, the fee charged is a maximum of 5% of the project fee. They only pay when they have completed every milestone of the project. That is 5% of the amount they have been paid.
FI: Can the freelancer be paid on completion of certain milestones or do they have to wait until the project is completed in full before getting any payment?
RW: Yes, typically each project is 2 to 8 milestones. They are paid immediately upon completion of each milestone. For example, the most common at the moment is a £15k data gig that is broken down into 3 milestones. The freelancer agrees on this upfront before accepting the gig.
FI: So, freelancers have to pay to get work through your service, so in the example, you gave me for a £15k gig, the freelancer would pay 5% of the project, so £750 out of their own pocket?
RW: Yes, that is correct. They do not need to pay any subscription upfront and only when payment is made. The feedback we received was that this was better than Upwork or Fiverr.
FI: Is this in any way tax deductible for freelancers as costs if they are running a limited company? Are these ‘charges’ clearly marked on their invoices or deducted separately, so HMRC can see that the freelancer is paying Gigged.AI and the freelancer is in no way getting caught out having to say they did a £15K gig when in fact it was £14,250 gig?
RW: My understanding is that this is tax deductible and yes it is broken down on their invoice.
FI: Your release mentioned enterprise clients. How do they actually work with freelancers? How are freelancers paid if they are working for an enterprise client?
RW: Enterprise clients sign up for our subscription package, this is where they are hiring 20+ freelancers per year. Freelancers are paid the same in this scenario.
FI: The freelancers working with enterprise clients are also working through their own limited companies? And not through a payroll?
RW: Always through a limited company.
FI: Do you use client credit systems?
RW: We do not have any confusing credit systems. We charge our clients 10% at the point of hire. For example, when an enterprise client requires a bespoke solution this is delivered as a SaaS which was something our customers really wanted to see.
FI: What was the fundraising experience like? What has it taught you about going from freelancer to startup founder?
RW: We raised our pre-seed in 2021 so we had some experience with what was required. This time we learned to be ready for detailed due diligence. We had to really show how the tech works, prove traction and have customers who were willing to share experiences. Our recent G2 ratings really helped as well. The level of due diligence has really increased.
Here is some more background on the business:
Clients signed up to the platform include Accenture, ATOS, Webhelp, Skyscanner, FanDuel, and the University of Edinburgh.
What Rich Wilson has to say about why freelancing is growing, especially in the company’s own sphere of talent:
“The ‘Great Resignation’ has seen millions of people quit their jobs every month, as they leave to seek more flexibility and better opportunity,” says Wilson. “When you look at Gen Z, almost two out of three now engage in freelance work, and within our own talent community on the platform we are seeing around 70 per cent of people with second jobs, or ‘side hustles’ as they’re commonly known.”
Rich Wilson added: “The companies in our client base are experiencing these trends first-hand and now have much better visibility for what skills they have in-house, and where they need to add talent, or upskill it. We have a best-of-class product, which is pioneering as we have both an open and internal talent marketplace, the first time the companies we are working with have had access to this kind of dual platform.”
Paul Atkinson, a Partner with Par Equity who is also a recruitment sector veteran who has overseen multiple exits in the sector, said: “HR tech is a fast-growing segment, and what Rich, Craig and the team have built in terms of the technology to support sourcing, onboarding, and helping to retain staff, in such a short amount of time is a remarkable achievement. We look forward to supporting the company on its journey to becoming one of the leading players in the sector.”
What’s next for Gigged.AI?
Gigged.AI was featured in the Startups 100 Index 2023 so it’s starting the year on a high. The company plans to grow its team over the next twelve months, remotely in addition to its Glasgow and London hubs, and has a number of partnerships and contract wins in the pipeline this year.
Gigged.AI’s CEO Rich Wilson identifies hiring in a time of recession as a major theme in 2023: “We used to talk about the ‘war for talent’, when demand outstripped supply, and now we’re in a phase where there are lay-offs and hiring freezes, particularly across the global technology sector, so this is something we are working really closely with clients on at the moment.”