Callum Adamson: All right, here we go. Welcome to the fireside at hosted by yours truly. My name’s Callum Adamson. I’m the CEO of distributed. We’ve built a platform that basically harnesses the power of globally distributed talent. So our platform helps companies build software better, faster, and cheaper through a process of technology and workflows and allows enterprise organizations to access talent that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to.
Joining me is Matt and Shah. I’m going to allow them to introduce themselves individually. Matt, take it away.
Matthew Mottola: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. So I’m Matt Mottola CEO of Venture L. We are an operating system where freelancers scale their business think going from taking on three projects at once to five to 10 to 15 also the author of the human cloud how today’s changemakers use artificial intelligence and the freelance economy to transform work.
And then prior to this was leading enterprises to build freelance programs. So this was going from zero to 1 million to 10 million to a hundred million in spending on freelancers instead of going through agencies.
Shah Ramezani: Okay. I’m Shah. I am the CEO and founder of Code Monk, which is the human cloud for, you know, tech, enabling tech companies to select, manage and retain engineering workforce globally.
You know, before that I was running the Asia team or the Asia division for the Hutch group of company, who just recently the IPO’d. And then I know. before that I was working mainly in finance first at a hedge fund then private equity at Lasar and UPS MNA. I also started in between a company, a B2B marketplace for used cars in the middle East.
Which I then exited as well. So yeah. Being involved in a number of things. And you’re always excited to talk about this future of work topic, which I’m really excited about.
Q1: What does the future of work mean?
Callum Adamson: Yeah. The future of work. What does it mean? Is it the next AI? I remember about five years ago when everything became AI, all of a sudden, you know, linear regression, all of a sudden was intelligence.
Well, we’re all building in the space, right? So maybe Shah, you can take this off. What, when the Sunday times, or when CNN or when, you know some tech publication says, Oh, the future of work. What does that mean to you? What does that actually mean? What’s the future of work?
Shah Ramezani: So I just want to tell you guys how I came to be passionate about the future of work. And maybe, you know, it makes sense because we spoke. So I’m a big fan of Bill Tai. Bill Tai is I guess, the best angel investor in the world. He made like 4 billion just for me, writing like very early, early-stage tickets of betting on the future. And, and in his recent video, he said, you know, he has been a guy who has been in the semiconductor industry followed everything through operating he kind of knows technology curves.
And he really said Two main trends that are going to be important for the future. One is blockchain. You know, let’s leave that there, which I’m actually investing my personal money a lot. And the other is the future of work. Right. And, and I think that’s where he got to me because he still compares how our world looked
before capitalism and the industrial revolution. So everyone was kind of applying their skills in different ways. To projects, it was a manufacturing culture where companies had to, for sake of efficiency, have people full-time in their structure. So they ended up going to you. Convince you, Hey, you know, you need to work for us for 20 to 30 years, or like ideally your entire life. We’re going to look after your career. We’re going to look after your pension, look after this and that. So, so that has been like kind of the norm for a while, but you see this shift, that things are changing and that the main enablers are technology platforms like JIRA I help people to kind of work in a decentralized way without having that set structure so I think it’s important to know that we weren’t working like that before, you know, it was something that evolved. So it’s very much possible that we go back to where we were just, you know, how technology has kind of empowered us to be able to work more in a decentralized way. Yeah, so that’s like kind of.
My excitement around it. And you can see that across the trends, you can see across the numbers. And it’s, it’s going to creep up and it’s going to come. And the good thing about COVID is like a lot of VC money has been slowing into making the experience better, which is only going to be fueled the growth of people working more decentralized globally.
Callum Adamson: Yeah. So what we’re talking about here is how work was pre-industrial revolution, industrial revolution necessitated the building of factories. Everything became a factory and that’s not fit for purpose for the technology revolution, right. For working in the technological age. So we’re going to see. The biggest change around ways of working and coming down the pipe. What about you, Matt? What’s future work?
Matthew Mottola: Yeah. So I think it’s a giant buzzword and no one actually knows what the hell it means, but no. So I would, I would place it as a what it looks like, what it operates like and sort of the why. So what it looks like to me is digital remote outcome-based.
What operates like as individuals being able to do more because they’re taking advantage of digital, remote outcome-based models and Shah. I love how you gave it a little bit of like, okay, this is how I got to here. So I don’t think I’ve actually ever said this publicly, but sort of my aha moment was I actually started freelancing and it was out of necessity.
I couldn’t work a full-time job yet. I needed to have money. And so I would go do contract work. Didn’t know it was called freelancing, but I stayed in that traditional path cause it was what I was supposed to do. So I ended up actually working at a big four at a school. And I remember being so excited.
Like I was in a suit and I was in the 32nd floor and everyone told me how successful I already was and I showed up and I’m just like, But I just remember, I’ll never forget. I show up and I’m just like, wait, what? Like, I’m looking around, everyone looks miserable. The skin everyone’s skin just looks gross somehow.
And I’m like, this can’t be what everyone was saying. I’m supposed to be looking forward to since that was right. And like, that was my big shock. Cause I was like, wait, I did this thing that everyone told me was like immature. And one day I would grow up. I made it. I’m sitting on the 32nd floor. I have a suit and everyone tells me you’ve done it.
Yet, this totally sucks. And everyone’s walking around like zombies. And so I, I didn’t fully jump in to be honest, like I still freelanced on the side, but it feels like rebellious. It wasn’t a thing that I was supposed to be doing, but I did jump in and out of sort of freelance than startup and freelance than a large company.
And to me, like that’s the future of work? Is that a hot moment that I had early on by accident, where it was like, we’re not going to be doing things the same way we’ve been doing them forever. And thank God I’ve seen this world that I were going to go to which I would, you know, frame as digital remote outcome based.
Callum Adamson: That’s awesome. Isn’t it funny how there are themes emerging that we’ve all come to the conclusion of completely separately, right? Because we’re all part of this. Generations of future work for me is the reason I started distributed. Like you matt, like you shah, you look at the way the world used to work and something clangs with common sense for like a millennial or an emerging kind of generative mindset.
Like you, you look at it and you’re like this isn’t, it doesn’t make any sense to me. This is just the way you used to do it. This doesn’t make sense when we build technology. When we’re now. Our office is literally this terminal that I’m sitting at now. It’s not the room I’m in is the terminal, which means it should be anywhere.
And it should be more meaningful to me as my career. Think. Think about the first generation of builders on the internet. There were no courses we could attend. There was no YC. There’s no like YouTube videos or anything. We all have to figure out how to do this on our own for the most part, which means.
It’s all meritocratic. It’s all peer-reviewed. What actually means a lot to me is my buddy who’s building, you know, something else in software over here is saying to me, that is seriously cool. I love what you’re doing there. Not. what, the person in the grey suit is measuring me on I don’t think you’re.
Yeah, you had a comment on that stuff, right?
Shah Ramezani: One thing I find interesting with Matt you said is obviously this political world and, you know, it’s just a political apparatus that is so efficient because if you work in an if you work on your own, the first thing you realize is, first of all, no one cares who you are.
You know, whether you look nice, talk nice, as long as you can deliver a transaction to them. It’s fine. And once you understand that you become more confident and you kind of know-how to add value to society in an efficient way. So whether you sit eight hours at home or not, as long as you, whatever they need, and there’s a supply-demand side that determines the price, you’re a bit cooler and you can do it in an hour versus great you a good quarter.
But I feel like it’s, it kind of brings society back to a more efficient level of where people are like, you know, As long as you deliver. It’s fine. I don’t care if they’re looking nice, smiling there, you know, whether your heart is, you know, your hair is, you know, so I think a lot of time that is wasted in those corporate structures is people spending a lot of time on, you know, politics and this like, you know, honestly, like you spend so much time on it and you think that’s how business is made.
Then you come into the real world, realize Holy shit, you know, the people who have been on the streets for a while, they’re super sharp. They’re super like on top. And I think it’s a big, big, big problem for a lot of these banks. For example, I feel really bad for these guys because some of them get paid three, 400 K.
I know that from Switzerland for the first big crisis. And then Suddenly is the reality shock is like, we’re not going to pay your 50 K because I don’t know what value you add because the structures are kind of like build you up and you ask kind of got the notion that you’re adding. Worth 300 K to society.
No, you’re not, you know, like
Callum Adamson: that’s interesting. So as work becomes more measurable, it becomes more of value exchange. Yeah. Is that what we’re talking about here is like,
Shah Ramezani: well, it’s more often that, you know, bottle was says, we’ll go to the schools that are needed the most. Right. And it’s simple as that.
Like whether, you know, you are an expert at this or that doesn’t matter. So you need to always, as a human being, you’re always forced to focus on what is the future, you know, For example, blockchain developed developers and all these guys are paid the highest, you know, because you know, we know the world is going to that.
And I think that’s a very fair system because it kind of like lets the individual also think more clearly. And not like, for example, let’s say the retail sector, right? We have so many people in that space that we don’t even need. Why don’t we just re reeducate them and put them somewhere where we have more needs than they can, you know, then we don’t need the governments to support them.
Right. What happens is government try to keep them because they want to have stability, but instead of just prolonging the problem to a point where it just exploded and you know, everyone is unhappy.
Q2: What future of work mean to enterprise CEOs?
Callum Adamson: So that’s actually a good question there. What do you believe future of work means to government, to CEOs of enterprise organizations, you know, to the CEO of shell.
For example, from because we understand what the future of work means, and we’re kind of aligned without having to explain it to each other, but for, for a big retail chain head off Matt, what is future of work mean there?
Matthew Mottola: Yeah, it’s an awesome question. I think at the end of the day, none of this actually changed changes.
There’s just different tools and mediums to get there. And so, and I think that’s one of the biggest problems when really helping, especially enterprise change management. Right. It’s always about figuring out what are the incentives to get you to change without you even knowing that you just changed.
And I think what does a future of work look like for a CEO? It looks like you can still pay for your kids to go to college. You just have to use this tool instead of this tool. And so what I mean by that is in my space with the freelance economy is you’re not going to go hire a bunch of freelancers because you want to hire a bunch of freelancers.
You want to hire a bunch of freelancers because you need to build a product or you need to adjust to customer demand. You used to do that by either hiring full-time or go into an agency. You now know that it’s better, faster, cheaper to find someone like Shah sitting in the UK or wherever you want to sit and hiring you on a project or contract basis versus a full-time employee.
And I think that’s one of the biggest, or one of the toughest parts is adjusting our language as an industry. So it’s not as revolutionary, but it’s more, you’re going to be better at what you already need to do. So if you’re a skincare brand, You’re still going to focus on skincare. You’re still going to be the best possible skincare, but where you used to have to go have the full-time employees or used to have to go through Randstad or Adecco or some of these existing partners, you’re now going to go work with the talent themselves who are going to make you the best at skincare.
So that’s the way that I always frame it with leadership. Is, don’t try to change everything. Try to still focus on what’s important to you as a company, but know that the tools to get there are going to be digital, remote and outcome-based, and so use those tools to get better. And one quick example is like, if you think about motorcycles here in North America, like, you know, if you’re a motorcycle company sitting in Wisconsin, You’re not going to be able to source talent against Google and Microsoft and Amazon and that, but you still need to have a digital experience for your riders.
So you can tap into 25 to 30 developers sitting all around the world and still provide a mobile app experience. You can’t do that with full-time or agencies. You can do that if you think about freelancing. So that’s the way I put it. It’s the future of work is literally just new tools or updated tools to make you better at what you’re already amazing at.
Q3: How do enterprise begin to think about on-demand talent from a finance perspective?
Callum Adamson: Shah, you have previous kind of, I’m going to say high finance experience, right? So what Matt’s talking about is the way that the proposition is reframed, large organizations don’t necessarily run on the understanding of a proposition, right?
They run the on resource budget, allocations, financial modeling, effectively. How do the financial instruments change to enable future of work when you’re staffing sheet was, was very, I guess, manageable, predictable plannable forecastable how does, how does, how does enterprise and how the large organization starts to think about that from a finance perspective?
Shah Ramezani: So maybe once so when I was the Hutch group, how I came with the idea was. So we had this roadmap, right. And there were clear case studies. I knew I was like running Asia and I was always frustrated because I want to do it in direct integration, Alibaba. Make and our entire live feed. But then meanwhile, the CEO was obviously more passionate about buying hotels and wanted to like, so I was like, guys, can we, like, this is like a 5 million project, you know, can we, and then they’re like, no, our engineering forces it’s like, what can we.
How can we tap in To externals, like we just need more capacity for this moment in time. And that was kind of like my, my kind of like issue back then that how can we get out of this? Like, you know, you sometimes have peak demands and you can like use an external that has all these people. They’re now coming to your point of how organizations will change.
I think they’re already changing. Less hierarchical structure. You have more of these like digital, digital scale-ups companies who come up with an idea quickly, prove a scale fast and innovate and move on. And, and, and I think it will become more where it becomes threatening to very old structures where, you know, there is so much like Slack there and it will become more focus on a few people having very creative ideas good ideas, good thesis, and then execute fast and then innovate.
Prove themselves or fail. So that will, that would probably be the norm more decentralized setup of companies. The reason why is because they can move fast on their ideas and on, on what they do versus, you know, bigger companies and you know, less of these like very, very hierarchical structure.
And from a, I guess financing and operational point of view would probably will be more efficient with all the tools that will come to support that.
Callum Adamson: So we’re talking about an unbundling of corporate structure. Hi, John.
Shah Ramezani: I think like, I’d say more towards, you know, shorter life cycle of companies, but the companies coming in doing something else, having the ability to do something else, because everything is cheaper now.
Right? The main innovation is done with few lines of code, right? I mean, If you kind of come up with a good idea, you you’re there, you don’t need, like to say, you know, oil and gas industry, like invest in a 50 million oil rig investment and, you know, proving your point that there is oil. Like we can literally like once it works you can use the decentralized system kind of like bring all the talent you need and scale fast.
Right. And so you see more like companies having those kinds of structures and, and, and you know less, I would say very rigid because that would kind of like slow down innovation.
Callum Adamson: Awesome. Let’s give, give, give John a second to say hi . So John, we we’ve kicked off. We’re a bit into it by the way, this panel is already kicking ass. Shah and Matt are incredible. So John, if you wouldn’t mind, I’m going to welcome you to the fireside now. Hi. And I’d love for you to spend 10, 15 seconds introducing yourself to the future audience here.
Jon Younger: Sure. Happy to do so. I’m John younger. I am clearly the oldest person in this group. I’m, I’m best known for the following things. So one is I used to be an HR and I wrote a bunch of stuff and people thought I was pretty smart in 2012, 2013. I discovered that I was a freelancer. I didn’t have a word for it.
I thought I was just a consultant, but it turns out that that in the early stages of the freelance revolution people didn’t have a way of talking about it. And so they talked about it and sort of uncomfortable and sort of confounding and confusing ways. But what they learned was the 30 to 40% of their staff, wasn’t their staff.
It was contract people, it was consultants, it was freelancers, et cetera. And as organizations have started to recognize how much they’re into. The new work, how much they’re into open talent. It’s, it’s been insane and add to that, the accelerant of COVID and and we’re in a very interesting time in terms of the future of work.
Okay. I, I like writing about it. I’m the what’s the name of the guy that Tom Hanks played that, that used to run track? What’s his name? You guys. Or it’s Forrest Gump. I’m the Forrest Gump of the freelance revolution. I write because I don’t know what else to do. And it feels good. And so I’ve just written about all these kind of new and starting up companies like matt’s, and Shah I don’t know you, but I look forward to meeting you and the work that you’re doing, and I’ve had the wonderful opportunity, the privilege of introducing about a hundred new.
Freelance platforms to a global audience, not because I’m the smartest guy in the world. And certainly not because I’m the best writer, but because nobody else was doing it and it’s been a pleasure. And by the way to be with you, because you’re one of the guys that I missed until just a month ago.
Q4: What has covid taught us about remote work?
Callum Adamson: It’s a, it’s a pleasure to have you on, on the session, John. So John, you, you said something here that I want to get Matt and Shah’s reflections on immediately, which is what has, COVID-19 taught us about remote work and distributed teams. Matt, Matt, take us away.
Matthew Mottola: Oh, man. I don’t like following John. Now I have to sound smart.And John you keep me honest. I’m nervous. The only thing I have on you is better dressed sometimes, but
Okay, so COVID COVID has changed nothing accelerated. Great. I mean, that’s a classic buzzwords, everyone’s saying the reality is that it’s forced companies to actually take action on things that they prior would just say, ah, that’s nice. We’ll do it next quarter.
We’ll do it next year. The big example there to be honest to spend. And so when we would go to companies and we would say freelances, 90% more cost efficient, it’s 10 X faster, and you’re going to have incredible quality. They would say, this is so great. But guess what? You’re not taking me to the baseball games.
My kids’ birthday presents. Aren’t getting paid by you. And so like, this is great. We’ll talk next year. COVID obviously slash that cause now budgets are slashed. So they don’t even have an option to go back to that agency they’ve been using for 20 years. They have to go with contingent talent. And so that’s sort of the immediate impact that I’ve seen is that the budgets that prior to, they would say, we’ll do this next year.
Nope. You have to do this. Now, the second thing is within change management, like that’s the hardest right? Getting them to actually change the spend is the hardest, but the second thing is the. And John you probably have better, better words for this, but going from I’m interested to I’m actually using remote was the biggest barrier.
And so they would say, this is great, but this work can’t be done outside of these four walls. And then we would have discussions with lawyers and HR, and it would be about IP and all these little things that they would say can’t be done outside of these four walls. Well, now we know it was remote. That’s not true.
99% of work can happen outside of these four walls. So now you have the fact that they need to spend on freelance because there’s 90% cost efficiencies and they actually know what they’re doing because the work has been proven that it can happen out of these four walls. So, you know, just common sense is yep.
Okay. This is significantly accelerated from a numbers perspective. Every leadership team that I’ve talked to you from a freelance platform side, They’re seeing more growth than they ever imagined. A lot of them are saying things like we hit revenue this week that we didn’t hit over the past two years.
So yeah, it’s, it’s thrown on steroids, what was already happening. And I would say the two things that I’ve seen that are forcing that are now they have to spend on this. And remote has made it accessible
Callum Adamson: What about you Shah.
Shah Ramezani: So I think the biggest thing for any tech or new way of working is, is adoption rate.
And normally adoption happens if you have like a 10 X, 20 X improvement, but if it’s five, because you have to change behaviors. Right. And what it probably does does really force people to work in a way where behaviors have changed. People have become more open minded about it. And then they’re like coming out and say, well, that’s actually great.
You know, I can spend more time with my wife. I’m getting, you know, I’m working from home. I’m also not doing so much FaceTime. And I’m just like, clear about what I need to deliver. Whether I’m working 4:00 AM in the morning or not, it’s up to me. So I think it wasn’t even part of people’s imagination of what this world means.
Obviously, younger people were aware of it, but it’s just, you know, it’s just changing behaviors and it normally takes 26 or 29 days. The change of behavior. And then once it’s changed, it’s like it should be there. And I think that was the biggest impact. And you can see this across a lot of industries.
Like there were a lot of business owners that wouldn’t have worked before. For example, you know, having barbershop marketplace on your app. I just seen a company raised like 200 million of that. Like all these things, just show to people, you know, we can work that way. You want to change. Behavior, because there wasn’t like, let’s say 10 X improvement.
Does it mean the future will look like that at some point in time? So I think, yeah, thinking behavior was definitely the biggest factor. So, and I’m glad because now, you know, it it’s, it’s going to probably go much faster.
Q5: What are freelance platforms selling? Outcomes or hours?
Jon Younger: Interesting. I would add something to that. You guys, I mean, I Shah that that was excellent.
And Matt, that was excellent. And now I’m the guy that’s on the hind foot. But I, I wanted to add two other pieces that I think are very interesting and I don’t think that we’ve actually worked it all out. The first is I, Matt. I think one of the challenges in adoption and Shah, I think one of the challenges are what, what are the freelance platform selling?
Are they selling outcomes or are they selling labor? That’s a very, very big deal. When you’re used to being able to go to an Accenture. Or an Avanade or any number of the big tech firms. And they would promise you an outcome, not simply hours, where we’re in a very interesting time that when we, when we think about that, when we’re very interesting time, Callum, when we think about that, because an awful lot of folks, aren’t sure whether they’re selling hours or outcome or some hybrid combination of it.
And until we’re very clear about what it is, Anybody that has a little bit of nervousness about whether something’s going to get done or lacks the experience or lacks the project management talent to sort of make sure that the, that the labor turns into outcomes, they’re going to be nervous. So we know that 90% of executives say that they want to do at least as much or more freelancing.
They want to create a more flexible, balanced, flexible blended workforce. But here’s the thing that’s interesting. Most of the hires are by project managers, not by senior executives, senior executives have to set a tone in terms of the organization’s willingness, but at the end of the, at the end of the day, if we haven’t gotten to project managers and the managers of project managers and help them to understand how to get their needs met and feel confident that they can get their needs met.
You feel confident that they’ll get outcomes as well as labor hours. It’s going to be tough. The second half of that, the flip side of that is up. I’m trying to, I’m trying to write an article. I haven’t figured out how to write it, but the title of the article is why does it matter that freelancers status has increased what we now know.
And Shah, you made this point a couple of minutes ago. I mean, implicitly. It freelancing has been legitimised as a career. It’s no longer the thing that people who are not arguably, because it was never true, but we always assume that the people who are freelancers were the people that couldn’t get good full-time jobs at a place like Google or Facebook.
But now that we see top talents moving into freelancing and seeing it as a legitimate career, the following things happen, which are wonderful. One as top performers and you’re freelancing and validates the career track, which is really important. Two. It also allows people like Callum you and your organization to set higher ceilings for rates and conditions so that it’s no longer a race to the bottom in fees and charges.
That’s a very big deal. Third, it justifies investments in technology to facilitate remote and freelance work where we’re, we’re gonna, we’re gonna. We’re going to see in the next several months, whether the world wants to return to the way it used to be, or whether the world realizes that there is no way back to the way things used to be. Forth.
As it grows, we’ll start to see additional validation and knowledge for how to better make freelancing part of the future. And as more writers write about this stuff, it reinforces its importance. And it’s attractiveness. So for me, one of the really exciting things that’s happening right now that I think is going to push on organizations because it’s in it, it’s really infused in individuals.
I think we’re starting to see a revolution based on the acceptance of freelancing as, as a legitimate and valued career. Yeah, independent of anything else. And that changes the world for me. I get very excited about that.
Callum Adamson: You like the Alan Kay of remote work. Can’t wait to attend your Stanford one-on-one guest lecture.
Jon Younger: Thanks. Thanks. But it’s very exciting guys. I get, and I’ll shut up. And just one second, I’m getting, I’m getting three invitations a week by different platforms. To just have somebody to talk to. Oh, it was just extraordinary. Sad. Sorry, go ahead.
Callum Adamson: That is a very good point. You’re making here right? Who to listen to.
Jon Younger: Yeah. And what I do and what I do Cal is, is I say to people I want to interview, I want to know about you. I don’t know if I’m going to write about you, but I want to know about you. And then the other thing is you got a second meeting and the second meeting is 45 minutes. To ask me anything you’d like about this field.
We have so many people who are not connected with one another, but are connected with a funding source or an investor or the people that they work with, but the chance to hang. I mean, I can’t tell you how many and shah forgive me, cause you’re a new relationship for me. And I hope. It’ll grow. I can’t tell you how many times I run into Matt, you know, just, Hey, you’re a friend of Matt’s, I’m willing to talk to you.
Hey, have you met Matt? Matt’s really helped. There, there are some Johnny Appleseeds. If I may use the American legendary example that are in the field that are, that are helping build the confidence of all of these young people to do extraordinary things. And it’s a Matt or it, or it’s a Cal or it’s a Shah.
And the more that we can make these guys available and the more you’re willing to be generous with your time and your insights, the more this field will grow. At a propitious rate, I’m very excited about it.
Q6: What do governments need to do help?
Callum Adamson: So here’s a good question. Was this back shot? You can take that the first answer. So what does government US, UK German otherwise need to do to make what’s clearly a common sense?
Future value exchange based economy happened faster or happened better.
Jon Younger: Great question.
Callum Adamson: Good question because they’re trying to protect retail workers right now, right?
Shah Ramezani: Yeah. So what happens is when organizations become too big, then they become like, kind of like too big to fail for governments. And that day kind of like support them. But the reality is like, as I make the point, do we really need too many retail people? Wouldn’t they be better off being reeducated, which I think, you know, in the engineering workforce world, And I’m not talking about re re re-educated of like, we need the smartest people.
Sometimes you also need some very basic things, but that would add more value to society. So I think the whole decentralized world, and you know, supporting that will just make things more efficient and will drive innovation. Now, if you look at the brand world, right, so. The brand world, the brand creation, the whole thought process is in the U S or like, let’s say, okay, let’s be fair.
It’s in the U S the most creative people are, but that’s exactly the most value add part that the country needs. Right. Everything else will be done executed to more. I would say, you know people that are like countries that can provide the service better going to creative forces You know, US is probably better just because how the LA lifestyle works and maybe there’s traditions are.
So even in that space, there is so much, because for example, you keep hearing Polish people Lituanian people, the Romanians are the best engineer per person. We have the people in the US and Europe, where in England it comes to like FinTech. So. It Creates more efficiency and it creates more like a marketplace where these dynamic, you know, for themselves and, you know, people find their way.
I think what governments can do is help the freelance economy by, you know, building a supporting infrastructure maybe help them to be more feel secure. I don’t know which form feel more secure and also help them the education process, because I don’t think everyone really needs to go to university as long as they have a certain skill.
It’s fine. Like when know that from the engineering world, where if you have a skill you’re on board, like no one cares about if you’re, you know, your head is black or this has happened, they just want the skill, like, just want you to know how to do this. And, and if they can support that. And also the education, I think there needs to be some massive programs around.
How do we take all these people who are at risk in the next five, 10 years, reeducate them and fuel you know, innovation, you know we don’t need, again, retailers, like all these like Debenhams and all these companies have should gone bust, like, you know, five, 10 years ago. Now the government is at a predicament where COVID happened.
They’re saving them, they’re putting money, but they were better off putting the money. Reeducating those honestly, like I just don’t, it’s a quick win for them. But long-term, it’s no one is better off. So I think in that aspect, they can help someone needs to stay strong leadership role. I actually have some people, well from the Hutch group that some of the HR leadership people left than there was raising money from local globe doing that kind of program.
So that’s interesting. About government supporting. And so just anything around that It’s definitely thinking to make it this whole freelance for legitimate, instead of fighting it, I’m trying to support it. I’m trying to give them a safety net because like, yeah,
Jon Younger: Can I jump in and tell you a story that, that really reinforces some of the stuff that you’re, you’re saying.
My, my, my two suggestions are, are one government get out of the way and they have trouble with that. And that, and the second is convene. In problem-solvers and convene groups. And I’ll give you an example. The fun example, Denmark is among the Nordics and the Nordics are well-known for having an employment model that is kind of a collaboration of the government employers and the unions.
And each year they literally get together and they sort of work stuff out. And as a result of that everybody is happy. Well, everybody is not happy because there is a growing freelance industry. So they, they try to sort of figure out how to work. It. One version was normal Novo Nordisk, which is a very large pharmaceutical firm.
They do a lot of the, they do the stuff with the, I forgot. Anyway, I don’t have,
Callum Adamson: they do a lot of work in and around diabetes.
Jon Younger: Exactly. So, so the head of procurements name is Michael Rubio. Michael said, Michael calls me and said, I don’t like the way things are going on with freelancing. Let’s have a summit.
Right. It’s kind of like the old US thing. When, when, when Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland would say let’s put on a show and, and what they, what they did, which was absolutely wonderful is they brought together the government, the industry, its mother soaks. They brought me in there, et cetera, et cetera. It ended up not working out because of COVID.
But they’re going to do it again. Next they’re going to do it next year. In addition to that, we’re seeing some good examples of how the, the players, the stakeholders getting together and figuring out how to make it work. So in Denmark, there was a large platform that provides hospitality and event people.
Well, they’re having a problem, obviously these days, but before these days, the question was, how do you think of them as freelancers in an employment model where they like. Full-time folks. And the answer was that they came up with an agreement, which was, if you work below a certain number of hours, you’re a freelancer and you’re working.
If you work more than a number of hours, the platform hires you as a full time person. In other words, if you’re effectively working, full-time, they’re going to hire you as a full-time employee, but if you’re working less than 50, 60% on that platform, You’re treated as a, as a freelancer. It’s not a perfect solution, but what we’re seeing is more and more countries trying to figure out what a good solution is.
And the bad example is the U S with AB five. And then there, the response which ends up being nowhere, it was just a political mess.
Callum Adamson: Yeah. I mean, my, my question to that would be what’s the difference?
Jon Younger: And the answer to that, the answer to that is. We haven’t made any progress whatsoever in the U S from a, from a policy perspective.
But what we have done is recognize the freelancers exist. And so, for example, in the CARES act, there was money set aside for freelancers, which is fantastic. Doesn’t mean that, that they’re out of the woods in terms of truly being treated as a separate population, but we’re making progress in that area.
You’re seeing more progress in Asia. You’re seeing a lot more progress in places that didn’t feel comfortable about part-time people, but are now feeling more comfortable about it. So I, I think we’re seeing progress in Latin America. We’re seeing progress in Africa. We’re seeing progress in Southeast Asia.
I mean, Matt lived there for a year as he was building his place. I mean, I, I, I’m pretty excited about where the world is headed because it ain’t going back. I think that may be the best way to describe it. It ain’t going back. And so it’s going to have to find its way. So what’s nonsense about what I said.
Callum Adamson: So, so Matt, you’ve got, you got 20, 30 seconds with Boris johnson. What do governments need to do so this future happens faster or happen better? What I need to focus on.
Matthew Mottola: The first thing I would say, number one would be, you are, your, your freelancers are light years ahead of where other freelancers in the world are.
I don’t know what it is, but yeah, the UK is, is incredible freelancers specifically within creative and content. I don’t know what is going on, but they are just crushing it. The second thing I would say to all most government leaders would be. Stay the hell out. And the reason I say that is because they’ve done more harm than more good.
And so if there is something that you want to do, I’d say let’s number one. You, you, you, you all focus on the definition side, meaning having an explicit signal of what you believe a freelancer is and where you want your country to go. Because a lot of times what happens like we with John was mentioning with AB five, they think they’re helping, but they’re not.
If you actually go talk to the people that they’re trying to help. And so one of the huge implications of AB five was you could only run, I think it was 35 articles for a company, or
Callum Adamson: Matt can you give us an overview of what AB five is maybe for a European audience?
Matthew Mottola: Yeah. So at the end of the day, the government wants to collect their tax money.
If a freelancer isn’t properly classified, they’re not going to get their tax money. They’re not because the employer is not going to be paying unemployment insurance and other things that come with the W2 contract. So what they were trying to do is they were trying to stamp down on companies to make sure they were paying their fair share of taxes.
And so they made this thing called a stick test and, and John you’re the expert here, but my understanding is they made this thing called the stick test. And if a company couldn’t prove that. Each thing on the, on each line item was, it was held for and a line item was something like, is this person doing core work?
If yes, then they can’t be a freelancer. So if you’re a beauty bar, then the freelancer can’t be cutting the hair. If you’re a marketing company, the freelancer can’t be doing marketing. And so if, and I think there’s like three criteria as, and a freelance and this person that the. The whatever employee, if they didn’t whatever I adhere to those three, then they would be considered a full-time employee, which meant now they had to pay benefits and tax none of the day.
And so this law was at first in response to Uber and Lyft and they want it to come out and they want it to look very good. And they wanted to have a huge press release about. Look at us, we are helping the world and we are the modern day. You know, we’re just like unions. We’re helping these workers. But in reality, what they did was they were hurting a bunch of other freelancers who aren’t Uber and Lyft drivers, because they can make their own decisions.
And one of the tough parts is that, like I mentioned, the, one of the implications was that they would say that a writer couldn’t do more than 35 articles a year for this company. And once they hit that threshold, they’re now a full-time employee. If you’re. A, in terms of what this does for freelancers, this forces companies to now go with agencies, because agencies are going to be the ones that can have a freelancer do only 30 articles per client for each client.
So that would be my first advice would be focus on the signaling of where you say you want, you want your country to go. The second thing though, Is, we do have to talk about the company spend piece because this isn’t a sort of kumbaya, we’re all doing this because we want to help freelancers. In the end of the day, we have to make money and a company has to save money or make money.
And the reason they go with freelancers is not because they love freelancers. It’s because they love money and they have to make it. And so one of the big problems though, is that freelancing is hard. And what I mean by that is if a company wants to spend $50 million, they’ve unlocked budgets. They’re probably only actually spending around $40 million.
And if they say they want to spend a million this year, they’re probably only going to spend around a hundred to 500 K. The reason for that is because the infrastructure isn’t best set up to align with what the companies need. It’s set up to be a marketplace where the freelance platforms make a percentage transaction.
Off of a market that has so much room to play with and so deeper than anything government can do, we need to incentivize companies and help companies actually be able to spend on freelancers. There’s a great paper out there done by Microsoft. I think it’s called like stuck in the middle with you. Something about the transaction cost of hiring freelancers deeper than any government policy is just getting companies to spend on these freelancers.
You know, I think we spent, what was it like over a trillion dollars in 2019 on freelancers. That’s like 5% of what we wanted to spend. And so I’d argue, you know, deeper than any government initiative, getting, being able to unlock the spend that these companies are currently spending on agencies on freelancers, I believe is where most of the energy should get focused.
Callum Adamson: That’s powerful. That’s really, really powerful making it easy to spend money.
Matthew Mottola: That’s not sexy. Like you can’t like market this, but it’s just literally just get them to spend.
Jon Younger: And then the second piece is you’ve got to not only get them to spend, you’ve got to make sure that they’re set up to receive freelancing in a positive way.
Yeah. And so what we know is if you sort of imagine that we’ll we’ll use your case or shall we can use your say your case, there are six things that companies need to do first. They need to be clear about how they’re going to position freelancing and their organization is it is an only one absolutely necessary.
Is it on demand? Is it supplementary to a core skill? Is it part of their ongoing workforce? So that’s the first, second. We’ve got, we’ve got to make sure that the contracting process and the performance management process is strong and consistent. We’ve got to make sure that not only do we have a clear statement of work and clear reasonableness in the agreement, but we’ve also got to make sure that on a regular basis where we’re giving these freelancers feedback, we’re telling what’s working well, what’s not working well.
We can’t be arms-length, we’ve got to treat them. And this is the third thing as a member of the team while they are with us, they’re a member of the team. Fourth, we’ve got to make sure managers know how to manage them. They’re not the same as, as managing full-time employees, because this is not a colonialist relationship.
It’s not, it’s not one where you’re my boss. We are volunteers in a volunteer army, working with colleagues. It’s a very different model. Fourth fifth rather is administratively at Cal your deal with this all the time. Shah I bet you do too, I know you do Matt administratively, we’ve got to treat our freelances with, with respect and fairly, I mean, this whole business of let’s renegotiate.
The deal after it’s done is just crazy. And then the last thing and very, very important is making sure that we’re thoughtful about the work that we give freelancers, making sure that it’s the right work. With the right considerations. For example, the IP stuff is very worrisome. So instead of giving people IP, but making sure that there’s some, some, some stuff around it that allows us both to trust each other versus not giving them the IP.
And so it’s very hard for them to get some of that work together with the idea of spending. If we can also get these organizations smart. About how to use freelancers. And if we can stop trying, this is the thing that I wish Harvard would stop doing and all the other business school, stop thinking that freelancers play to the same tune as high-performing employees, we keep wanting to take the high, the high-performing employee stuff, the talent stuff, all the stuff that we use organizations traditionally and say, well, that stuff works 90% of the time with freelancing.
And it doesn’t, it’s a different deal. It’s a different relationship. And we’ve got to, we’ve got to honor the notion that these folks are not full-time subordinates. They, they are colleagues. They are peers, they’re stakeholders to different things.
Q7: Who loses?
Callum Adamson: So John, With that being sad? I’m going to pose a question to Shah here.
Jon Younger: Sure.
Callum Adamson: So over the next five years, we reeducate government, they get out of the way we start recognizing freelancers as just independent career trajectory specialists, right? Organizations reduce the size of their core teams. They increase the size of their flexible capabilities and contingency workforces.
Jon Younger: Yes.
Callum Adamson: Who loses Shah, who loses as we begin to do this? What industries, what job titles specialisms, what, what companies lose as this, this wave begins to grow.
Shah Ramezani: I will say companies are, I guess, more forced to innovate. So I guess those companies who have very like strong modes and kind of have built like defensible structure where, you know, it’s hard to crack, crack them into because of the way they’re built and, and, and So I guess faster. Innovation will happen.
And effectively everyone is has to, constantly rethink. Otherwise they’re a threatened to to be, you know, basically out of business very quickly. But yeah, I think it just drives innovation and that basically needs everyone to kind of like up their game as well.
Callum Adamson: So, so the lazy lose,
Jon Younger: Actually you could argue that everybody wins. I mean,
Shah Ramezani: yeah, I think you’re right. I was trying to think, why would, why would, and who would lose? Okay. The ones who, when they basically want to protect their assets and, you know, kind of not do much and just make returns, what the reality is like, you know, innovation, there is value creation on both on all sides.
And that’s why innovation is always the most important thing where, you know, humanity ends up better off. And I think, you know, some aspects let’s rethink it. For example, why does the government. Say to freelancers, Hey guys, we all these educations things you have, for example, let’s say you have a city or whatever, because at the end of the day, the piece people can put themselves through once skill themselves.
So that skill, why don’t they subsidize that? And they say you have no tax on it, or somehow pays off surely at some point instead of like to go to city, which I’m pretty sure that it was the same car that is out there online, put them together and split Put the ownership and accountability to the freelancer, which obviously creates more results.
As you know, I think in many industry, I think I work for a company which scale from zero to 10 billion. And I can tell you one thing that was standing out, what, what made the company B that is accountability across every employee? Like. I never saw that before I was working at banks where a lot was political, how you talk, they’re like, as long as you bring in results, you’re welcome.
You don’t then, you know, like we start asking questions. So why are you not the result we need because we pay for your headcount and we need this to go up. You know, we’re not paying you sit there and talk, you know, and the freelance world forces that because there is no. You know, there’s basically people are becoming more transactional.
So someone goes and sells a skill. And if it’s a good skill they pay and it doesn’t matter if you speak well or not. As long as you can get the job done. Now, if the freelancer thinks she needs to learn certain skills, he can go for himself. Use some platforms. There’s so much out there. Honestly, if I want it to become a blockchain developer, I could become in one, two months, nothing difficult.
It’s just because I don’t think my skillset is my focus, attention span. Doesn’t allow me to do that. But anyone can become whatever they want and they can solve setting skills, but that creates more accountability and less, I would say Slack. And you know, these rigid structures, which just slows down everyone and at the end makes governments pay for these industries, which should have been gone 10 years ago.
Callum Adamson: So, so, so John, Shah, nobody loses nobody.
Jon Younger: Sorry. I would argue that, that we’re going to expand the pie. So, so who loses let’s let’s be clear about who loses? I think that there are some people who will lose. I think that employees, there was an interesting report. I think it was like freelancing in America 2018.
And it was an interesting report. If you dug deep into it, what you found was that freelancers are, are not only more inclined to future proof. Their skills as Shah, was talking about. But the employees big companies expected it would be done for them that they would be presented with opportunities as opposed to scrappy freelancers who may have access to opportunities, but they know it’s their job to take advantage the people that in organizations that think that it’s the organization’s responsibility to keep me skilled up, are going to lose.
Because organizations aren’t going to do that. It’s going to be much more shots at accountability driven. So that’s why, yeah, I think too, one of the challenges we’re, we’re in the middle of that. So here’s a thought for all of you guys and Cal, you’re familiar with this, and I know that Matt, you are shy.
I’ve talked to you about it, but it’ll be interesting. But the university of Toronto, we’re doing a global study across all the freelance verticals, asking the question. What differentiates high performing freelancers, what differentiates high-performance freelancers? And one of the interesting discussions that we had with some of the people who saw a draft of the survey.
So they said, well, we don’t think creativity and innovation is actually a really important issue for freelancers. And, and my reaction was that’s bullshit. Excuse my language. That’s nonsense. And it’s nonsense because run of the mill freelancers who are waiting for stuff to come through the landing page may not be, it may not take initiative around this stuff, but the folks, the freelancers who are succeeding, understand that most of the stuff doesn’t come through a landing page.
Most of the stuff comes from relationships. Hence very important for people to not only build their network, if they want to be successful. But, but Cal, they want a break. Do you want them to bring their stuff into the platform? Because that’s the way in which everybody grows. The challenge for us is to send the message very clearly to freelancers around the world, whatever their, whatever, their, their vertical, that brand matters, just like it does for any business, the reputation matters just like it does for any business.
The great feedback from clients. Matters. Just like doesn’t every business that, making sure that you are giving some back to the organization that you’re working with, so that there’s a relationship and they want to think about you in the future. Make sense. So we’ve got the challenge for many freelancers too, to help them to understand that they don’t just live in a transactional world of the moment.
They live in a world where what they do now impacts what that what’s going to happen to them. A year or two or three from now, they’ve got support their growth and their success in a much more significant way than some of them believe is necessary. Yep.
Callum Adamson: Excellent. Matt who loses?
Matthew Mottola: Yeah, we’ve got some serious losers. I definitely don’t think everyone wins. I think there’s a bigger pie, but I think if we don’t talk about it, we’re screwed. But so I think the first loser is middle management. There’s no doubt. Middle management getting torn apart. Yeah, but, but, but here’s the thing, right? I mean, and this is where technology is value neutral.
It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just the technology. And so if you look at the impact of what freelance does within an organization, is it empowers individual employees to do more with less what used to be done by a VP that had a head count of 500 and a budget of say 20 million. You can now instead give it to five PMs and give those PMs a budget of 50,000 to work with freelancers.
So there is a very, very clear loss in terms of how middle management can add value. And so I think there’s no doubt there. Like it’s not a good place to be a middle manager right now. It’s definitely not a good place for someone that was growing up, thinking that they were going to be a VP at a big company.
Sorry, that’s just not, doesn’t make sense anymore.
Jon Younger: Matt, before you jump to the next part. Yeah. What what’s middle management, which parts of that. So let’s assume that you’re in a typical organization where, where there’s a project manager, there’s a group or division manager. There’s a regional vice president, et cetera. Do all of them go or some of them.
Matthew Mottola: No, the ones stuck in the middle. I think that’s a really good point, John. It’s the ones that don’t have say over strategy, but are specifically more of the delegators. So if you’re sitting as like a CMO, you’re fine. Right. If you’re sitting at a strategic level, I think you’re good.
Yeah. If you’re not sitting necessarily strategic, but you’re more of just management, right? You’re the one you’re in the middle. You’re not in the bottom, really creating anything. You’re also not in the top, actually driving strategy because you don’t have the pen. That’s that’s what I would argue is a really, really scary place to sit.
And that was something that. Coming from like a freelance world. I remember that was my biggest shock was I was like, what are all these people doing here that don’t actually do anything where they were like, what do you mean they don’t do anything? And I’m like, they don’t do anything. They just tell this person to do something.
And then they’re like, no, but they have to make decisions. And I’m like, what decisions that person did, the actual work. But so they leave. Right. And so, and, and, but the 20 years ago, when we didn’t have software to do a lot of the things that this person has to do, it made sense to have that much management and especially in the U S now we have a bunch of managers.
We have people go get MBA. It’s just to learn how to be managers so that instead of delivering results, Exactly. Exactly. We’ll put their name on someone else’s work, but so, which is probably not as common, but so I think the second party that loses if we don’t,
Jon Younger: I just want to make sure we’re clear. So, so the argument that you’re making is that hierarchy is, is is a, is an imperfect system of communication.
And, and that we have a better system of communication now, which sort of violates the, the question of what, what, what levels do we need to facilitate that conversation, that communication, et cetera, and anybody that’s not adding value to the communication. Who’s just transferring. It comes out. That’s what I think I heard you say I buy, I buy that. I buy that.
Matthew Mottola: That’s a way see, John is like, this is why it’s great to have you. You make me sound a little smarter because you can consolidate your data here. So that’s the first one. The second one there that I think we need to start, that we need to discuss is listen. If we create a marketplace model for talent than the actual freelancers themselves are screwed.
And what I mean by that is it’s no secret that most freelance platforms, if they have a hundred freelancers, only one of those freelancers is actually making money. And only five of those freelancers has logged in in the past month. And that’s not all freelance platforms. The more niche they get, meaning the more, if they’re just marketing or if they’re just sales or something like that, they have better numbers.
But if we were to look at sort of the engagement and the actual value that platforms or marketplaces add for freelancers, And we were to compare that against like unemployment numbers. It would be insane. It would be the amount of dystopia we would create because we would look and we’d say that we know our country has 99% unemployment because based off a marketplace model, if we now make everyone sit on a marketplace, only 1% of them is actually making money.
That’s actually my biggest fear of who loses is if we don’t real responsibly create these platforms and these marketplaces, then like most of these platforms, they don’t work. For for, for the talent themselves. And it comes back to what I talked about at first of like, okay, there’s not enough company spend, but the models at their core, many of these were built.
They just took eBay and they just replicated eBay for humans. And so that would be my second biggest worry is that the talent themselves is going to get hosed and the marketplaces are going to make a bunch of money. The VCs are gonna make a bunch of money off these exits yet the talent themselves is going to be hosed very hot.
Q8: Middle management and freelancers are in trouble, what else do we build?
Callum Adamson: So whenever anybody. You know, you’re talking 1% active, 90% inactive, or, you know, some somewhere around those proportions, which is none and loads as a market and lots. Right. Th th th there’s a market here. There’s something to do to, to be enabling that. So what, what we’re saying are we agreed middle management is in trouble and are we agreed freelancers are in trouble. If we just build marketplaces, we need to build core infrastructure.
Shah Ramezani: Yeah. Essentially like education or teaching those who it’s, it’s a more like. I guess the 1% day they do certain things, right. How can we transfer the knowledge? How can we help you know, you can, you know, kind of, you know, manage that as well.
And that’s where you need support because just the skillset, I mean, don’t necessarily, you know, smarter or more stupid, I guess they just don’t know how to sell themselves. Well, I think
Q9: How do you make people feel good about themselves when most are freelancing?
Callum Adamson: Shah, I’ve got a question for you on the same topic because it’s, I think it’s very pertinent. So we have to talk about mindset and psychology, right?
We’re talking about middle-management in trouble. We’re talking about re-educating an entire generation of people that I’ve just known, showing up to the office with a, with a briefcase in, in the morning. Right. And that the, the psychology of that is very tough. Like I, we, we are a B2B enterprise company, so we speak to a lot of people whose value in society who’s place in society who sense of self worth is based around.
How many people they manage. Right. And we’re trying to get them to break their sense of self worth, which is appauling to them. It’s really hard. How do we also, right. One, we have to help them feel much better about the new brand of outcomes. And outcome focused talent, but also how do we make people feel good about an independent careers?
So it’s not, well, I retired as senior VP of moving paperclips at GlaxoSmithKline. Right? How do we make. People psychologically be able, you know, to, to have that high sense of self-worth high sense of value contribution while having an independent career.
Jon Younger: I mean, no, no, actually I want clarification. I want clarification. Sorry. You answered. So the theory of the theory of that is, is that. We’ve got to find an alternative way to impute status. Yeah. Is that that’s kind of it.
Okay. Now Shah. Having made it even more difficult answer.
Callum Adamson: Oh, here’s the simplest question. How do you make people feel good about themselves? If they spend 25 years going from job to job?
Shah Ramezani: That’s a very, very good question. I think look, the role of status is one of the most important thing. I, I think it’s sometimes underestimated. So how many people take jobs in terms of like their own insecurities and you know, they want to have a certain presence at the end of the day, we all play a game, right?
I mean, the game is called capitalism, right. Maybe in the future, we’ll play some virtual game and that will be more excited about that. But I think it’s a really good question. And how we can, I mean, maybe it’s also an opportunity. How can you replicate that role of status in the freelance world? Again, you have a certain people who just apply the skills and then you’ll have some people who maybe manage those.
And how can you maybe integrate that in a more, I would say dynamic way in the freelance world could be an opportunity. Know, I don’t know, like but I would, I know.
Callum Adamson: We’re not all going to be running around this level 99 warlocks. Are we there? There are.
Jon Younger: Let, let me, let me throw in a model here that may help Shah.
If you take a look, if you take a look at the psychological research, your point again, Cal there there’s this really interesting work that was done on meaningful life, meaningful work, meaningful life. It was done by a guy named Edward Deci, who was the psychologist and researcher that talked about. Intrinsic motivation as opposed to getting paid for it.
Extrinsic sorts of factors. And what he found was that there were three factors that really were important. The first was the idea of flexibility, choice, autonomy. So autonomy was very important. If I’ve got the ability to choose my life or have some strength around choice. That’s important. So the idea that I don’t have to take when I worked at Exxon, which where I worked for 10 years, one of my questions was what job didn’t I have to take.
I didn’t want to move to Sarnia, Ontario and manage a refinery. And they said, that’s fine, but you can only say no to one and three well that’s agents, right? That’s autonomy. Second is I want agency in my life. I want the ability to impact stuff and third connectedness. Which is, I want to be part of something that’s larger than myself.
If you, if you think about what, what worked in big companies for a long time, it’s kind of the same stuff, right? I mean, the sense of I have the higher I rise, the more autonomy I have that makes me feel good. It makes me feel powerful. The higher I rise, the more I can impact things that makes me feel good, et cetera.
Third is I feel connected. I mean, while I worked for Exxon for 10 years, I really felt like an Exxon guy. We can do that through our platforms. We can’t do that for our freelancers in the companies. They work for because they worked for him. It’s not the same, but in our platforms in Distributed it Cal your step, you can create all that.
Three of those for your folks, for the folks that are on your platform, you can create a greater sense of Autonomy, a greater sense of agency. And a greater sense of connectedness. And as you do that, you provide the foundation for them to have a happy life. I, if they perfect, but at least it’s a way to start and help an awful lot of people.
Callum Adamson: You got to do more than send people a hoodie.
Shah Ramezani: Yeah. Yeah, no, definitely. I think what is also interesting, I mean, let’s not think only about our, our markets, but I’ve heard countless stories. And that was one was like last week and I, a guy named Tinny, like in Nigeria who was basically freelancing on Gigster.
From there. He learned how to code from there. From there, he learned how to think about MVPs and startups. From there. He created a Bitcoin wallet in Nigeria. From there, he applied to YC, got to apply accepted an raise, like, I don’t know, two, 3 million and runs a business. You know, and and I think these stories will take massive network effect in those countries because the very basic, the guy wasn’t enabled has suddenly the potential to just tap into the global market.
And that kind of live the American dream in his local markets. And I don’t, and I think, yes, the experience is important, but at the, at the moment, With the basic features we are offering are solving bigger problems and late draws. When they start to adopt over the curve, we want to import the mass and the mass will be then how do we enable status?
How do we enable all that stuff? But like even Lebanon is an interesting case. Like, People are getting battered with the currency. There are a group of people who are selling their software engineer, and I, by the way, I I’m Persian background and I know middle Easterns are the best mathematicians. And like just the brain works well on things that are codes.
Callum Adamson: You invented it.
Shah Ramezani: Yeah. Like, I’ll go with them to class action, actually, the, they learned the other day. Yeah. So they, they basically are able to sell themselves. I mean, at the moment, sketchy with, with the whole revolution of the currencies, there are skills and then earn like a hundred K, which is, you know, like huge for them and they can support families and it’s just.
Such an amazing thing. It empowers companies and corruption and, you know, kind of like lifts individual. I think just some of the things I’m more excited about in the beginning, the first let’s say five years. Yeah.
Callum Adamson: That is why a free and open internet must be protected.
Shah Ramezani: Also payment. I think the next evolution is the crypto world, where of course governments can come up with software.
They always figured out a way with, you know, like for example, Bitcoin has now all these anti money laundering tool, but you can still do coy co-joined coins and now, you know, transfer. So, and obviously these guys know everything about it. And, and it was interesting because I was talking to someone and he was telling me.
Emerging market and called cryptocurrency is not, I don’t think people have a long good interest. And I was like, you’re totally wrong. They have extremely strong knowledge about it because they need to, and, and they were very excited about it. In fact, if you look at your search Bitcoin, you see the number one search term is Nigeria, and then he comes Ghana and then he comes Switzerland where I’m from.
So I think combined with that it’s just very interesting, right? You will Enable a lot of people around the world to apply their skills learn, and they use all these tools that are out there. They go to Udacity or whatever tools out there because their problem is beyond just, Oh, do I have a status or not?
If problem problems like, Hey, I want to make money. And I don’t want to work in my local market, which I don’t. I get paid in Nairobi, which then again, inflates 20% of a year.
Callum Adamson: So we’re, we’re talking democratic access to opportunity?
Shah Ramezani: Yeah. And, and I think the later, the later revolution will be obviously done in terms of how can we can take the middle managers out and how we make the community out and build that.
But I think for now, with unlocking the global talents and, and, and, and, and I think one interesting thing maybe to close off on my comment is, you know, when I was running for Asia for DHL was traveling a lot to China and I was meeting Alibaba, Tencent, these guys.DOne thing that always took away was these guys were working hard.
You know, they knew what work hard meant. I mean, I’m coming into Western markets, people talking about their work life, but I’m not saying I’m against it, but I’m saying we’re fighting against the force and America used to be like that. Right. I think it was Andrew and said, every nation is born stoic and Merrill.
Right. We are in the point where we all get wealthy and we forgot where we come from. So we like, you know, I would say moaning about stuff that we wouldn’t bond, you know, like after the second world war. So you can basically, which you can basically make use of that. Again, a lot of talent is hardworking, you know, extremely sharp and they are very appreciative of some of the opportunities you can present them versus your local talents, you know, who has maybe more sophisticated needs like, Oh, I want to be able to like, Drink in the office or not.
So I think you can, you know, you can not access that and, and you know, for them, it’s obviously beneficial as well because you basically have access to both capital and you allocated to the right people and they can basically then go and build their lives from there.
Now we are. Thank you for that Shah.
We are roughly 50 minutes away from closing up. You guys want to hit a quick bathroom break and come back for the last, last, last few questions. Like you need a break. Let’s take three minutes. So I’m going to leave this open talk amongst yourselves, if you want. I’m just going to mute. I’m going to nip to the bathroom.
I’ll be I grab a coffee.
Jon Younger: I I just want to be clear about something Cal with you and, and, and with Shah. And that is he’s far too good looking much too uncomfortable being on a panel with him. He’s just. You look like young Omar Sharif and I, I, I don’t know what to do with it.
Omar Sharif is no, no, no. Like who did he talk to? Like, you know who Omar Sharif is? Shah. Nobody in my entire life. Well, you’re a good looking guy too, but he got us killed. He’s got us beat. He does. No. I also get John ham sometimes, or like, Oh yeah, no, that’s a more recent guy. Say not my generation’s Omar Sharif.
Your generation is John ham. Yeah.
Shah Ramezani: Yeah. That’s what I asked him. Look how he looks because I haven’t seen him for awhile.
Callum Adamson: Yeah, you guys, you guys can flirt on Twitter later
for the last 15. Well I’d like to do is let you guys ask each other and me questions, right? I’ve been the one throwing them out. Sure. It’s it’s now it’s now a chance to, to open it up. So this is kind of free flow Q and a. We’ve got a lot of really incredible content here that, that, you know, everybody’s going to have access to and be able to share and do some cool stuff with we’ll also make sure it gets.
You know, very strongly person in terms of distribution, but for the last 15 free flow, anybody can ask anybody whatever question they want within reason, you know, within the, within the reasons of morality and ethics. So I’m going to, I’m going to open the floor up at Matt. Why don’t you ask Shaw question?
Q10: What’s your biggest fear about the future of work?
Matthew Mottola: It’s my favorite question. Not going to lie. And I’m coming at you because you said that there’s John, you said there’s a bigger pie and shy. You said there’s no problems. I’m claiming bullshit on that, but what’s your biggest fear about the future of work?
Give me 10 seconds. Think about it. I’ll give you seven.
Shah Ramezani: It’s funny. I don’t know. I don’t have any fear of why would I be fearful of, you know, I embraced change, you know? Right. I, I don’t, I don’t think it’s not going to happen and definitely know don’t trends. Are there, like you, can’t just like a trend that it’s going like that you can just like break it off and say, well, it’s not going to happen.
Like, it’s like, it’s going to happen. So, so I don’t have any fears per se. I think it will move people. I mean, it’s, I think it’s what is going to happen, but probably won’t be more relevant for engineering workforce. Probably more for that. But I think it’s gonna be interesting. So no real fears, like, honestly, sorry, I’m not afraid of a future of work.
Matthew Mottola: Fearless. Do you have one for me, Matt? Same thing, John, and you only have three seconds.
Jon Younger: Sure. For, for me, the biggest problem is, is a structural problem right now. And it’s, there are many problems, but the structural problem is that we’ve set up this stuff based on cable. TV metrics. And in 1999, I was the number two guy for something called net value.
And net value was a very early internet eyeball company, right? I mean, we’re counting eyeballs and we’re teaching people where things where the internet was, were out. People were using the internet, it was French-based with the rothchild investment and. Excuse me, the, the, the biggest, the biggest problem that I’ve seen as we’ve set this stuff up in a way that, that assumes that enough stuff goes through landing pages to create an attractive financial opportunity and career opportunity for freelancers, but it doesn’t.
Matt was, was a little strong when he said less than 1%. But if you take a look at it, it’s less, it was 4% at Upwork when they had 12 million people and they’ve got 18 million people now. So the idea that freelancer.com is the size of Saudi Arabia, which it is in terms of population is a little crazy.
When we know that 90% of freelancing goes through relationships. So we have got to move in the direction that Matt and some other folks have done, which is to say we can’t create a hub and spokes kind of approach. It’s gotta be networked. It’s gotta be community-based it’s gotta be sharing. We’ve got to help others.
We’ve got to create the rising tide that lifts all boats, or it’s not going to be successful. Now, there is some places that are doing that. Matt, I don’t know what numbers you’ve got, but I know that. There is some platforms that are both niche and focused and small enough, so that we’ve got 40, 50 people, 40, 50% of people working.
But the problem is as long as the platform is huge and as long as we’re not helping people to get work outside and inside of the platform, it’s what until we’re teaching them how to be entrepreneurs and solo preneurs. It’s going to be tough and we’re not going to capture the full benefits of this step flip side, which is when Matt says get rid of middle management.
I have an argument with that, but it’s not middle management in the business of, you know, here’s that egg, there’s the egg it’s in the business of coaching and training and mentoring the folks inside and the folks outside as freelancers. To do a better job of partnering up. And so if you took a look at the oil industry, what you’d find is that they have this role called chiefs, chief engineer, chief geologists, chief geophysicist.
The job of that group is to be the coach, not the manager, but the coach for that population, we got to do the same thing in our organizations to help our organizations to more quickly get to the place. Where they’re comfortable with a flexible blended workforce, or we will not achieve what we could achieve.
So two pieces for me, one is we’ve got to do a better job at building community and helping our solo preneurs be successful. And the second is we’ve got to do a better job in our organizations of teaching project management, how to work with freelancers. And if we can do those things, I think we’re going to be in a better place.
That would be mine. So what’s the fear say what what’s the fear? The fear is that we won’t do that. The fear is that we’ll, we’ll try to, we’ll try to make it feel like it’s on demand. We’ll drive. I mean, if you sort of take the worst fear of the of the freelance community, it’s that we start to think about freelancers the way we think about Gigsters they are different populations.
One is, one is deeply. Professional has certifications as it’s advanced experience or that’s the education. And is doing professional work. And the other is trying to knit together a living there are different populations. And until we understand that fully understand that we’re different populations with different needs.
My fear is that we don’t serve either population.
Callum Adamson: Well, Nice. So I’m going to pass the Baton to SHA SHA you got a question for John.
Shah Ramezani: Yeah. So the question that I keep, so, you know, like when you start a business, I hate to all go to you all the three is you have this like massive wave of opportunity, right?
Which you want to take part with. What do you console everything and you also want to solve what is the most scalable thing, because you might get stuck on something that you might make money off, but then someone else will take the bigger, I’m not saying from a capitalistic point of view, but you know, obviously you want to be the most excited.
All right. So when you think about like, what is the most scalable apart that you could build a use case that will solve the biggest problem? And with able to like, get your platform or whatever you’re building to the highest level. And from there expand. Right. Is it skill verification of engineering talents?
Is it payments like I think that’s the question I ask myself constantly and that’s why I love to come and meet.
Jon Younger: Yeah, no. And my argument would be you’re building a community. Part of that community is the structure of that community. Part of that community. It is how people connect with one. Another part of it is what you have to w th the cost of joining and the cost of remaining a member.
And part of that, what do I give to the people who are members? But I think if you’re willing to think in community terms, as opposed to platform terms, then you stop doing the craziest thing all in the freelance revolution, which is thinking that that people are widgets thinking that their inventory.
And then if you have 45,000, it’s better than 30,000. If you have a hundred thousand, it’s better than 50,000. That’s not the point. I’ve seen wonderful platforms with less than 10,000 people. In fact, less than 200 people, they’re actually doing some really interesting stuff. So I, I guess for me, part of it is we see it kind of Upwork and Fiverr and freelancer, and we go, wow.
That scale. Wow, that’s big, but I’m not sure it’s scale. And, and I, I think we’ve got an interesting opportunity to take another look at platform theory. And some people are trying to do that. People like Diane Finkhouse and others are doing some nice story around that, and really start to imagine a different way. Of of architecting.
Shah Ramezani: Yeah, no, I agree. That’s kind of cool. It’s kind of cool. Okay. maybe we can talk about specific features on Twitter.
Jon Younger: Yeah. Now when you start to talk about interesting stuff. Exactly, exactly. Exactly.
Shah Ramezani: Because the ideas are great, but then can you actually solve it an example?
Jon Younger: So I’ll use just one example and, and, and there are lots of examples, but I, I sort of liked this one.
The, the there’s a British agency disruptor called Hoxby. It’s fairly well known, not super well-known, but it’s fairly well-known. It’s got somewhere between 700 and a thousand people on the community. And one of the things that they did that I thought was just fantastic is that they hired a young lady named Annika Hart.
Like I know Annika, she’s kind of a sweetheart and she had a new, she’s a new PhD from, I can’t remember where maybe South Hampton. And she’s their future-proofing director. Her job is, is to really understand the people on that platform and to help them to round out their flak sides in terms of, by their hardest soft skills.
You know, I have no idea what Anik has paid. Whatever she’s paid is probably not enough, but she’s not making a million pounds a year. And she’s doing a fabulous service. And if you divide her service across the thousands, a thousand or 700 people, it ain’t much per person. And that’s the kind of thing.
It’s an example. Now Cal’s doing other things with distributed and other people are doing other things, but if, but if we can, if we can agree on the most important five to seven things, It becomes important. So what are those, what are the things they’re Shah they’re five things that people want. They want work.
They want to know that there’s a flow of work so that there’s, there’s there’s there’s liquidity and opportunity in their platform. So not only do they have work, but they see that there’s continuing work possible, that they want help in managing their business. They want help in staying up to date.
And they want help, excuse me. And feeling a part of something that’s larger than themselves. If we can do those five things for them and then get very specific about those five things. We have created a very high performing and satisfying community. But we need those five things and it’s not like you can say, well, we’ll have four, but you won’t get at work.
Shah Ramezani: Yeah. But the question is ultimately, how do you solve it in the most simplest way? You know?
Yeah, no, no, absolutely. That’s the next one. Let’s do a feature. Okay. What about, what about you, Matt?
Matthew Mottola: So, and could you just rephrase the question for me, Shah you just to make sure I,
Shah Ramezani: Obviously you are a business owner, right?
And you’re building a business. I think if I honestly feel like Cuba trend is happening, but timid, it’s a few things. If you sold them really well, you get the biggest action. Obviously you might get traction with what you’re doing. Right. I don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Happy to find out. But that’s because the industry is expanding, but you’re not, you know, over accelerating because you might spread too thin.
You might do a lot of things that are already a problem, but you need to have a single sharp focus on the biggest problem in that industry. And then be able to solve that in a very meaningful way. So, so not to lose the chance of someone else might take your place. So I think that’s one of the biggest paranoia is that I have every day it’s like, okay, are we scalable?
Like, are we like, are we growing because industry growing or are we gonna you know, joke fat? Like, I think that’s my biggest worry. And I wanted to know how you think about it.
Matthew Mottola: Yeah, no, I, I think there’s, there’s like three views, right? That you’re always thinking about. And it’s sort of long-term vision, midterm vision.
And what do you do today? And so long-term vision for us is we want to scale the freelance economy. We want to have this go from a trillion dollar industry to a $5 trillion industry. We believe that the blockage that we see that no one else can see is that the individual freelancers themselves don’t have the tools to actually scale this industry.
Right? So our mid goal, so our longterm vision is okay, how do we scale the full freelance economy? That’s huge. We ain’t going to do that ourselves. The midterm goal is how do we give freelancers themselves the tools to scale themselves so that they go from making a hundred K to 250 K and then have freelancer to freelancer spend to bring everybody up.
So that’s like our, you know, two quarter, two to four quarter goal. Now our immediate goal, which is the really tough one is what actual features going to enable them to do that. And what’s really tough what you were hitting on John and yeah. And I don’t, this is where I’m going to challenge you. I don’t think community is actually a lead metric.
I think it’s a lag metric. And what I mean by that is we’ve made a very, very intentional decision that we are a software company. We’re not the best thought leadership company. We’re not the best community. We’re the best software company. And because of that community is going to be a lag metric. If we can have lead metrics of really good software, but wait a second, hold out.
Jon Younger: You’re understating yourself. Come on. You are. Because the way in which you’ve structured, the, the, the membership is community building.
Matthew Mottola: You’re right. You’re right. You’re right. You’re right. Which brings up sort of a point that’s underneath all of this is if we’re not shooting towards the right vision, then every single thing doesn’t matter.
Right. And then with that said, if we’re not getting paid the right way in order to get us to that vision. Then absolutely nothing matters. So one early decision we made or one decision we made early on that we believe keeps us in line with scale of the impact we want to create a long with, you know, market dynamics is we get paid by freelancers on a monthly basis.
That was very important to us because we could go make money off of a transaction, connecting them with the company. And we could have had a pretty good to be honest. We probably could have had 30 to 60% growth. Like it could have been a pretty good business model for us based off of my past experience.
But in order to really hit freelance or freelancer spend, which is our mid goal, we believe that we have to be incentivized to grow as our freelancers grow, meaning they pay us a subscription fee and they keep coming back month after month because our software tools are so damn good. So like very, very long answer to say that.
Okay. All of that is what’s framing to me, what we always have to think about in terms of what’s the most scalable, I mean, we can do today now. You know, it takes away, did way more than just this talk that, talk about that because we’re talking about all right now, let’s compare, file sharing versus communication versus feedback mechanisms.
Right? And all these various features that this one will take us two weeks to build this one will take us four weeks to build. And under our current resource planning, this is what we can do. But it’s all under that lens of, okay, this is our long-term vision. This is what we believe we need to do to get here from a mid goal.
And the things we’re doing right now with John, you did hit on, which I think is actually a very good point that I did leave out. Is we prioritized a group of a hundred freelancers that we want to build towards. And we just basically embarrass ourselves every single day by giving them the software, giving them crazy reduced rates and having them just rip us apart every single day.
Deeper than anything they say, but what they actually do. So I like my job to be honest is I feel like I just get embarrassed daily. Like I feel like it’s middle school all over again, where I wake up and I have new pimples and I’m like, Oh no. How am I going to get embarrassed? And I hope that the decisions we’ve made from a mid and long-term vision perspective, keep us in alignment with making the right.
What’s it called? Like long-term scale decisions. Does that make sense? Shah. I know it’s a wraparound.
Jon Younger: I want, I want to jump and say one thing, sorry, sorry. Sorry. Not only John Goggle. Well, touching something that, that I think is a big deal, but I may be the only person that thinks it’s a big deal. Shai, you came from a banking world.
I think I heard you say, or at least you were involved in some amount of change. That’s okay. That’s okay. But here’s, here’s the dilemma. We treat all freelancers on our platform. Like they’re worth nothing. That is insane. You’ve got some freelancers that you’ve worked very hard to attract your platform, venture L they are that you’ve attracted because you know that they can get work, you know, that they can bring in other people that can get work.
So I am very confused about why our valuations. And our way of monetizing and valuing these platforms has nothing to do with the quality of the freelancers we bring in. It’s like it’s like baseball teams or football teams that don’t include the value of their players in the valuation of the squad.
That’s nuts. So one of my questions for us longterm is don’t. We want to start attracting. Big swinging dicks ladies or men. And if we do want to attract big swinging dicks, why are we expecting them to pay us $15 a month to be on the platform? Why aren’t we paying them $500 inga month to be on our platform?
Because I know we know that they will generate opportunity for other people. I, and I, I think we’re kind of missing a really important thing. Having said that I’m a social psychologist. What the hell do I know when I talk to economists, they look at me like, I think that makes sense, but you’re an idiot.
Anyway. I would really like to know whether we are going to get to a point where when we’ve got some fantastic freelancers, we recognize it. We reward them for being part of us. We strive to make them loyal rather than say no problem belong to five different platforms. If you’d like, that’s crazy. Anyway, I did my 2 cents.
Matthew Mottola: Can you talk to investors for us?
Hold on. That I want to hear it. They say I would pay to watch that,
Jon Younger: but that doesn’t make sense. Nobody can force me the world doesn’t run on common sense. It’s funny. It might work.
Shah Ramezani: Yeah. So it might work. Like if you pay people to get people to come in, then you know, more again, the money is made on the high top quality talents.
Jon Younger: Exactly, exactly, exactly the point. So when we took, we took. No vacations, but we took it public. We were part of a roll-up many years ago, 29, 1999. And what we said to the investor, I mean, we said to the eye banks at that point was, we’ve got a really high rate of what people charge. So our, our consultants generously our consultants.
Really do bring in a lot of brought in a lot of dough. We wanted a, we wanted a premium for the quality of the talent and they gave it to us. And then the market gave it to us when we went public. I think this is part of the future of freelancing. I can’t help, but believe that it’s got to be anyway.
Shah Ramezani: No. I agree.
I agree. I think I think Matt touched a little bit, but for me it’s like, okay, there are so many problems in the space. Well, what is the core, core, core problem we should all focus on, which maybe John is what you’re talking about. You know, I always want to, like, if you start to solve everything, you’re not really solving anything, but,
Jon Younger: well, the core problem is, is how do we get more people more work?
I mean, that’s, that’s really the core problem.
Shah Ramezani: Yeah. I mean, I’m still open minded about it. Like I’m still like paranoid we might not be seing the core probelm, is it really helping people to learn how to work as a freelancer? Is that the core problem is the core problem, you know, making freelancers cool to get into the branding gig . Like, I don’t know, like all of that is all that art.
Jon Younger: Those are all elements for me of getting more people to get more work.
Matthew Mottola: Yeah, I would add to that, John. You know, there’s a lot of cute things that we all want to do to help. And this is usually what happens with government. Like government would be like, Hey, what if we did this? We’re like, that’d be so awesome. But you know what will ruin all of this? If there’s not a company to actually spend the money to make all of this happen.
And at least for my visibility and my vantage point, you know, my whole life has been freelancing and I’ve seen all of the sides and the side that to me, drives everything is the company spent. If there isn’t companies spending everything else doesn’t matter. Everything from benefits to career planning, to upscaling doesn’t matter.
And I think one thing with Distributed Cal you’re, you know, that you’re hitting on is, is, you know, you, do, you really helped with the outcomes looking at you publicly. Like that’s one of the huge differentiators is that if you like, and I’m sure I’ll see this even more, but one of the huge things is, you know, I’m sure your, your freelancers or whoever the, you know, the talent loves your platform.
But deeper than that, they love the fact that you know how to actually talk to a client and get them to spend money on you. Right. Cause at the end of the day, that’s, what’s really solving everything is absolutely.
Q12: Where’s the biggest commercial opportunity in the category?
Callum Adamson: Let, let me answer Shah’s question and wrap up and then we’ll turn off recording and a second and we can, we can decompress together.
So Shah the way I think about it, your, your, what do you, what do you focus on question? Right? Which was the actual question. Which part of the opportunity I’ve been building in the future of workspace? For the best part of seven, eight years now I plan on building in it for the next 30 or 40 years.
Right. If you take sniper terminology and you say aim small, Miss. Small, my vision and my mission, my alignment has never faltered. If I don’t. Achieve it all in this company, I will have advanced it. And by the time I get to company seven company, eight company nine I’ll have made a significant impact.
Same way that Barack Obama describes his presidency on the, the undoing of the Trump presidency. Right. So says progress doesn’t happen, linearly, which is something you were alluding to start this conversation, but we move things forward generation by generation person, by person, an idea by idea. And he says, you may undo a lot of things.
From my perspective, when you go post COVID-19 post vaccine, we may undo a lot by going back into the office, but the mindset has already changed, which would then person by person idea by idea company by company in generation by generation. We’ll move it. In the right direction. So don’t worry about, so much about what to focus on now for this particular business.
Just stay mission aligned. We’ll all get there.
Jon Younger: I like that.
Shah Ramezani: I love these calls from my patients, patient nature. You know, but that’s that’s me, but I know what you mean. Like I think you’re right.
Callum Adamson: There’s there’s enough market. There’s enough opportunity and there’s enough space for 40 years of building.
Shah Ramezani: I’m also Persian.
We are, our nature is conquers. So maybe you know, if there is nothing to conquer, we get bored.
Callum Adamson: Yeah. I mean, I, I love to even be associated with everybody on this call in the same sentence. So thank you all for being here this evening. We’ll do this again hopefully soon. But for now let’s let’s sign off.
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you.