Fractional employees are the new workforce

I thoroughly enjoyed Liz Gannes’ series of posts on Re/code about the new “instant” wave in technology. Ms. Gannes calls instant delivery the newest trend in ecommerce and explores the wide range of “I want it now” ventures. Some of these come from complete newcomers, some from industry giants (Google and Amazon) and some, surprisingly enough, from veterans of the first bubble flops such as Kozmo, Webvan and

Aside from the resurgence in this space, what surprised me in these posts are the ways these ventures differ from their conceptual ancestors from the first bubble. Through each of these ventures each focus on a different industry or service, one thing many have in common is what Ms. Gannes calls the “fractional employee.” These are people with some free time and access to a car, bike or motorcycle. They fit these deliveries, drives, or services around their schedule. As one happy fractional employee said in the post: “I figure if I use my car all the time, I might as well enjoy it.” The logic is similar to the Airbnb’s original concept, where the host supposedly rents out a room or space he/she is not using. The idea is that the host is already paying to live in the home, why not rent out the areas they’re not using?

In honor of the start of the NFL season today and because this may be the best lip-reading ever, I give you Jim Harbaugh's version of instant delivery: "I want cake! I want it now!"

In honor of the start of the NFL season today and because this may be the best bad lip-reading ever, I give you Jim Harbaugh’s version of instant delivery: “I want it now! I want cake now!”

This concept seems to work with a large group of “fractional” workers such as car-share drivers, grocery deliverers, task runners, etc. The ones interviewed seem to see these jobs as a great side income they would not otherwise be able to earn.

The benefit to the different ventures in this area is clear: unlike Webvan, who invested millions in warehouses, fleets, groceries and drivers, the current version of grocery delivery uses local shops to procure groceries and these fractional employees and their car/bike for deliveries and that’s it. All the companies need to do is develop an app that connects buyers with the stores and employees. I’m not saying it’s trivial, but it’s pure technology and some logistics and not the creation of a physical infrastructure.

Go read the full set of posts over at Re/code. And then let’s see what new startups in this space can come up with.


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