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What is a Work Platform?

An online platform facilitating employment, and connecting labor to demand directly, through individual users.

Overview

What it is: A Work Platform is an application that connects people to jobs, of various kinds. Popular Work Platforms include Uber, Lyft, InstaCart, and TaskRabbit. Unlike traditional employment arrangements, jobs are created and acquired dynamically in a public fashion. Workers doing business through work platforms are better thought of as contractors than employees, completing micro-contracts as they choose to take them on.

What they do: Work Platforms for a given service connect supply directly to demand. In the case of “ridesharing” apps like Uber or Lyft, for example, commuters and drivers communicate directly. This creates online marketplaces for specific services that are more efficient than traditional alternatives such as (for Uber and Lyft), taxi companies.

Why it matters: Work Platforms are reshaping the world of work. They have disrupted a number of service sectors, especially those traditionally managed by monopolistic entities like taxi companies and grocery stores. This has created both consumer satisfaction and raging disputes about the ethics and economics of the new “gig economy.” Their impact is so pervasive that, in the parlance of startup funding, it’s become cliché to suggest that a new application will be “the Uber of” a given market.

What to do about it: Look into whether the completion of routine tasks in your business could be supplemented by labor from Work Platforms. If your enterprise currently uses Work Platforms, be aware that the regulatory landscape could change, requiring platforms to offer higher wages or benefits to workers, thus increasing costs. If your enterprise is considering new application ideas, consider the fact that Work Platforms can be tremendously profitable, with strong network effects and potentially low overhead.

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