Gig economy companies such as Uber, Instacart, goPuff and others have given workers a new way to earn money on their own schedule. But with that flexibility comes a certain level of income instability — sufficient work and regular paychecks are not always guaranteed as they are in a traditional 9-to-5 job.
That’s where Solo comes in. The new Seattle startup, which just announced a $5.5 million seed round, aims to help gig workers by providing hour-by-hour earnings predictions over the course of a week. Solo is so sure of its data that the company offers a guarantee, making up the difference for workers if they end up earning less. The predictions use aggregated historical data from Solo users, as well as potential impact of real-time events.
The idea is to give workers a better understanding of when, where, and what job to work across the various platforms. Solo’s larger vision is to provide additional help to gig workers related to insurance, taxes, mileage tracking, and more.
“We’ve always felt that the deck is kind of stacked against gig workers,” said Bryce Bennett, Solo co-founder and CEO. “They don’t have a lot of tools or information to actually be effective or efficient with their time. It’s kind of a guessing game.”
Bennett founded Solo last year with Keith Ng. They spent time together working in Seattle and Portland for Uber and trucking startup Convoy. The experience at each company gave them a close look at the challenges faced by independent contractors, part of a gig economy that has grown over the past decade in part due to tech-fueled services like Uber.
Devin Jansa is one of those workers. He left his traditional full-time job three years ago in Seattle because he “never wanted to be an employee again.” He’s using Solo to help figure out when to work for Uber, Lyft, Grubhub, and DoorDash. His earnings have increased 30% since using the app.
“It’s a very useful tool,” Jansa said.
The surge of different gig work opportunities over the past five years has created a need for something like Solo, said Bennett. It’s advantageous for workers to use multiple platforms, but that also increases complexity.
“It’s great for workers that there are so many more options now, but it makes the calculus of knowing when, where, and what jobs to work way more complicated than when it was just Uber and Lyft,” he said.
Earnings can fluctuate from one day to the next. The graph below shows DoorDash, Uber, and Shipt hourly earnings on a Tuesday last week.
There are other startups offering tools to gig workers but Bennett said Solo’s earnings predictions are unique.
Solo has a number of well-known investors such as former Amazon Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke and former Uber General Counsel Salle Yoo.
Slow Ventures led the seed round. Managing Director Kevin Colleran said his firm had already been thinking about the idea of Solo, so investing was a quick decision.
“We believe Solo is uniquely positioned to solve the key problems around financial and professional instability and are excited to help empower those making a living with app-based work,” he said via email.
There are more than 1,000 workers on Solo. The 5-person company plans to expand beyond Seattle later this year. The app is free to use for now, but Bennett said there are plans for premium services.
Other backers include Expa, Red Sea, Fuse, Ascend, Harry Campbell (The Rideshare Guy), Dan Lewis (Convoy’s CEO), Rob Hayes (First Round Capital), and Kindergarten, a new fund run by David Rosenthal, a former principal at Madrona Venture Group and co-host of the “Acquired” podcast.
“Once I learned about what Bryce and Keith wanted to accomplish with Solo, the need was so obvious and the market opportunity so large that it was a total no-brainer to invest,” Rosenthal said.