Philip Rosedale grew up glued to his computer, more interested in the code on his screen than in the world around him. Hence his best-known endeavor, Second Life, a virtual reality world that took off at the turn of the millenium and allowed avatars to trade mock property, money, and services. Then the recession hit, bringing on layoffs and a bevy of new freelancers. In response, the Pacific Heights resident is now geeking out on ways to help contractors make money in real life.
Coffee & Power, which launched in November, is an online marketplace where skilled freelancers can post and find small jobs. Need someone to refinish a new cocktail table or design your wedding invitations? The site has 3,400 professionals looking for work.
“Second Life demonstrated that people are happy to connect online to create business,” says Rosedale. “It also showed that there are certain things that require you to be face-to-face.” To solve the personal connection problem, Rosedale set up a free cafe on Market Street, where users can meet, drink Italian coffee, and see what everyone’s plugging away at on a large flat-screen TV. Job payment is virtual, that is until you want a Paypal cash-out from Coffee & Power, which charges 10 percent and $1 per transaction. Though not yet profitable, the business has facilitated nearly 1,000 jobs in the Bay Area and is expanding to Santa Monica, Portland, and Seattle.
“Through the site, I’ve taught boxing lessons and hired someone to build a gadget that flashes lights when a transaction happens,” says Rosedale. “We’re moving toward a contract workforce where hundreds of billions of dollars are being made in the labor market—but without a W-2. Tech is changing the future of work, and we’d love to be in the middle of it.”