The concept of the shared economy, despite all of its hopeful potential, has been left behind in favor of the something more suited to the American way of thinking: the gig economy – and you can make it work for you.
Aaron Patzer and Jean Sini are doing just that with their new company Fountain. The company operates by using an advanced algorithm to connect users with industry experts via text, phone, or video chat. Say for instance a user’s dog wasn’t eating and seemed unusually lethargic, a user would type the issue into the search, and the system would connect the user with a veterinary expert who could answer the user’s questions and point them in the correct direction. The goal would be to save the user an unnecessary (and expensive) trip to the vet if the situation was easily fixable, or at the very least help to narrow down the issue.
Initially, Fountain soft-opened with a focus on home-improvement, but after a year they are expanding their offerings to include just about everything.
How the Gig Economy Model Works
The reason why this model works is that people don’t generally want to go through the effort of figuring things out for themselves, they want to save time by having someone do the legwork for them. If spending $10-$15 for a short session can save them hours of time, or, in the case of something like legal advice for example, hundreds of dollars – they’re going to choose it every time.
Fountain will eventually operate by sharing fees derived from user sessions with the experts who sign up on the site. Experts with higher overall ratings and greater credibility will be able to charge more for these sessions than those who are less experienced. As it currently stands, the service will be free until the end of September.
So what happens when a user asks a question that can’t be answered by a registered expert? Well, the algorithm will be forced to broaden the search. Patzer admits that the success of this endeavor depends entirely on the people who sign up for it, but also admits that scaling could lead to a host of other issues as well – like how to handle the inevitability of dissatisfied customers. It seems that only time will tell.
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The gig-based economy implies that, for the right price, there is always someone there to help you when you need it. There is someone with the skills, knowledge, and expertise to answer your questions and assist you in problem solving. It’s outsourcing at its most advanced, and companies like Fountain and TaskRabbit and countless others are connecting those who need the help with those who can provide it.
Why do you think the gig economy has won out over the sharing economy? How do you think companies like Fountain are making problem solving easier?