Why I joined Braintrust

Braintrust is one of the most exciting project in the future of work space. It has hockey stick growth, a team with deep marketplace and consulting experience, and a healthy lead in web3.

David Head
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Show Notes

Braintrust is, in my opinion, the most exciting project in the future of work space. It’s a decentralized talent network owned by the community and governed by a cryptocurrency called $BTRST. Some may call it a web3 project, or a DAO. I’ll explain more about what these terms all mean in the following sections.

The quick reasons why I joined are:

  1. alignment with personal mission and vision for the future of work
  2. hockey stick traction
  3. a commitment to decentralization
  4. an A-team with deep marketplace experience

A lot of this post involves personal notes that may be less interesting. If you want to jump to the exciting part, scroll down to the hockey stick growth section! That said, you may need context from the previous sections though to fully understand the terms and significance of some of the metrics.

Mission alignment

My mission at this stage of my career is to make it easier for people to find their ideal jobs, and easier for companies to hire their ideal talent. I’ve dedicated my career to this for the last 7 years and plan on doing the same for the foreseeable future.

I specifically want to be innovating at the edge of this space. Between my Y Combinator-backed startup, Sixty, and Laskie, where I was the Head of Marketplace, I’ve built a handful of products for freelancers that I’d consider meeting this profile.

A few of them:

The Sixty Hire tool prototype, with a Google Sheets + Zapier backend

Now I’ll have the opportunity to build similar products and features at Braintrust, but on a scale much larger than anything I’ve been involved with in the past. That’s exciting!

Going back to the concept of wanting to “innovate at the edge”, Braintrust is at the edge. Most notably they are at the edge with the organizational and economic model.

To my knowledge, Braintrust has built the largest decentralized talent marketplace to date, with over $37m in total GSV (Gross Services Volume) as of 1/24/22.

Building a decentralized talent network

The idea of a decentralized talent network is something I’ve wanted to build since Feb 2017, when I first discovered Ethereum. I was working on my freelance marketplace startup, Sixty, and at that point, I decided that it was too early for the concept. That said, it still seemed like the obvious future.

To describe Ethereum in this context, it enables a marketplace to become a DAO, or Decentralized Autonomous Organization, by issuing tokens with voting powers attached to them. The tokens all live on a public database called a "blockchain". (If those sentences just made your head explode, here’s an explanation of blockchains and smart contracts.)

If startups and corporations start as monarchies today, DAOs are democracies either from the start, or very early on. After being a part of DAOs since October ‘21 (most notably OrangeDAO), it seems highly likely to me that this model will become more common for many organizations — especially marketplace platforms.

From Braintrust: Fighting Capitalism with Capitalism by Packy McCormick

Why? Historically, marketplaces have a predatory dynamic, where the supply-side starts off making great money (like Uber drivers making $100k/yr), then their cut gets squeezed over time. This is unavoidable – VCs subsidize the platforms initially, then when they have to generate profits for shareholders, it has to come from somewhere. Increasing the fees to the supply-side is an easy way to do it.

One of the key features of a marketplace DAO is that it enables the supply-side to control the % fee they are charged. It also reverses the economic dynamic where instead of supply-side margins reducing as the marketplace grows, the supply-side part actually gains economic value, by holding the token.

This is how Braintrust can charge 0% fees for talent, and 10% fees to clients (much smaller than Toptal’s 40% or Upwork’s 20%).

Since Braintrust is the first major decentralized marketplace, the tokenomics, governance, and overall model of Braintrust will inspire the next Ubers, Doordashes, and future marketplaces of the world. The opportunity to be a part of that is very exciting!

Hockey stick growth

The traction in the crypto/web3 space right now is hard to overstate. Incredible products are being built, and organizations formed. That said, a common criticism I hear from people not as involved is “What’s the real-world value right now?”

Great question! For many projects, that's a hard question to answer. In Braintrust’s case, we’re supporting a critical business function of Fortune 100 clients, and every organization, which is hiring talent. Then we’re supporting the careers of talented engineers, designers, product managers, marketers, and many more. 

The following are a few stats sharing where we're at, as of 1/24/22:

Our monthly gross services volume (GSV, or talent earnings) is currently at a $51m run rate ($5.1m client fee revenue @ 10% client fee), with 16.3% MoM growth through 2021.

Commitment to decentralization

As of October ‘21, Braintrust took a major step in decentralizing, by setting up a treasury and voting system.

A few of the top-level metrics related to DAO health (as of 1/24/22):

You can see the proposals and activity on Snapshot.

Proposals

There are two proposals that recently passed which I’m very excited about, and are a good signal of DAO traction.

Client fees auto-purchasing $BTRST off exchanges

In the DAO Metrics post, I mention how treasury in-flows and out-flows are key metrics for DAOs. Historically, Braintrust has only had treasury out-flows via $BTRST token rewards that the community earns for doing things like referring clients and talent.

To create in-flows, our community recently proposed and built a client-fee converter. In this proposal, when a client pays their 10% fee in USD, the platform takes that USD and automatically purchases $BTRST tokens off of Uniswap (a decentralized token exchange similar to Coinbase). You can see the tokens on the blockchain here.

Grants program

We recently passed a proposal to fund our first 9 community projects through our Grants program. This first batch will total up to $120k in compensation, and they’re funded by the $329m treasury I mentioned above.


This is another major step forward in decentralizing the development, marketing, and education within the platform. 

Seasoned core team

The founders and senior leadership have deep marketplace and outsourcing experience — founding and selling multiple marketplace businesses in the past, and growing teams at outsourced service providers from scratch to nearly 1,000 people.

While startups with founders in their 20s get a lot of attention, they can often be pretty chaotic. Assuming the same growth rate, having a more experienced team is nice because there will likely be better structure and documentation. Having worked with teams at both ends of the spectrum, I'd prefer the latter. It's easier to be productive.

On the note about the team founding and selling multiple marketplace business, a few specific mentions are:

Then a few on the outsourced services side:

How to get involved

Now that I’ve shared why I’ve joined, I’ll share how you can get involved. You can do as much as joining the core team full time, or as little as contributing a few hours here and there.

If you’re interested in any of these, DM me on Twitter and I can intro you to the right team member to move to next steps. Slight preference for those with marketplace experience, crypto HODLers, and DAO lurkers and contributors.

Full time roles on the core team:

Product

Operations

Part-time projects through our Grants program

Propose your own:

We don’t have a formal way to submit proposals for your own projects to get grants on yet, but it’s coming soon!

We’re always open to ideas though. So if you have good ideas here, join our Discord and share them in our #grants channel!

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