In 2018, Braintrust formed to disrupt the gig economy by giving control back to freelancers. Founded by Adam Jackson and Gabriel Luna-Ostaseski, it is the world’s first decentralized talent network and operates as a Web3-based decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). Run on the Ethereum blockchain with its own native token, BTRST, Braintrust is built, owned and controlled by its users rather than a central corporation.
This model aims to replace the highly centralized hierarchies of traditional employer and employee work relationships. Additionally, it circumvents the Web 2.0 era digital work platforms (i.e. Uber, Upwork) where the middleman extracts large fees from users. And it’s working.
In his book, Exponential Organizations, Salim Ismail talks about companies like this that experience explosive growth. "An Exponential Organization is one whose impact or output is disproportionately large -- at least 10 times larger -- compared to its peers because of new organizational techniques that leverage accelerating technologies." In other words, it grows faster, bigger and cheaper than its competition because it has a Massive Transformative Purpose and scales as quickly as tech does.
Admittedly, this can seem aspirational, especially if you are not familiar with abundant thinking. An abundance mindset, popularized by Peter Diamandis and described as a mindset where instead of slicing the pie into thinner and thinner slices, you simply create more pies, can be hard to conceive beyond theory, too. Especially considering how it contrasts with the dominant scarcity mindset in legacy businesses. That is, that there is a limited pie characterized by limited resources and fierce competition.
Yet, with the opportunity for organizations to not only seize existential opportunity but mitigate existential risk (i.e. disruption), this bold way of thinking is not only aspirational, it is essential for sustaining relevance. Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani, authors of Competing in the Age of AI, agree. They state:
We have entered into a new age that is redefining how every organization (and virtually any worker) in the economy needs to act to create, capture and deliver value. Whether we like it or not, digital networks and AI are transforming businesses, and society.
Tactically, this means organizations must redesign the two core elements of their business: the business model and the operating model. In other words, they must use digital technology to create and deliver new forms of value.
Braintrust, having established itself as the fastest growing Web3 network over the last 18 months, proves becoming an Exponential Organization is not only entirely possible but that it can be done in record time.
Here is Braintrust's exponential outcomes story since coming out of stealth mode in June of 2020:
- Gross Services Volume (GSV) grew by 2,250%, from $1.2M to $28.2M
- The number of enterprises (Clients) jumped 752% from 63 to 474
- Job-seekers (Talent) flocked to the platform growing from 2,194 to 36,000+
- The network’s Community grew 70x from 10,000 to over 700,000
Unsurprisingly, Braintrust is leveraging several exponential (i.e. ExO) attributes and new forms of innovation as cornerstones of their strategy. Let’s take a look.
Massive Transformative Purpose
A massive transformative purpose (MTP), the higher aspirational purpose of an organization, is designed to generate a cultural movement. A strong purpose is a binder of collective ambition, attracts top talent and customers, and cultivates the growth mindset necessary to achieve exponential outcomes. Braintrust’s purpose—we exist to spread economic opportunity more equitably around the world—is certainly an idea people can get behind. We live in a time of massive economic disparity. In many ways, the Web 2.0 based gig economy has fallen short of its promise to expand economic potentiality. Beyond creating business value, Braintrust seeks to deliver significance to the world and, in the process, elevate humanity. Their exponential growth in community members reveals its one people are rallying behind.
Other Key Exponential Attributes
Braintrust, as a DAO, is an example of the staff-on-demand and community & crowd ExO attributes, but supercharged. These two attributes combined enable the core FTEs of an organization to be very limited and its external, flexible workforce expansive. Braintrust, as a core team, has less than 35 employees. Their network is predominantly powered by their 700,000+ community members. Braintrust Talent earn tokens (BTRST) for delivering services to companies on the platform. Additionally, community members earn tokens for building and scaling the network. This includes performing activities such as: referring talent or clients; interviewing and vetting talent; providing input to product features; social media marketing; and educating the market about the platform. When members contribute to the network, they level-up to unlock perks, access new features and gain new privileges at each level.
Staff-on-demand and community as an extension of the company breeds tremendous diversity in ideas and access to a near limitless bench of talent. Not only does Braintrust benefit, they pass this value on to their customers as a core element of their value proposition.
Braintrust also possesses the autonomy ExO attribute. Autonomous organizations, in contrast to hierarchical ones, operate with small, multi-disciplinary, networked, self-organizing teams as the primary structure. Adhering to this model, Braintrust is the world’s first user-owned and controlled talent network that operates through self-organized teams. Authority is decentralized and decisions about how the network evolves are made in adherence to a governance model run by its members. Members manage the network by discussing ideas for improvements, proposing changes, and voting on change. The user-earned BTRST token is used to place votes.
To fuel their community-level innovation, Braintrust leverages the social technology ExO attribute. Members collaborate via the social technology, Discord. Members chat about product feedback, job postings, thought leadership, and governance of the platform among other things via Discord. The level of access (i.e. level 1,2,3) and incentives members are eligible for are based on their contribution level to the platform.
Business Model Innovation
Even more compelling is the value innovation Braintrust harnesses in service to its purpose. The Web 3-based DAO model enables the simultaneous achievement of differentiation and lower cost for both sides of the market, largely, by reducing overhead required to build and manage the network. Web 2.0 modern talent networks collect high fees (i.e. take rate) from talent, typically 20-30%1. This is in addition to fees charged to the demand side (i.e. enterprises). With Braintrust, talent is charged 0% fees. This means if a freelancer provides $5,000 in services to a customer on the network, they keep all of it. Client companies also realize a 50-75% savings in sourcing talent through this network. By drastically reducing disintermediation risk (i.e. the risk of freelancers and clients moving contracting of services off platform to avoid fees), network effects are accelerated too.
The storied rise of Braintrust is just beginning to unfold. Its impact thus far? Tangible proof a combination of new thinking coupled with technology can yield not only exponential business outcomes but breakthrough social benefits. Legendary investment firms agree. Earlier this month, Braintrust announced a private BTRST token sale of $100 million led by Coatue with participation from Tiger Global, True Ventures, Hashkey, Blockchange Ventures, and other early backers.
With heavy investor backing and the use of blockchain technology to disrupt the traditional freelance platforms, the future of work is here. The possibility for economic transformation is unbounded. Braintrust is leading the way.
Will you be the next ExO company to (quickly) follow in their steps?