There is a profound shift underway in the labor market: many people are disavowing traditional 9-5 employment in favor of the ever-growing ‘gig economy’ – a phrase that describes the bustling world of freelancing and short-term contracts. Although the transition partly reflects the breakdown of stable employment opportunities, it also taps into an even bigger desire for freedom and flexibility. For many, a steady biweekly pay check is worth sacrificing for the flexibility that freelancing offers.
It therefore comes as no surprise that freelancers make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. labor force; combined, the nation’s 57 million freelancers contribute $1.4 trillion annually to the economy. According to at least one study, freelancers are set to become the majority of the U.S. workforce in the next decade.
Of course, this trend isn’t limited to the United States, but globally as well, with websites like Upwork, TopTal and Freelancer attracting millions of professionals from around the world.
Ethearnal is marketing itself as one of the first peer-to-peer freelancing platforms powered by blockchain and trustless smart contracts. More specifically, it is a reputation management system that allows freelancers to monetize their standing within the network.
Through smart contract-based escrow, freelancers and employers can get to work on projects knowing there is a clear and transparent mechanism for distributing payments. This agreement is backed up by a network of moderators that have built-in incentive to resolve any issues between the two parties.
Because it operates on the blockchain, Ethearnal attempts to sidestep third-party websites that take hefty fees for connecting freelancers and employers.
Ethearnal is developing an ERC-20 compliant token called ERT that will connect freelancers with employers via smart contract. The platform that connects these stakeholders will provide many of the bells and whistles offered by current freelance websites, with the added benefits of lower costs, profit-sharing and opportunities for moderators to resolve disputes for a fee.
According to the whitepaper, the token sale proposes an hourly cap to give more investors the opportunity to own ERT tokens. In other words, Ethearnal plans to increase the hourly ICO limit in regular intervals until the crowdraise is over.
After delays, the public ICO is now scheduled to begin Feb. 28.
Ethearnal is run by co-founders Stanislav Uzunchev and Vladimir Vladimirov, who have a combined 28 years of experience running online businesses. The team also employs three developers and three additional smart contract auditors.
The personnel behind Ethearnal appear more than capable of carrying out the project, although there does appear to be a lack of blockchain experience at the senior management level.
If timing is everything, Ethearnal stands to benefit greatly from the growing shift toward toward the gig economy. The concept of tokenizing reputation will also appeal to freelancers, who are constantly trying to promote their competitive advantage.
Where Ethearnal can really add value is by addressing excessive fees that are currently bogging down the freelancing community. Although platforms like Upwork have introduced a sliding fee scale, freelancers who do not qualify for the lowest payment are forking over as much as 20% of their contract’s value.
Recently, the platform announced the 20% fee would apply to the first $500 the freelancer bills his or her client. It then drops to 10% for billings between $500 and $10,000 before dropping to 5% on all remaining billings.
- The author has some concerns about Ethearnal’s business model. Although the whitepaper doesn’t contain much information about the business, it clearly states that the platform does not intend to make money post-ICO. Token holders should expect to receive profits from the platform, but it is not entirely clear what that breakdown looks like. You would think these details would have made the whitepaper. The only tangible information on profits is found in the section that talks about earning money as a moderator. -2
- Naturally, Ethearnal has plenty of competition from third-party websites as well as other blockchain projects. There are several freelancing projects underway, including Blocklancer, FreelancerCoin, Coinlancer and Native Currency. -2
- The project has an aggressive roadmap with major milestones slated for each quarter through 2019. This could be problematic from an implementation perspective because Ethearnal is giving token holders a say in when the funds are allocated (see the discussion on “ICO 2.0” in the Growth Potential section). From what we can tell, the project has already experienced delays. -1
- The freelancing economy is absolutely massive in scale, with more professionals slowly transitioning away from the office. Ethearnal is potentially on the cusp of this exponential growth. And because all freelancing platforms depend on reputation to some degree, the company is marketing itself correctly through the slogan, “tokenized reputation.” +3
- As the whitepaper states, the Ethearnal platform is considering a fee of between zero and 1% that “goes back to the system to support proper initiatives.” If it can pull this off, it will easily become one of the most competitive platforms for freelancers. +3
- The smart contract system is brilliant for freelancers and employers because it provides secure funding and a pre-defined time limit to deliver the contract. A failure to do so will see the totality of the funds returned to the owner. If any industry can really benefit from added transparency around payment, it’s definitely the gig economy (every freelancer who is reading this has been burned at least once). +3
- The platform’s “ICO 2.0” model mirrors Vitalik Buterin’s recently announced DAICO concept, bringing much needed transparency and accountability to the crowdsale. After the token raise, only 10% of the funds will be accessible to the Ethearnal team. The rest will remain locked in escrow until the company can convince token holders it is following through on its promises. This should alleviate concerns about funding allocation post-ICO. +2
The author has spent many years working as an independent contractor and recruiting freelancers for various gig economy jobs. Naturally, I have a bias in favor of projects that make my job easier and more exciting. Nevertheless, we have tried to be as balanced as possible in this review, and feel that a final score of 6 out of 10 is warranted.
- Token Type: Utility
- Platform: Ethereum
- Symbol: ERT
- Pre-sale: Ongoing
- Token Sale: Feb. 27 – Mar. 31, 2018
- Token Supply: 40 million
- Tokens Available for Sale: 30 million
- Hard Cap: 30,000 ETH
- Price: 1,000 ERT = 1 ETH
- Payments Accepted: ETH
- Jurisdictions Barred from Participating: Section K of the Terms of Token Sale list geographical limitations.