When I am asked about the problems with the rise of the #GigEconomy, I have a very optimistic response. “Smart entrepreneurs out there will come up with solutions to the inefficiencies in the marketplace.” Thor is the story of two such entrepreneurs who met at a blockchain event, became partners and are now devising a solution to the high cost of benefits like health insurance for independent workers.
David Chin and Matt Moravec had the good fortune to sit next to each other at a Silicon Valley meet-up all about blockchain. The two believed in the potential of this new technology to bring transparency to all sorts of markets. Through “tokenomics,” the economics of virtual currencies powered by blockchain, transactions and contracts can be verified and authenticated in ways other systems cannot duplicate. The token, which has a finite supply, is the mechanism for facilitating these transactions, so the more people that are in the network using the tokens the more value each token has.
The market on which they chose to focus was the world of contractors, freelancers and gig workers, especially those in the On-Demand space, like ride share drivers. These workers typically have no health or retirement benefits. Also, there is significant churn in the marketplace, as gig workers do the job for a while and move on. These On-Demand platforms spend inordinate amounts of money to recruit new workers. With those facts in mind, the pair created Thor, with David, a veteran technology advisor, as the CEO and Matt, an experienced software engineer most recently at Optimizely, as the CTO.
The idea behind Thor is that it is good for both gig workers and the talent platforms that hire them. The platforms can use Thor as a worker retention or contractor appreciation tool. The workers, who can be paid in regular cash or in tokens, can use the platform to gain access to more affordable benefits. The Thor Tokens are utility tokens that can be used to purchase the benefits at a greater discount and are exchangeable into fiat as well.
As more people become part of the platform and more tokens are bought and sold to acquire benefits, the value increases as their demand goes up but the supply remains unchanged. With that increase in value, the Thor Platform will be able to perform several services. It will enable near-instantaneous payment to contractors — a payment that will bear a much lower cost to the talent platform — and will offer contractors low cost health insurance through a network of insurance providers.
Still in startup mode, things are looking quite bright at Thor. CEOs of On-Demand companies are eagerly awaiting the roll out. Three specialty On-Demand services have signed on to do the alpha test, which should occur in the spring of 2018. By the end of the summer of 2018, there will be live products for the contractor community.
The first step, though, was the initial sale of the Thor Token. That Token Sale took place in early April 2018 and was a success. In fact, experts in the field commented that it was “remarkably problem free.” In a year, they hope to have 100,000 contractors on the platform. They have other goals as well, for the number of clients, transactions and services provide
Talking to these founders is humbling because they intend to change the world and see Thor as a valuable enterprise that will improve the life of so many workers. They are creating a virtuous cycle through tokenomics where the more people who hold the token the more they rise in value. That increase in value will enable the subsidization of the cost of health insurance and perhaps, down the line, other products, like renter’s insurance, as well. “The beauty of tokenomics,” David said, “is that all of the increase in the value of the token serves the token holders.” It is a pay it forward company where their intent is to improve the marketplace.
Despite their fervent belief in how this will change the game for independent workers and truly build “contractor happiness,” the team does have concerns. The major one is about regulation. The blockchain and cyber currency world right now is like the wild, wild west. Regulators may not understand how these technologies and the resultant markets work and may take the wrong steps when developing regulations. Given that, there are lobbying groups set up to educate the politicians and hopefully inform their policies, and Thor has been active in those.
Given how many people are still trying to wrap their heads around blockchain and the cryptocurrency world, I asked if they had an education issue. Thor has had focus groups with all sorts of independent workers, from delivery folks to senior consultants, to get their input on the service. One driver totally got it and even understood the utility token concept. But for most of the focus group participants, the most important thing was not the details of blockchain or cryptocurrency, but the fact that a new approach may offer lower cost access to much needed services like health insurance. In the grand scheme of things, that’s what matters the most. That is why I am an optimist.
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