Fiverr CEO Favors E-Commerce, Not Gig-Economy, Label Following IPO

June 13, 2019

By Rebecca Heilweil

Fiverr’s first day as a public company was impressive, with share prices jumping 90 percent from its $26 starting price by the end of trading on Thursday. That success has differentiated the company from Uber ($UBER) and Lyft ($LYFT), the rideshare titans that have built gig-economy empires but experienced less-than-stellar initial public offerings.

Despite often being lumped in with the gig economy, Fiverr ($FVRR) founder and CEO Micha Kaufman told Cheddar that he prefers to frame his company as an e-commerce marketplace that's more comparable to Amazon or Etsy.

“Fiverr is very much about skilled labor. The freelancers on Fiverr get to choose or define the types of services that they offer, and get to price their own offerings,” said Kaufman. “So in nature, this a very different type of marketplace.”

“On Fiverr, you don’t hire anyone. You buy very, well-defined products,” he added. “We’re an e-commerce business.”

The company filed for a public offering back in May, sharing that 2018 revenues were $75 million. Net losses totaled $36 million.

Kaufman said that Fiverr pursued an IPO because “we wanted to get credibility for that growth and gain the market trust.”

Fiverr isn’t the first freelancer platform to go public. Upwork ($UPWK) also saw a successful offering just last year.

Other competitors include Freelancer.com ($FLN), which went public in 2013, and WorkMarket, owned by the publicly-traded human resources software company Automatic Data Processing ($ADP).

“I think that the model that Fiverr presents is extremely attractive. It makes the experience of buying a digital service online as easy as shopping on Amazon. Businesses love it. It creates transparency that never existed before,” he said.

Fiverr’s public offering comes at a time of growing concerns that the number of American workers who rely on side-gigs is increasing. Last year, the polling service Gallup reported that 36 percent of American workers “have a gig work arrangement in some capacity.”

As a result, tech companies that depend heavily on independent contractors are facing scrutiny. That skepticism has been amplified by the activism of ride-share drivers who are fighting for better pay and working conditions.

Fiverr, in particular, has been accused of promoting a culture of working 24/7 through its marketing, while not providing the kinds of benefits that salaried employees would be eligible for.

Kaufman said that promoting endless work was never the company’s intent.

“As a large marketplace with millions of customers, we would love to use our ability to negotiate better deals for freelancers,” he added. “We sometimes can help them negotiate better deals for themselves than they can do individually.”

However, he did eschew the idea that this would be similar to a union negotiation.