Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Gigwalk Allows iPhone Owners to Stumble Into Part-Time Work

The idea of using the Internet to parse out small jobs is not new. But a new crop of businesses has popped up that use the iPhone to help people find and perform small tasks near them.

One of the most ambitious of these projects is Gigwalk, which lets anyone with an iPhone sign up to perform tasks such as photographing an intersection or documenting a restaurant using nothing more than the camera on their device.

Although the tasks performed by each individual are small, the idea behind Gigwalk is to find large companies that need tasks performed that would otherwise be to costly and laborious to complete. In private beta for the last few months, the service is already being used by GPS mapping firm TomTom and restaurant listing service Menupages to crowdsource tasks that are core to their businesses.

“You can take care of a lot of scenarios that were too expensive or too slow,” says CEO Ariel Seidman, who left Yahoo and started Gigwalk with two other former Yahoo workers last year.

Part of the impetus, he said, was the fact that everyone at Yahoo seemed to bemoan the cost of doing local products.

“I was so frustrated by everyone saying local is so expensive,” Seidman said. “That was one of the inspirations.”

Gigwalk lets iPhone users see available tasks near them and decide whether any are appealing enough. If they want a task, they have to go to the location, to avoid one Gigwalker claiming a bunch of gigs all at once. The pay ranges from $3 to $90 per task, with the amount varying based on the amount of work involved. Users start out being able to perform only the simplest and lowest-paying gigs, but with each completed task they earn a “street cred” reputation score that qualifies them for higher paying opportunities.

Gigwalk is announcing on Wednesday both its exit from beta and that it has raised $1.7 million in seed money from investors including Michael Dearing of Harrison Metal, investor Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

The initial funding, though, came from money the founders got as part of the Microsoft-Yahoo search pact.

“I was, like, something good should come of this because not much good has,” Seidman said.

The company isn’t saying how many workers or companies are taking part so far, but Seidman said that “many thousands” of gigs have already been performed in the seven cities where Gigwalk is doing business. Over time, Seidman said he would like to have millions of gigs and workers across the globe. While many do just an odd job or two for $10 here or there, some regulars make an extra $100 a week or more. One of the most prolific Gigwalk workers is Andrew Schut of New York, who has made more than $2000–an average of $400 per week–doing more than 270 tasks since signing up in March.

“It’s a nice little bonus to get paid to do work that is so easy and fun to do,” Schut said in an email interview. “I moved to New York City about a year ago and the opportunity to explore all the fabulous restaurants, hotels and other places of interest in the city while picking up some extra cash along the way is irresistible.”

Schut, who consults in the medical device industry, methodically maps out his Gigwalk routes to maximize his efficiency, much the way FedEx drivers have their schedules planned.

“Before I set out on my Gigwalking day, I use the map feature on the app to plan my route,” he said. “I can shrink and expand the local area map to look for clusters of gigs I can hit in one shot.”

Schut and another Gigwalk worker have even set up an independent Web site to share tips. The best gigs, Schut says, are the restaurant ones, while his least favorite are time-consuming hotel reviews.

“There are many questions to be answered about the property and photographs to be taken,” Schut said. “The work needs to be done well and meticulously in order to be approved by the client. It can take anywhere from one to two hours to complete a hotel gig.”

Gigwalk is not alone in seeing the smartphone as a good conduit for odd jobs. One such start-up is a venture called AirRun that is designed more to link individuals looking to have a task performed with someone willing to do the errand. The app, which launched in the iTunes store, has had just 430 people download it, but has seen a range of tasks from washing a car in Long Beach, Calif., to picking up laundry in Kansas to helping buy a load of lumber in Georgia.

Seidman said his hope is that by working with large companies that need a lot of tasks done, his venture can scale in ways that the one-to-one services just won’t be able to.

I initially included Uber in this crop of companies, however, that was based on my misunderstanding of how the system works. With Uber, iPhone owners can summon a professional driver rather than hailing a taxi, but the system doesn’t let anyone with a car act as a driver. Thanks to the Uber community for bringing that to my attention.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik