Americans of a certain age will remember the 1980s TV series Moonlighting, starring Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd as private detectives for the Blue Moon Detective Agency. It was hugely influential in its time and ran for more than 60 episodes, making Willis a star and relaunching Shepherd’s career.
Three decades later and Moonlighting means a completely different thing to more than 350,000 Americans, the number of people who have signed up to the eponymous on-demand marketplace Moonlighting, an app representing the evolving face of the Gig Economy.
Working life is changing, not least because of the 2008 financial crash. That’s when the notion of employment, or what a job was defined as, changed forever. That’s when the so-called Gig Economy was born, the birthplace of Uber and everything that followed.
Uber, of course, was the trendsetter. By taking one vertical into one city and then gradually expanding across the US, it became the model by which its many emulators lived. To do it anywhere, it had to be done there before it had a chance.
The changes in those nine years have been profound. The notion of the freelancer as an outsider, as somebody who is not trusted enough or somehow too flaky to be employed full-time, is now the Average Joe, leveraging his or her time by mixing and matching any number of gigs to bring in dollars and a living income.
Freelancing is one of the biggest growing sectors of industry and where an industry prospers, so does a marketplace form, especially if a platform can mix and match people and opportunities, as important as anybody’s time.
Moonlighting purports to be that platform. Set up by Jeff Tennery, Roy Slater, and Ritesh Johar in the fall of 2014, Moonlighting describes itself as ‘a mobile, on-demand app that allows people to earn extra money and get tasks done instantly by creating a virtual marketplace for individuals and small businesses.’
In effect, the platform brings together those who need a service and those who are willing to provide it. The company has grown, raising $4 million in seed and VC money after an initial raise of $500,000.
Based far from Silicon Valley in Charlottesville, Virginia, Moonlighting CEO Jeff Tennery is steeped in mobile app experience and is passionate about his company’s platform doing social good as well as building a commercial company.
“Moonlighting is a mobile-based virtual ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for freelancers and small businesses, enabling them to find short-term work with the speed and efficiency made for today’s on-demand work world.
“We are redefining the way we all look at employment and providing the entry point for millions to join the Gig Economy 2.0 through our extensive network of partnerships with digital publishers,” he said.
The Swiss Army Knife analogy is appropriate. These design classics of micro and populist engineering enabled consumers to have a tool that could do more than one thing. Whether it was scissors, tweezers, knives or, in its latter days, a USB, the Swiss Army Knife was utilitarian and super-useful.
Moonlighting is trying to do the same thing. Connecting people by service needs is augmented by users eliminating anonymity by posting jobs and sharing them within social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as well as more traditional means through a Rolodex or contact book.
More importantly, the company’s own mobile payment platform mean users can complete hiring transactions in a secure and safe manner and people can be paid instantly. For those who invoice for their services, waiting weeks and sometimes months to be paid, this is a Godsend.
Moonlighting has also been smart in adopting the Uber model, starting in Charlottesville, then gradually spreading stateside to 100,000 users until recently accelerating to its latest numbers of 350,000 customers. The company says it now plans global expansion, but may face competition from locally established platforms in different territories.
Thirty years ago, the Blue Moon detective agency of Moonlighting’s Willis and Shepherd were looking for crimes to solve. In 2017, the Moonlight app is now helping to solve challenges in the latest iteration of the Gig Economy. It would appear it has a decent shot at doing so.