Ex-Googler Gets Backing of Silicon Valley Investors Thiel, Levchin to Build ‘the World’s Most Badass Recruitment Engine’

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Jun 8, 2017

With the rise of the gig economy, managing freelance workers can be difficult for companies comfortable with the traditional employer setup. Pete Johnston, formerly a Google designer, aims to change that with the newly renamed Kalo. Armed with financial backing from PayPal’s co-founders, Johnston believes his startup is better able to tackle the unique concerns of the freelance labor market than LinkedIn.

Formerly known as Lystable, Johnston’s decision to rebrand his freelance management system came from concerns that the previous name indicated a level of selectiveness, causing some to believe special skills were required to find work through the platform. Wanting to distance the startup from such elitism, Johnston gave his 50,000 registered users the chance to have input on renaming the company.

A hired consulting firm created an additional 30 names, but the name Johnston eventually settled on came from part of the name of a ship he happened to view in the San Francisco Bay. In an interview with CNBC he referred to the spontaneously discovered name as “an emotional decision.”

According to a Forbes article from 2016, freelancers and gig workers now make up 35 percent of the workforce in America. Other studies show similar figures for European countries. Over the course of the next decade these numbers are likely to grow exponentially, which is what attracted PayPal’s co-founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin to invest $1.5 million in the startup in 2015. Kalo raised an additional $11 million in funding in 2016.

Kalo isn’t the only company trying to capitalize on the shift toward a freelance economy. Many believe that corporations will soon be as invested in the recruitment and management of their contractors as they already are of their regular staff. Johnston told CNBC that he believes Microsoft’s $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn last year proves this fact, but he doesn’t believe the software giant is as prepared to handle the special requirements of freelance management as is Kalo.

Having worked first hand with over a hundred independent contractors while employed by Google’s design team in London, Johnston noticed multiple issues with the existing system. Many traditional recruitment and employee-management platforms were too slow and clumsy for the job. They simply weren’t equipped to handle dolling out tasks to freelancers. Nor were they setup to deal with paying contractors, which often meant workers received payment later than intended or expected.

Kalo aims to address these concerns by streamlining the entire process through one platform. Employers and registered freelancers are matched up via Kalo, which charges its customers 3 percent of what they’ve agreed to pay independent hires for the job in question. Freelancers can submit invoices and receive payment through Kalo.

In addition, Kalo aims to increase the amount of teamwork between corporations and their independent contractors, fostering more communication. “We’re not about the individual. We’re all about the team, the collective, the effort we make together,” says Peter Johnston on the company’s website.

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