Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life and Linden Lab, is debuting his new venture today— Coffee & Power, a marketplace for skill-based jobs. The San Francisco-based startup has raised $1 million in funding from Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, Greylock Partners, Mitch Kapor, Catamount Ventures and Kevin Rose.
Rosedale explained to me that the idea behind Coffee & Power came from the connections made within virtual world Second Life. What made Second Life attractive to users, he explains, is that people are able to create value from each other and use skills and capabilities in novel ways in the virtual world. Rosedale wanted to translate this to real life. The company’s technology was also developed leveraging its Worklist technology, which allows software developers to contribute and receive payment for small chunks of code.
Thus the inspiration for Coffee & Power was born. The platform is an online marketplace where people can buy and sell small jobs. The marketplace includes its own virtual currency and payment system, live communications and public chat, a game-like rating and review system, and a real-world facility where users can meet and work together. Basically, Coffee & Power is providing a shared space ,both virtual and physical, where people can meet and do small, interesting jobs for each other, Rosedale explains.
Here’s how it works. You tell others what you are willing to do or need done, right now, for how much. The map shows your listings along with those of other people. You can use SMS and your mobile phone to make/receive offers and get paid. Buyers and sellers use a virtual currency system for payments. You can earn this currency by selling missions, or buying them using your credit card or PayPal. You can also turn the virtual currency back into U.S. dollars via Paypal.
Coffee & Power aggregates sellers of a variety of small services in one place and a live chat space is available to sellers and buyers, so they can communicate and share feedback. Coffee & Power’s listings, called “missions,” range from software development services to hula-hoop lessons and custom artwork. The Coffee & Power marketplace matches buyers and sellers through live communication, profiles and reputations, connections to social networks, and searchable transaction histories. Profiles for potential job seekers can be linked to Facebook and LinkedIn profiles for legitimacy, and users can comment on and rate workers.
Coffee & Power users build account balances either through credit purchases, or through their own earnings from missions. Sellers can spend their virtual currency by buying services from others, or optionally turn it back into dollars. The virtual currency on the site is called coffee dollars, and $1 equals $1 real dollar. For every transaction, Coffee & Power takes a fee of 15 percent.
In addition to the launch of the site, Coffee & Power has opened its first co-working space in San Francisco where users can meet in a safe public area to work together and conduct transactions and services. The cafe-style space at 1825 Market Street offers free coffee, power, and Wi- Fi. Coffee & Power will open additional spaces in other locations as the service expands.
As a way of easily trying out the service, new users can also give free missions – or gifts – to friends from their social networks. “Giftable” missions range from something like an expert copywriter’s review of their resume to a Tarot card reading. Rosedale says that Coffee & Power users have exchanged over $10,000 in hundreds of missions ranging from graphic design to language lessons and custom Halloween costumes.
In the beta period, Coffee & Power’s workers have been co-working at the Market Street location, helping each others with online research, expert advice, copywriting, and more. Many use it as a new channel to meet new people and pick up extra work.
Rosedale is fairly open about the competitors in the space, which include Zaarly, Gigwalk, and TaskRabbit. He says that for many of these service a skill isn’t necessary. Rosedale is trying to “move one layer up the stack,” and is more focused on delivering and coordinating skill-based tasks.
Competitors aside, there’s a reason why investors like Jeff Bezos, Greylock, Kleiner Perkins and others are looking to back these marketplaces for jobs and tasks. Rosedale says that the company that emerges as the winner will be the one that gets both buyers and sellers engaged, which is the challenge of task-based marketplaces. He believes that the physical location and personalized nature of Coffee & Power will help differentiate the service from other competitors. What do you think?