What's The Future of Work?

Thumbtack Co-founder and CEO Marco Zappacosta at Cap Gemini's Applied Innovation Exchange.

The future of work lies in non-tradeable, non-routine jobs, says Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta.*

If you click through the slide show above, you'll see that he suggests these kinds of jobs include those such as florists, teachers, interior designers, engineers, mechanics, and nurses.

Thumbtack's Marco Zappacosta on the future of work  2018-03-29.

Thumbtack is a platform through which to hire local professionals. More than 360,000 customers in the Bay Area used their service last year. And more than 25,000 professionals responded to the customers. Almost 70 percent of the businesses using Thumbtack to reach customers are the business owners' primary form of employment. The company makes money by charging the professionals a fee for connecting with customers. Thumbtack plans to extend a whole range of other services to those small business owners, such as help with online marketing, bookkeeping and financial support, and skillsharing, for example.

Zappacosta argued that we'll see a few big companies such as Google and Amazon hire salaried employees, but more and more people will be running small businesses or working as solo entrepreneurs. The obvious downside to this is that income is unpredictable, and lawmakers will have to make benefits portable to fit this emerging reality. Lifelong learning and re-training will be a normal part of professionals' lives, and most of the jobs will be in urban areas. He also argues that software is dismantling Ronald Coase' theory of the firm.

"One of my frustrations with this debate is that we keep talking about what is the future of work as what it's not," he said at the Reinvent/Cap Gemeni event in San Francisco on Wednesday night. "So we kept talking about it internally about what it is."

Zappacosta wants to start a national conversation about what the future of work can be, and what the challenges to it are.

He said that he wants to "create a specific vision of what the future of work can be. What are the challenges with that, how do we mitigate those challenges and rally around it to make it a great future of work for everybody?"

Zappacosta has some ideas for a roadmap. They sound a lot like what Democrats have been recommending for years (workforce training, investing in urban housing, streamlining regulations, etc.)

It's definitely a worthwhile conversation we should all be having -- and moving forward with. It's urgent, as the last presidential election showed. So it's a shame that not more of it is happening in legislatures to make the gig economy less of a financial gamble. Obviously, the big question that needs to be addressed is how all of these gig workers can access affordable healthcare.

What's interesting to me is that this is the third event in about three weeks I've attended here in SF/Silicon Valley where technologists and startup founders have discussed the future of work. It's a constant topic of conversation (yes because it looks potentially scary.) Reinvent itself has created a whole series of interviews dedicated to the subject. Yet in DC it all seems to be about the latest Trump scandal or some intractable legislative fight.

Silicon Valley has a lot to answer for, but at least some people like Zappacosta are talking about solutions. Not everyone in Silicon Valley wants to make useless juicers, despite what you might think. ###

*If you talk to people in the field of artificial intelligence, that's the answer they'll give you too, although they may not be be as specific as Zappacosta because they're not promoting any particular service.