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Passionfruit raises $3.6m in seed funding for Gen Z freelancer platform

The London-based startup is capitalising on the trends of remote work and flexible careers

By Miriam Partington in Berlin

Gen Z freelancer platform Passionfruit has closed a seed round of $3.6m, in a round co-led by firstminute capital and Playfair, with participation from FJ Labs and Portfolio Ventures. It brings the total raised by the firm to $4.3m, after a $700k round last December. 

The scout networks of Atomico, Accel and Notion and early executives and founders from Airbnb, Deliveroo, Turo, Trouva, Workday and Stripe also participated. 

What does Passionfruit do?

Passionfruit is a platform matching freelancers with startups and scaleups. Initially, it’s focusing on helping marketing specialists find freelance gigs, but hopes to roll the platform out to adjacent careers — such as product managers, management consultants and financial consultants — in the future.  

In addition to job matching, Passionfruit provides financial tools for freelancers. It offers them an overview of earnings made via the platform and eventually hopes to “build out a full suite of financial software”, says cofounder Raffi Salama. This will include things like tax, insurance and invoices –– “all the nitty-gritty things” people need to run their businesses, Salama adds. 

Passionfruit freelancers also become part of a so-called near-peer mentorship programme to help them upskill and stay competitive. The freelancers — most of whom are just starting out in their careers — are paired up with someone more senior who can offer their wisdom and experience.

For example, a brand designer with two years of experience who’s nervous about working alone might be paired up with a brand designer with seven years of experience. And during the project, they “share their work with the more experienced designer, get critical feedback and then implement it,” says Salama.

“We’re kind of recreating that environment of having colleagues that you can bounce ideas off that you would get in a normal full-time workplace,” he adds. 

Currently, Passionfruit has signed up a few hundred freelancers and startup clients to its platform — including the portfolio companies of 65 VCs worldwide, such as Atomico, Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia. Salama says Passionfruit makes money by taking a “blended percentage” of commission from both the freelancers and the companies.

What problem is Passionfruit solving?

Passionfruit wants to help Gen Z — 80% of whom want to go freelance but don’t know how, according to one survey — get started in their careers and prove that freelancing can be a viable option.  

Currently, being a successful freelancer often means relying on a strong, pre-existing network — something that not everyone, particularly those just starting out in their careers, have, says Salama.

Freelancers also struggle with a heavy administrative burden. According to a survey conducted by Passionfruit of 450 freelancers under the age of 30 in the UK, 45% of a freelancer’s time is spent finding new clients, organising invoices, chasing payments and trying to upskill.

It’s these problems Passionfruit is trying to tackle.

“We exist to try and make the experience better for freelancers — for example, with payments. We get payment upfront from the companies and pay our freelancers on the same day every month, so they’re never waiting or having to chase,” Salama says. 

Not another freelancing platform

There are many freelancing platforms out there, like Fiverr and Upwork to name a few. So how is Passionfruit any different?

“Anyone that’s used these platforms will immediately tell you that the user experience is not great — and that many of them are unhelpful and have done more harm than good in a lot of ways,” says Salama.

He and his cofounder Issah Abdul-Moomin — having been freelancers themselves — wanted to do “what Airbnb did to Craiglist” and bring out a “vertical-focused, cleaner approach for the next generation of talent”.

In terms of direct competitors, Salama says Passionfruit’s biggest is full-time work: many specialists are scared to “take the leap” into freelancing, while many companies are still adjusting to a more flexible workforce. 

This is changing on both sides though: Gen Zers are looking for more flexible ways to live and work. And businesses are “realising that there’s a more elastic and efficient way to manage their relationship with talent”, says Salama. 

Who’s investing in Passionfruit?

  • firstminute capital
  • Playfair (existing)
  • FJ Labs
  • Portfolio Ventures

Sifted’s take

Passionfruit has touched on two important trends: the rise in remote work and the desire among — particularly young — professionals to have flexible careers and work for themselves (just think how much the creator economy has boomed). Businesses are also rethinking how to staff teams: amid fears of a downturn, teams are being reshuffled, employees being laid off and many startups are making use of contractors to plug the gaps. 

With all this in mind, Passionfruit could be in a prime position to help the next generation of workers slide easily into freelancing — especially if it can fulfil its promise of building a suite of financial tools. It’ll remain to be seen if it can balance the demand of companies with the supply of freelancers and vice versa. And, indeed, whether it can compete with the household freelancing platforms of Fiverr and Upwork.

Miriam Partington is Sifted’s Germany correspondent. She also covers future of work, coauthors Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter and tweets from @mparts_

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