Gen Z freelancing platform Passionfruit has closed a seed round of £3.6 million from big-name VCs and angels at leading tech companies.
Headquartered in London with a base in Portugal, it claims to be the first platform to give young adults a genuine choice between company employment and freelancing by recreating and improving the end-to-end array of services that full-time work provides.
The round, co-led by firstminute Capital and Playfair, saw participation from FJ Labs, Portfolio Ventures, Atomico, Accel and Notion.
Angels such as Mandeep Singh (Trouva), Xav Collins (Turo) and execs from Stripe, Airbnb and Workday also joined.
It follows a pre-seed round in December of $700,000 led by Playfair.
Currently, a career as a freelancer is primarily limited to those with pre-existing networks and support structures, which means the overall pool of high-quality talent that is available to businesses is unnecessarily limited.
Today, freelancers spend at least 45% of their time trying to find new clients, managing administrative burdens and trying to upskill. Having to handle everything by oneself means that many simply cannot afford to leave the full-time corporate cushion, where working, learning and earning is handled centrally, even if they’re fed up in their job.
Passionfruit aims to radically transform the day-to-day experience of being a freelancer. Rather than scrapping around for work, managing finances in an Excel spreadsheet and feeling isolated, specialists on Passionfruit are brought briefs tailored to their skills and interests, have oversight on their annual earnings, and are part of a tightly-knit community through a near-peer mentorship program.
While the initial beachhead has been in marketing specialists, over time they will expand into adjacent disciplines to meet customer demand.
“Instead of yet another freelancer platform that simply digitises transactions that could and would happen without it, Passionfruit is bringing a completely new workforce to the market,” said Raffi Salama, co-founder.
“Gen Z will represent 27% of the global workforce by 2025 and it has been so inspiring to see our specialists as they say goodbye to the Victorian-age structure of the 9-5, and begin a new life working on their own terms.
“Better still, companies love working with them this way. Smart businesses are realising that there’s a more elastic and efficient way to manage their relationship with talent.”
His fellow co-founder Issah Abdul-Moomin added: “To date, freelancing has been the preserve of a select group of people that have access to work through private offline networks. We are here to make it viable for the masses.
“Of course we’re not saying that nobody will ever work full-time again, simply that there are tens of millions of young people that would prefer to run their professional lives differently. We exist to give them that choice.”
The duo met on Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP Fellowship programme. Since then, Salama has become part of the launch team of David Beckham and Softbank’s new MLS franchise Inter Miami, while Abdul-Moomin became corporate development director at Group M, the world’s largest media buying business.
The startup has already gained hundreds of specialists and customers across the EU, UK and US.
Passionfruit will use the new funding to expand its product offering, and expand its commercial reach deeper into ever-larger businesses across Europe and North America.
Henrik Wetter Sanchez, principal at Playfair Capital, commented: “Raffi and Issah have an uncanny ability to appear to be working in the future. Being two steps ahead in your thinking and execution is the hallmark of founders who can not just follow, but lead category-defining shifts in industries.
“I could not be more convinced by their vision of a freelance-led Gen Z workforce that urgently needs a demand-led digital home to work, learn and earn.
“I’m delighted to see Playfair tripling down in this round and continuing to build Passionfruit with this team.”