BookedOut, based in Chicago and founded in 2014, provides a specialized online marketplace platform that connects brands (that are being promoted), agencies (that run brand marketing events) and promotional freelancers (who work at those events). We would consider the platform a pure marketplace (i.e., no vetting of workers, or management of processes or workers), but with a twist — a unique offering that supports partnerships with certain kinds of contingent workforce management solution businesses.
The company describes itself, in its Crunchbase profile, as “the experiential marketing industry’s only [online] marketplace where technology, brands, agencies, promotional contractors intersect produce and activate the leading brand promotion campaigns.” Sounding like what could be the company’s mission, it is also said, “BookedOut connects the best promo staffers to all brands.”
The platform allows agencies to post jobs for events anywhere in the US and allows workers to maintain profiles and apply for the jobs (the platform also provides workers a job management calendar). Workers who are hired and hiring agencies can interact across the platforms (e.g., transfer the marketing scripts, required dress, other details, etc.) and “work the event” at which time processing of payment through the platform (and partner Bill.com) occurs.
Workers and on-the-ground event managers can access and work through the platform with iOS and Android mobile apps. The platform also features a for-developer API and management analytics.
BookedOut sees itself as filling “a critical engagement gap” between advertising, agencies and the freelancers who work the promotional events. The labor market for such promotional events is served primarily by specialized temporary staffing firms anchored in the traditional model of recruiting, placing, serving as employer of record and payrolling workers. BookedOut is pitting its platform and its efficient, fast intermediation processes against the business and operations models of traditional intermediaries.
Markets & Clients:
BookedOut estimates that, in the U.S. alone, the brand marketing event segment (trade shows, product launches and others) accounts for some 75 million hours of activities for promotional event workers. If we assume an average bill rate of $14/hour, then the market size, in terms of labor spend, would exceed $1 billion.
The company’s direct clients are primarily marketing agencies, but the company indirectly supports the marketing functions of big brand companies like Heineken, Neutrogena, Yoplait, Motorola and, according to the company, “hundreds of others.”
BookedOut states that is has more than 30,000 freelancers “on-board” (we assume this means registered with the platform). Some of the roles that these freelancers assume include Brand Ambassadors, Set-up Crews, Product Demonstration Experts and even Event Managers. The company states that these freelancers are spread across the U.S. in major metropolitan areas, but within striking distance of many non-urban locations.
It appears that BookedOut is targeting millennials in many walks of life. That would correspond to the demographic’s oft-cited need for a self-controlled, flexible schedule and extra money (students, teachers, returning veterans, parents, personal trainers and other). This “digital native” demographic would seem to be an attractive talent pool to target with an online platform services of this type.
BookedOut extends to its clients two main offerings:
- The first is the pure marketplace model where agencies direct-source workers as 1099 contractors.
- The second is a hybrid staffing model where marketing agencies engage with a contingent workforce management solution/services provider, which serves as employer record (workers are deployed and paid as W2s).
Currently there is one 3rd-party employer of record partner, nextSource, an innovative workforce solutions and services business that “provides organizations with integrated talent acquisition solutions such as managed services program (MSP), vendor management systems (VMS), employment of record (payrolling) and statement of work (SOW) services and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO).”
How BookedOut monetizes its platform services has not yet been discussed. However, we might surmise that the pure marketplace pricing model involves subscription or transaction fees charged to agencies, while the third-party employer of record model involves some payment back to BookedOut
The BookedOut website states that it has processed to-date over 1 million event hours. If we assume the company has been in operation for two years now and we also assume a plausible growth curve, it is entirely possible that the company is currently at a run-rate of 1 million event hours a year and likely still growing.
It does not appear that BookedOut has received any significant outside funding as of this time, but we probably would not be shocked if that were to happen before too long.
From our standpoint, BookedOut is a unique and notable work intermediation platform provider for at least two reasons:
- A sharp focus on a narrow market segment that looks primed for disruption by a capable online platform player.
- A unique model that integrates with progressive third-party employer of record partners (like nextSource) which support another option for marketing agencies that want to sleep soundly, not worrying about potential worker misclassification problems
To learn more about BookedOut, visit its website.