TimeRepublik Raising a Round to Make Time Into Money

canstockphoto5275423Time is money, they say, but is it really?

One startup is betting on it, and before you dismiss the notion, read on.

TimeRepublik – one founder is in Lugano, Italy, while the other is in New York – is currently raising an investment round of $1.5 million to turbo-charge a digital platform that it has built that allows for the trade of money for services, effectively turning time into a type of currency.

There’s a story behind TimeRepublik. Ted Wallach, the chief executive officer of TimeRepublik, was the original creative director at WeWork (yes, that WeWork). Wallach realized while he was at WeWork that it was the truly creative, truly revolutionary projects that his colleagues were willing to do outside work and for no money whatsoever. In other words, these colleagues were making payments with their most personal and precious of commodities: their time.

“I realized at WeWork that the way work happens is changing so significantly,” Wallach said. “There is an opportunity to make a new way people can work together.”

That new way, Wallach is betting, is TimeRepublik. Here’s how it works. Users give their time to projects listed on the project in exchange for allotments of time, known as TimeCredits (one TimeCredit equals one hour), that other users of TimeRepublik can give to the user in exchange for, you guessed it, allotments of time. Practically speaking, say you need some help with the business plan for your startup. You post a call on TimeRepublik for someone to dedicate their time to the project. When I give one TimeCredit to this business plan, I get one TimeCredit on TimeRepublik which someone can get from me in exchange for, yes, an hour of work. It is this virtuous circle that Wallach is after.

“We don’t want them to transact,” Wallach said. “We don’t want to compete with money. It negates the social capital of people working together.”

“If you are paying someone, you are never going to get their full passion,” he added.

While this might not always be true, it is true in some cases. In certain circumstances, most people are willing to do something for someone else without the need for compensation. To get time in return might even be viewed as a bonus. The social network aspect of TimeRepublik, which has around 35,000 users now, largely prevents fraud.

Wallach hopes that one day rather than use PayPal, consumers will be able to purchase goods and services with TimeRepublik, pledging their time rather than money.

But, to quote another axiom, this one Biblical, “Man does not live on bread alone.” So how does TimeRepublik generate money – real money?

Wallach has thought this through, too. He has a few options, among them selling the data from the TimeRepublik platform to employment companies, selling advertising (“You are selling not what people are talking about [on social media], but what they are doing”), and/or what he calls a “big data play.”

Since we can create a graph, where X is time, Y is quality, and Z is the type of service, we can create a graph of three-dimensional information on the future of work. As people are doing more work in passion and purpose, we know how well they are doing it, how long they are doing it for, what type of work they are bringing to the table. We can sell this data to insurance companies to create “micro” insurance products. This would be insurance while they are working, not as they are driving to the job.

Wallach even envisions the possibility of “paying” for goods and services in the real world with “a digital time wallet, like a PayPal button; they can embed it.”

Maybe. Wallach recognizes that the 35,000 users he has is just a starting point, but he is encouraged by how users around the world are tapping the system for project work. He also points out that there were about 53 million freelancers in the United States alone in 2014, according to estimates.

While we don’t see time replacing money – nor does Wallach, parenthetically – it is not too pie-in-the-sky to see TimeRepublik’s application within certain communities, particularly as the global freelance community grows, as is projected. University students is a group that strikes Wallach has particularly ripe for TimeRepublik, for example. Heck, TimeRepublik might just change the meaning of the phrase “I’ve got plenty of time on my hands.”

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