Independent worker network Contra goes commission-free as it secures new NEA-led capital

Contra, a professional network for independent workers, unveiled a new payment model Tuesday that lets users accept payments for their services on Contra without paying any commission fees.

The new feature comes as the company brings in $30 million in Series B funding, led by NEA, with participation from Unusual Ventures and Cowboy Ventures, both of which invested in Contra’s $14.5 million Series A earlier this year. The latest funding round gives the company just under $45 million in total funding, Ben Huffman, Contra founder and CEO told TechCrunch.

Contra provides tools for independent workers to build a professional identity and manage their work from inquiry to project scope discussion to signing a contract to getting paid, all without having to pay upwards of 20% of fees that other independent work websites may charge, Huffman said.

Securing the new funding is giving Contra an opportunity to not only work with Ann Bordetsky, partner at NEA, but capitalize on “the crazy amount of user growth post-pandemic,” as more people turned to independent work, Huffman said. He cited figures that said over 50% of people stated working independently at the start of the pandemic and more than 1 million people joined Contra to find work or hire talent.

“We have always wanted to roll this out, but wanted to be able to ensure the client pays and there is trust on the network,” he added. “We have users in 139 countries, and while many workers complete successful projects, they don’t get stocks or other benefits, so we want to help them collect on that stored value and make it easier to get paid.”

Earlier this year, the company surveyed over 10,000 independent workers for its first State of Independence report and found that independent workers value the freedom, autonomy and financial benefits of freelance work: In fact, 86% surveyed said they work less than 40 hours per week. In addition, by having a fluid revenue stream through Contra, they are charging for per-project versus hourly, which enables them to earn the same amount of money with fewer projects, Huffman said.

Meanwhile, the new funding will be funneled into hiring and continued product innovation with new products on tap to be released early next year.

With many people opting for the flexibility of independent work, NEA’s Bordetsky said she was intrigued by the trend and spoke with people who all had shared pain points of wanting to work in this way, yet not being satisfied by the existing marketplaces for building careers.

She saw that Contra was becoming a resource that “the Gen Z digital worker is excited to use” and how the company leveraged TikTok and other tools to build an audience.

“Ben knows those pain points,” Bordetsky added. “What was impressive was his creative vision for what the platform could do and also his practical understanding. Ben is the visionary to build this in the space, and NEA supports that Contra is following that trend.”

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