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Fiverr, another gig-economy startup, files to go public

CNN logo CNN 5/17/2019 By Sara Ashley O'Brien, CNN Business
a man standing in front of a television: NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 07: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on May 07, 2019 in New York City. The Dow fell over 450 points today as investors continue to react to growing fears of a trade war with China. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)© Spencer Platt/Getty Images NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 07: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on May 07, 2019 in New York City. The Dow fell over 450 points today as investors continue to react to growing fears of a trade war with China. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Even the semi-disastrous IPOs of Uber and Lyft don't appear to have stopped the flow of on-demand companies wanting to go public.

Fiverr, an Israeli-based gig-economy startup, filed paperwork Thursday with the US Security and Exchange Commission to go public on the New York Stock Exchange. Its ticker is slated to be "FVRR." The company filed to raise as much as $100 million — a placeholder amount that could likely change.

Fiverr is a freelance services marketplace, where businesses or individuals can hire freelancers to do work such as logo design, digital marketing, voice overs or translation, for example. The company was founded in 2010, initially as a platform for buying and selling tasks for a fixed fee of $5 — hence the name. It has since broadened out to connect people seeking digital services with providers who charge a range of rates.

It is part of a boom of on-demand startups that came up around the same time and typically rely on contract workers. As those companies have matured, the value and durability of on-demand businesses remains a controversial topic.

Two of the biggest gig economy names have had a tough go of it as public companies. Uber had a lackluster debut on Wall Street last week, and Lyft's stock has fallen since it started trading in March. Others have gone the acquisition route: office-services firm Managed by Q, which hires its workers as employees, was bought by WeWork in April; Handy was acquired by Angie's List in 2018; TaskRabbit, a marketplace service for everyday tasks, was acquired by Ikea in 2017.

There are also many that have simply shuttered over the years.

Fiverr is, by all accounts, a much smaller company than Uber and Lyft, but they do all have something in common: they are not turning a profit.

In its paperwork, Fiverr reports that it has seen over 50 million transactions between over 5.5 million buyers and more than 830,000 sellers to date on its service. It posted a net loss of $36.1 million in 2018 and says it expects to incur net losses for the foreseeable future.

The company has drawn attention for its controversial ads. One, for example, read: "You eat coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer." Underneath, the copy said: "In doers we trust."

It also found itself in the spotlight over how individuals have used its platform. In 2017, Felix Kjellberg, who is best known as the YouTube personality "PewDiePie," paid individuals he found on Fiverr to create anti-Semitic signs for a video he published on YouTube. Fiverr suspended their accounts in response.

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