Hire or be hired: Moonlighting app taps ‘sharing economy’

Moonlighting founder Jeff Tennery wants to help people make money through freelancing—and build a billion-dollar company. Photo Martyn  Kyle Moonlighting founder Jeff Tennery wants to help people make money through freelancing—and build a billion-dollar company. Photo Martyn Kyle

First there was Airbnb, which helped people rent out their abodes for extra cash. Then Uber made it possible to earn money using your car. Those businesses are examples of what’s known as a “sharing economy,” and the latest entrant is the Charlottesville-based Moonlighting mobile phone app, which helps people hire or be hired and allows for instant payment.

The inspiration for Moonlighting came from looking for a way for people to make money in a share or 1099 (that’s the tax form freelancers get) economy that has fewer full-time jobs and more cobbling together income from freelance jobs, explained founder Jeff Tennery. “It’s a way to help them and to make money while doing that,” he said.

Moonlighting also assists people who need help with a task, and offers both blue- and white-collar skills. “This is the only marketplace where you can either hire or be hired,” said Tennery. “You can receive money or spend money. That’s not being done anywhere in the sharing economy.”

Kathleen Reese has used Moonlighting to find a dogsitter, have her car detailed and get her house cleaned. “Most people have more to do than hours in the day,” she said. “There are times when I’m not home and it’s super nice to be able to go to my phone and with a couple clicks, pay my house cleaner.”

Each party using Moonlighting pays a 2 percent fee, said Tennery, and half of that goes to credit card fees. So for a $100 gig, the person getting hired is paid $98 and the hirer pays $102.

Louis Torknoo, a Sutherland Middle School math teacher, also teaches martial arts, and has picked up “seven or eight” students for private lessons since the beginning of January, he said. “It’s so much faster and safer than Craigslist.”

January has been a good month for the local startup. “We’ve seen our business go up 400 percent,” said Tennery.

The mobile app also found itself featured in Apple’s App Store on the front page of the business category. “Apple is picky about who they choose to promote,” said Tennery, and wants applications that can be used nationally, like Airbnb and Uber. Moonlighting fits that model, Tennery said, and in fact, some Uber drivers are moonlighting on Moonlighting.

Charlottesville already has a site that connects people willing to provide services —Timebank, which launched in 2012. “People who are attracted to the concept of timebanking are more interested in sharing their needs and skills with the community through exchange of time credits instead of paying for services,” said Timebank co-founder Kathy Kildea. “They may be motivated by their pocketbook, or by a desire to become more connected with their community.”

Tennery, who’s worked in the mobile and wireless business for 25 years, and his partners kept their day jobs when they started working on Moonlighting a year-and-a-half ago. Last April, they raised $500,000 from investors. (Disclosure: C-VILLE co-owner Blair Kelly is a Moonlighting investor.)

Tennery definitely wants to make money, but he also has a mission that the technology company should help others make money, too. Otherwise, he said, “There’s no point in doing it.”

That said, he added, “We’re trying to build a billion-dollar company here in Charlottesville.”