Jolt picks up $2M seed for marketplace of speakers

Ronny Kerr · July 19, 2016 · Short URL:

Credits-based platform allows anyone to hire a professional speaker or start giving talks themselves

Not audio speakers. Professional speakers—to blow you away with their delicately paced PowerPoint decks, magically positioned mid-speech pauses, and superb dexterity with a clicker.

Jolt, a marketplace where you can find and book professional speakers, has secured a $2 million seed round led by UpWest Labs and Hillsven, according to Geektime. The Palo Alto company later confirmed the news for me over email.

Providing more evidence that we’ve yet to reach “peak on-demand,” Jolt lets any business easily book professional speakers to come speak at their office for a wide variety of purposes. Sometimes it’s educational or training-focused, so employees can learn about a particular subject, while other times the professional is a motivational or inspirational speaker.

Eastwick Communications and Autodesk are a couple companies that have used the service and offered positive testimonials.

The way the service works is the business pays upfront for "credits" that can be used to book talks. At a minimum, it costs two credits for an in-person talk and one credit for a live video talk. If you buy one credit at a time, it'll cost you $600. (So it’s that much for a live video talk and $1,200 for an in-person talk.) Or you can go for the discounted bulk purchase and get 12 credits for $5,400 (which would come down to $450 for the live video talk and $900 for an in-person talk). Also, a series of talks, longer talks, or talks by premium speakers each cost additional credits.

As for the speakers, Jolt boasts that its marketplace features "jolters" from companies as large and diverse as Google, Oracle, Facebook, Lyft, Autodesk, Github, and Salesforce. That makes sense because anyone can join and immediately start offering talks. I signed up in under a minute by logging in with my LinkedIn profile.

Incredibly, though it costs at least $450 to purchase a credit, the “current rate” to cash out a credit is $300. So if you’re a speaker, you can make $300 for a single live video talk or $600 for an in-person talk, and Jolt would be making at least $150 or $300 in each of those cases. This is worth noting because it means Jolt isn’t taking just a small percentage of the speaker’s service fee, but actually a fairly significant portion.

Jolt seems to be justifying this by encouraging professionals to use their credits to book speakers for their own businesses, instead of cashing out. In other words, it’s not exactly a platform designed to help someone make their living. It really just wants to be a network of professionals giving and receiving business talks across the full spectrum of topics, supported by a technology platform managed by Jolt.

And so, while the service does let speakers upload their W-9s and get cashed out like workers at other on-demand companies, it’s not quite the same as other “Uber for X” services. It will be interesting to see if this works in favor or against the company as it strives to gain traction.

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