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Thumbtack CEO: Machines may replace Uber drivers, but not your plumber or wedding planner

Thumbtack CEO Marco zappacosta speaking with a Thumbtack pro.
Source: Thumbtack
Thumbtack CEO Marco zappacosta speaking with a Thumbtack pro.

Commodity jobs in the so-called on-demand economy — such as driving for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft — are likely to be automated away in the near future and workers are right to be concerned, said Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta.

Thumbtack, which matches small-business professionals with customers who need jobs done, has a good vantage point when it comes to the current debate over jobs and automation.

"Anxiety has been correlated with the fear of their job being automated away — humans are smart — if they sense that their livelihood might slip away, it is extremely anxiety-inducting" he told CNBC.

In particular, he pointed to Uber drivers as one job that might not exist in a few years. Ridesharing companies and big auto manufacturers are working hard to figure out how to provide autonomous vehicles, something that could happen over the next three to ten years, he said.

"It's going to happen, and that will have a much more dramatic impact on the industry than any law ever could," he said.

Thumbtack pro Coco Minot, a personal trainer for Massachusetts.
Source: Thumbtack
Thumbtack pro Coco Minot, a personal trainer for Massachusetts.

The future of work in the U.S. will be non-routine jobs that cannot be automated in the near-term and those that cannot be shipped overseas, he said. These are the sorts of jobs listed on Thumbtack's marketplace, as well as jobs in things like healthcare and education, he said.

"When it comes to fixing your plumbing or tutoring your kid in math or catering your wedding, there's no way around the fact that the pro needs to be there," he said.

In terms of priorities for the next administration, Zappacosta would like so-called portable benefits, so that every American worker gets access to benefits such as healthcare regardless of how they're employed. The government should provide those benefits, not the platform companies, he said. He would also like to see the federal government streamline regulations to make it easier for small contractors to navigate the system.

"Our pros tell us they are more burdened by regulation than by taxes," he said.

Thumbtack faces competition from Amazon, Alphabet's Google and Angie's List, but its marketplace is far bigger than its competitors, he said. It's also more broad, offering everything from yoga instructors to plumbers for hire.

"We think that's the only way to truly build a great brand and awareness among customers because the reality is you don't need a plumber or caterer that often, but in aggregate you need many of these folks every year," he said.

Thumbtack claims more than 10 million users who use the platform to find workers, and says it sends the more than 250,000 professionals listed on its platform over $1 billion per year in earned income. It has raised $270 million in venture capital funding at a reported $1.3 billion valuation.