Early Uber investor Bill Gurley evangelizes the social benefits of the work-when-you-want-to gig economy

Key Points
  • Bill Gurley praises the social benefits of the work-when-you-want-to gig economy.
  • "You can't go to [work at] Starbucks Monday, Tuesday and then take four days off," the venture capitalist says.
Schedule flexibility in gig economy is valuable to workers, says Benchmark's Bill Gurley

Venture capitalist Bill Gurley on Wednesday praised the social benefits of the work-when-you-want-to gig economy, which gained renewed popularity alongside the rise of ride-hailing platforms such as Uber.

The gig economy is now composed of nearly 60 million U.S. workers, just under 22% of whom are in transportation and utilities, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute. Gurley, the general partner at venture capital firm Benchmark, said Uber has generated greater "flexibility" for those wanting a side hustle and has "created 3 million jobs around the world" within a short period of time.

"I don't think there has been precedent for that, for someone creating that much job growth that quickly," Gurley said in a "Squawk Alley" interview.

However, gig economy companies have been accused of exploiting workers and withholding benefits that typically come with traditional, full-time employment. Gurley responded by arguing that there's an "economic value that comes with freedom and flexibility," bringing income and allowing for workers to pursue other passions.

"You can't go to [work at] Starbucks Monday, Tuesday and then take four days off," said Gurley, whose firm invested in Uber in 2011. "You can't do that at McDonald's. You can't do that at Walmart."

Uber's big losses: A big problem for investors?

Uber went public on May 10 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of the ride-hailing company dropped 7.6% in its debut session, when it closed below $42 per share and finished the day with a market cap of $69.7 billion. It was one of the worst first-day performances ever for a high-profile initial public offering and followed a poor performance from rival Lyft shortly after it began trading on the public market in late March.

Gurley left the board of Uber in 2017 shortly after then-CEO and founder Travis Kalanick stepped down. Gurley was reportedly instrumental in the resignation of Kalanick, who was accused of allowing a toxic and sexist workplace culture.