Technically speaking, participants in the so-called gig economy are tiny businesses, which means their jobs don’t come with luxuries (formerly known as social safety-net components) such as health insurance, retirement savings plans, or tax withholdings. Stride Health is one company that hopes to help them fill in some of those gaps.
Stride makes its money on commissions from selling insurance, and its first product, which launched in 2013, helps workers find a heath care plan that fits their needs and income. Gig economy companies such as Uber, courier service Postmates, craft marketplace Etsy, and domestic work site Care.com refer their workers to the tool. Stride Health’s latest product, which it launched on Wednesday after a pilot with 20,000 Uber drivers, is called Stride Drive. It helps drivers keep track of tax-deductible expenses such as mileage and car washes.
The new standalone app, says Stride Health CEO Noah Lang, ties in well with Stride’s insurance marketplace, which must understand workers’ income in order to determine whether they qualify for government subsidies on their health insurance. He says that of the workers who qualified for a subsidy last year, two-thirds did not take a single business or a personal deduction "which is a huge miss, because every one of them should."
Workers can sign up for Stride Drive for free. The app ties into Stride Health’s insurance marketplace, with the option for a driver to incorporate income and expense data from Stride Drive when shopping for insurance using Stride Health.
A startup called SherpaShare runs another app that tracks mileage and expenses for gig economy drivers, keeping tabs on 80 drives per month for free and charging $5.99 per month, or $59.99 per year for more active drivers. The two-year-old startup has about 100,000 active users between its apps.
Both SherpaShare and Stride Health see themselves as eventual broad vendors of tools for gig economy workers. Lang says that Stride Health’s latest app is "part of a suite." And SherpaShare has also launched Pulse, an app that drivers use as a forum.
Uber's preferred form of support for its workers has been to point them to discounts on services like these. (Because drivers are independent contractors, providing actual benefits could serve as evidence against the company in employee misclassification lawsuits.) This month, robo-investing company Betterment began to offer Uber drivers retirement savings plans free for one year. Uber's partners also offer drivers discounts on fuel and phone plans. Lang says the company plans to similarly help market Stride Drive.