FSB alumni makes job search platform free to help more people find work

Jeff Tennery headshot

Being at the right place at the right time is great, but if you, like Jeff Tennery, want to help people, being at the right place at the one of the worst possible times can be even more important. “The most important thing you can help somebody with, outside of their physical health, is their financial health. And I felt like there was going to be a big need,” he said.

Tennery, a 1990 Farmer School marketing graduate, is founder and CEO of Moonlighting, a multi-faceted mobile platform that takes a worker-focused approach to the job search, providing access and tools to help people find jobs of all sorts, from full-time employment to gig contracts to work-from-home opportunities.

“We've got 800,000 people on the platform that are using it to create work, and our numbers in the last two, three weeks have gone through the roof because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus,” he remarked.

Tennery worked for several large telecom companies after graduation, including Verizon, AT&T, and AOL. But he said that he found that he was getting tired of the corporate world, so he moved his family to Charlottesville, VA and began working with venture-backed companies. “But I always said that I wanted to spend the second part of my life doing more philanthropic work. And while I’ve done piece like most people do, volunteering and such, I wanted to get really passionate. So I call Moonlighting a mission-based company.”

Even though it may sound like Moonlighting is tailor-made for the current economic situation, Tennery came up with the idea years ago after the 2008 recession impacted his friends and others he knew. “I made a commitment to myself and said I was going to start a company that can help people if we ever face this kind of economic crisis that we have today. So it took me about six years to kind of figure all that out, and then I went and started Moonlighting,” he recalled.

“Moonlighting is really just 30 years of me just putting everything into one place, which is an easy platform that looks and feels like LinkedIn, but it's catered more towards freelancing and people who want to work for themselves,” Tennery said. “It's been five years now and it's been scary sometimes. It's like any startup.”

It may come as a surprise to learn that last month, Tennery made Moonlighting ad-supported and ended subscriptions for workers to access and use. But to him, the move was another step in the process of helping people. “It felt really good to go into this new ad model, which opened the platform up for free,” he said. “I had been thinking this way for a while and it's sort of thinking that we are a for-profit business, but we have kind of a non-profit heart to do good.”

Tennery hopes to grow that 800,000 users into millions because he believes that many of those left unemployed due to the coronavirus crisis will need opportunities to find their path in the post-virus economy. “We have dog walkers, we have data scientists, we have photographers, wedding officiants. It's agnostic. We don't care what you are. We're giving you the tools to start your own business,” he explained. “It’s interactive. There's people in the community and you can engage with them. You can send them proposals and invoices and contracts. That’s what Moonlighting became is this toolset. Forbes called us the 'Swiss Army knife’ for the gig economy and we took that to heart.”

“Everybody should be moonlighting. Everybody should have a safety net in case your job is going to go away. I was in that C-suite for many years, so I know what those conversations look like and how hard it is to have really large layoffs,” Tennery said. “This became a very clear way for me to mix the need to build a for-profit business and make money. But it really merged with my inner Zen that just wanted to help people.”