Spare5 Harnesses the Collective Power of Everyone

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“Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.”
–John F. Kennedy

Most experts who wax about the ongoing mobile revolution focus on the growing power and functionality of our smartphones. I have always believed the more important change has less to do with our increasing access to these new brains and more to do with ones we already have.


Human beings have so many talents and insights that in a feature phone world were difficult to expose. Today, anyone with a smartphone can produce high-quality, specialized work 24 hours per day. As an example, I am writing this post on an iPhone sitting in a car waiting for my youngest to finish basketball practice.

Leveraging smartphones to access our collective brainpower is the thesis behind Spare5, the first spinout of Madrona Venture Labs, an in-house startup studio I help lead at Madrona. Spare5 is a mobile on-demand work platform that enables anyone to complete paid tasks like image tagging and data cleanup.

The Spare5 team, led by CEO Matt Bencke, the former SVP of product at Getty Images, is world-class. In addition to Matt, the team boasts Daryn Nakhuda and Patrick O’Donnell, two supremely talented startup technology leaders, and Matt Shobe, a product and user experience executive I have been trying to recruit for more years than I can count.  New Enterprise Associates, Foundry Group and Madrona recently invested $3.25 million in the seed round.  Here is a link to the Spare5 press release.

In addition to recognizing the incredible work of the Labs’ team who launched Spare5 and the Spare5 team who has taken the product to the next level over the last three months, I want to give a special shout-out to my exceptional assistant of more than 10 years, Cindy Petek.  A conversation with Cindy helped sparked the idea. Joe Heitzeberg, the serial entrepreneur who started Labs with me, and I had been debating for months various concepts to make money with your smartphone. I decided to ask Cindy what she thought about an app where she could make a little money completing tailor-made tasks on her 45-minute bus rides to and from work.  Her enthusiasm for the idea was palpable and started us down the right path.

I can’t wait to see what Spare5 becomes over the next several years. Mobile on-demand work has the ability to change people’s lives in a meaningful way. We already have heard stories about single mothers who are using the Spare5 app to make some extra money while their kids are napping. Others have talked about Spare5 enabling them to earn enough money for gas or a date night.

Joe talks about Spare5 providing freedom—real freedom—to everyone with a smartphone. That’s a concept worth backing and a company worth building.

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  • Katie

    This looks awesome! Kim & I are signing up.