The stench of burning gasoline hung in the air at the first-ever Pivot Party inside party promoter Todd P’s Old Firehouse on Lafeyette. It was 10 o’clock on a Tuesday night, and the engine room had been converted—or pivoted—into a event space. A lone couple danced on the floor to a Jackson 5 song. One half of the duo was Bartek Ringwelski, founder of SkillSlate, who wore a white T-shirt emblazoned with his company logo and was throwing this party.
SkillSlate, which raised $1.1 million in seed funding back in October 2010, had burned through more than half its capital before deciding its original idea—to be a user-generated review system, like Yelp, but for freelancers—wasn’t going to work. “It was a really tough discussion to have with our backers, but we just knew it was time to pivot,” said Mr. Ringwelski.
In the vernacular of New York’s start-up world, to “pivot” is to acknowledge that the current model one’s company is using simply isn’t working, and thus, to change direction to try something new. SkillSlate was changing from a Yelp to a Craigslist, helping freelancers find work. For example: Matthew Pagliaro, the fire dancer who had left the smell of burning gas in the air, and whom Mr. Ringwelski found through SkillSlate, and contracted for $75.
“Right now, the economy is tough and this guy is an undervalued asset,” explained Mr. Ringwelski. “A lot of people are stitching together multiple careers. I hired a guy to be a personal chef for me and my girlfriend for just $100! He also works as an artist and a musician.”
The D.J. that night, Pitchfork Reviews Reviews, is also working on a film about his own life and holding down a stuffy government job he would rather not talk about. “People definitely have to know how to pivot these days,” he explained while typing on his Blackberry. “I was talking to my friend Hima, from [rap group] Das Racist, and he was explaining that in the future, everyone will have that Indian hustle.”
The fire dancer came back on for a second set. After the performance, the Transom joined him outside for a cigarette.
“I was working as a bartender just to pay the bills, but my bosses could see on my face that I didn’t want to be there. As of two weeks ago, I am full-time freelance,” said Mr. Pagliaro. As an artist, musician and occasional fire dancer, Mr. Pagliaro is hopeful he can find a way to support himself without sacrificing the creative life. “I think SkillSlate has the potential to be huge. I mean, it got me this gig tonight.”