Californian startup MyCrowd helps companies to find freelance service providers by integrating their details into the most popular computer software applications.
All evidence shows that the freelance market is booming. The Economist and the Harvard Business Review have each pointed to a 700% increase since 2008 in Internet-based freelance work, with a current figure of $420 billion for the global spend on services provided by freelancers. Meanwhile the latest research identifies 40 million freelancers in the United States alone and estimates that in ten years’ time 30% of all US workers could be independent service suppliers. Companies based in areas where the cost of living – and therefore workers’ wages – are very high can reduce their overall wage bill spend by drawing on this growing pool of independent workers without having to outsource work to other countries. Former IBM employees Matthew Cordasco and Kirk Franzen were inspired by the high potential of this market to launch their startup MyCrowd in Silicon Valley last year. However, their approach reverses the usual freelance model. Instead of firms having to go to a dedicated platform to find someone to do a job for them, MyCrowd brings the specialist providers directly to the notice of the company by integrating its freelance-finder functionality into the most popular computer software applications. The startup has just raised $500,000 in seed funding to add more connectors, including Evernote, and expand beyond its existing base of around 10 million specialists.
Finder service integrated into workstation software
The MyCrowd platform for crowdsourcingfreelance services enables companies or individuals to find and hire an independent specialist with a single click, without quitting the application – e.g. Optimizely, Google Docs, Power Point, Asana, BaseCamp or any Internet page – in which they happen to be working at the time. Integrated directly into the leading productivity tools, MyCrowd will connect a search to its many partner platforms, including oDesk, Elance and Freelancer.com. For instance, an executive working on a PowerPoint pitch can hire a designer and/or a proofreader without quitting the tool. In some ways, the startup combines the ability to spot service providers in low-price locations with the ease and immediacy of a Dropbox-like interface, on-the-go. MyCrowd charges user fees of between 2% and 15%per transaction.
Creating the biggest marketplace for freelance offerings
MyCrowd’s main competitive advantage stems from the fact that it integrates its freelance-finder service directly into software programs, rather than adding a new tool to the long list of computer applications used on a daily basis. MyCrowd also intends to partner with startups such as oDesk, Elance and Guru, which aim to meet similar needs, so as to aggregate all freelancers on to one platform. The challenge for MyCrowd however will be to achieve its aim of becoming an aggregator across all these platforms, and making sure that it is not regarded as just another new entrant looking to tap into an established, commoditized market. The startup founders have announced their intention of making an API available to developers later this year so they can build their own add-ons, extensions and connectors, leveraging MyCrowd’s features and aggregated lists of specialists.