Rise of the tech-driven talent matchmakers
On-demand matchmakers are looking at new ways to harness technology in order to match professional skills with corporate or individual buyers.
over the past few years, the “on-demand” economy has gained plenty of attention – and investment – with nimble services such as Airbnb, Lyft and Etsy competing with established corporate juggernauts in their respective sectors (travel, transport and retail).
One oft-cited definition for the on-demand economy is “the economic activity created by technology companies that fulfil consumer demand via the immediate provisioning of goods and services”. According to data from the US National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS), the on-demand economy is attracting more than 22.4m consumers annually and $57.6bn in spending in the US. The largest category of on-demand spending is online marketplaces (such as eBay and Etsy); transportation (Uber, Lyft) comes in second, followed by food/grocery delivery.
While these are the usual suspects, another category is growing fast: professional freelance or contract services. Fuelled by the rising number of freelance and contract workers around the world, as well as corporates looking to downsize and streamline, new technology companies are emerging that seek to act as talent matchmakers.
Although freelancer platforms such as Upwork and Freelancer.com have been around for some time now, a new breed of professional talent matchmakers is looking to do things differently. These services aim to harness technology in order to more effectively match skills with corporate or individual buyers.
Locally, for example, the recently launched Kalido is a smartphone app that looks to connect various professionals using a personalised matching system. According to reports, the start-up raised almost $5m (R73m) in funding from angel investors earlier this year.
Ashvin Sologar, co-founder and chief operations officer of Kalido, says traditional talent matching or freelancer platforms have been “exploitative” and have failed to connect people in a way that fosters trusting and Co-founder and chief operations officer of Kalido mutually beneficial relationships. This is why Kalido has taken a different approach, he says, and looks to leverage people’s existing networks and physical location to initiate matches.
As the Kalido website states, the platform “finds you relevant matches that can help you with what you’re doing right now”. It then ranks these matches based on how close they are to you socially (a friend ranks higher than a friend of a friend), and physically. Sologar points out that other factors that build trust and make it easier to work together (such as common contacts, networks, and interests) are also considered. This helps you “decide on the best person to work with, and encourages safer, more personal, and more meaningful connections”.
“Other platforms require freelancers to submit to a star rating or to systems that are often very dehumanising – instead of highlighting their skills and expertise as a human being,” adds Sologar.
Notably, Kalido does not take a commission from any match, and users are free to negotiate their own rates once the match has been made.
“While we have very clear plans for monetisation, we do intend that [the app] will always be free for users,” says Sologar, adding that they are also looking at building in some freemium services.
Another recent entrant into the talent matchmaking mix is Flexy, a digital platform that helps companies to “find, contract, manage and buy skills on demand from verified experts”.
Flexy takes responsibility for finding and vetting the professionals who get listed on the site, and as Flexy founder Annette Muller points out, they only list “top talent”.
According to Muller, what sets the platform apart from existing services is that it promotes ongoing relationships and the “re-purchasing” of skills.
“All Flexy buyers [companies buying skills from freelancers] build up their own on-demand pool of skills that they wish to work with over and over again, almost like having your own pool of Uber drivers, if you may,” she says. “This feature specifically caters to building positive, long term and loyal relationships with your team of freelancers who retain company knowledge and get better working with you over time, but still gives you access to a variety of expertise and skills as and when you need it. This ‘Your pool of skills-on-demand’ feature enables companies to re-purchase from their pool with one click of a button – making it a lot easier and faster to buy skills from someone you have worked with before.”
Muller says Flexy fees are “a fraction” of what agencies and consulting firms typically bill their resources out at. “This enables Flexy to serve freelancers directly to clients, or to supply resources to consulting firms and advertising agencies as well, where there is more than enough margin available in the supply chain for everyone to benefit whilst delivering fair value,” she adds. “We are seeing more and more companies choosing to work with freelancers and independent consultants directly, enjoying much lower hourly rates and taking responsibility for managing performance and outputs themselves. But there will always be a place for both models.”
For the likes of Flexy, Kalido and other talent matchmakers trying to gain a foothold in the on-demand economy, a lot will depend on whether each party gets a fair deal. What such a fair deal looks like, is anybody’s guess.
“Other platforms require freelancers to submit to a star rating or to systems that are often very dehumanising – instead of highlighting their skills and expertise as a human being.”