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.

Finweek English Edition - - TREND THE WEEK - By Jessica Hub­bard ed­i­to­rial@fin­week.co.za

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.”

Ashvin Sologar

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