Employers are increasingly hiring independent contractors rather than full-time employees as a means of cutting their labor costs, and matching those employers with freelance workers is becoming an online industry unto itself. As these online matchmakers strive to differentiate themselves, one new entrant, MyCrowd, is hoping that integrating its platform with the applications users are already working in when they need freelance help will tip the scale in its favor.
I recently spoke with MyCrowd co-founder and CEO Matthew Cordasco about the San Francisco-based company’s aspirations, and he explained that MyCrowd aims to become an aggregator of freelance talent, and to make that talent accessible to employers in a way that’s as convenient and seamless as possible.
“Our concept was, you have tools you use every day, why have to add another one to hire and monitor your workers?” Cordasco said. The idea is to extend the functionality of the software you’re already using. So, for example, if you’re creating a document, and you need a copyeditor to wordsmith a paragraph, or somebody to translate a page or add a compelling graphic, you can click a button within that application and find a freelancer in near real time to accomplish that task.
It’s a fairly grand vision.
“There are, obviously, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of different pieces of software, so we’re not saying that we work in every piece of software right now,” Cordasco said. “But that’s the aspiration. That’s the goal.” He explained that they’re starting with Web-based software, like Google Docs.
“If you’re on one of these Web-based apps, you can just launch the MyCrowd extension, and MyCrowd opens as an overlay on top of the Web page that you’re on,” Cordasco explained. “So you could be on LinkedIn, and click it, and MyCrowd slides down on top of LinkedIn. You do your MyCrowd business, monitor your workers, send a message, roll it back up, and you’re still on LinkedIn. That’s what we built first.” Over time, Cordasco said, MyCrowd will integrate more deeply with various apps so that contextual information from the work being performed within the app can be used to define the requirements when sourcing a freelancer through MyCrowd.
It’s going to be interesting to see how far MyCrowd, and other online platforms like oDesk, Elance, and Guru, will be able to take this model, because there are certainly some inherent constraints. I noticed a blog post on the MyCrowd website, for example, about hiring freelance virtual executive assistants. I mentioned the post to Cordasco, and I noted that in my experience, the nature of the job of executive assistants is that they have privileged access to company information, which is why that job typically involves a thorough vetting and screening process that includes multiple in-person interviews. And there are, obviously, a lot of other jobs that fall into that privileged access category. So I asked Cordasco how that reality meshes with the inherently disembodied and remote nature of the online freelance marketplace world. He said it was a valid question, and that a “user-beware” element is inherent to the model.
“It speaks to the level of trust that you have with virtual workers in general,” he said. “Right now, we don’t have a mechanism in place to vet workers, or have people sign another level of contract, or bonding, or anything like that, for certain tasks.”
The good news is, that’s going to change. Cordasco said that within the next two quarters, MyCrowd will launch an enterprise-grade, controlled environment in the form of a “private crowd.”
“As we go along, we are working with and vetting a higher set of the worker base that have absolutely stellar marks across their communications skills, deliverability performance, and success in working with customers,” Cordasco said. “These are people who have a track record and are willing to sign additional paperwork around confidentiality and NDAs.” The enterprise gets the cost advantage of working with freelancers, he said, while at the same time mitigating risk exposure.
Cordasco said roughly 20 percent of MyCrowd’s freelancer pool is in the United States, with 19 percent in India, 14 percent in the Philippines, 9 percent in Bangladesh, and 8 percent in Pakistan; another 140 countries provide 3 percent or less. The United States accounts for about two-thirds of the site’s five-star-rated workers, he added.