Enterprise Freelancer and Services Platform Space

Last week Spend Matters reported that Shortlist, a platform organizations can use to manage freelancers and service providers, had raised a $1.5 million seed round, bringing total funding from its inception in mid-2015 to $2.3 million. Shortlist now supports more than 25,000 users at companies that include Publicis Groupe, CBRE, Hays, Roche, AKQA and Western Governors University, according to a press release. Shortlist refers to itself as a “freelancer collaboration platform” and says it “automates the entire process of managing a large pool of contractors, freelancers, and vendors, from on-boarding new workers to organizing tasks and projects, services procurement and payments and tax forms.”

Discussion with CEO Martin Konrad

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Shortlist Co-founder and CEO Martin Konrad about some aspects of the company that may not have thoroughly discussed in the brief press release.

Konrad told us the company currently serves 20 “enterprise” businesses as well as a much higher number of small businesses. He said that at this time, the company has been seeing traction in two main verticals: media/creative (with companies like Publicis Groupe) and, interestingly, higher education (like non-profit, online Western Governors University).

Konrad noted that media/creative was clearly a good fit for the basic capabilities of the platform: mainly onboarding, private talent pool, tracking and invoice processing, but not functions (such as work assignments, work assignments) which constitute well-established, culturally embedded practices in the vertical.

Higher education organizations, however, tended to make more extensive use of the platform, particularly assignments of tasks and collaborative sharing of work among contingent workers that include curriculum development, program design, program testing experts in addition to course instructors. Konrad said that educational organizations tend to not have established and well-organized capabilities for assigning and tracking work, managing invoices and like, which is why they are engaging Shortlist as a full lifecycle solution all the way to payments.

According to Konrad, Shortlist’s approach to the market has been evolving rapidly, keeping the company’s development team in Poland very busy:

  • The platform functionality originally supported clients (like media/creative companies) that needed the basics, such as onboarding, private talent pool, tracking, maybe assignments. While the platform also included services provider sourcing capabilities (RFI/RFP), these were not utilized until later.
  • In the next stage, as Shortlist began engaging larger and more complex organizations requirements for functionality went beyond that of early clients to include, in addition to the above, more robust capabilities for assignments, collaboration, tracking and business intelligence, invoicing and payments, and, last but not least, services (SOW) sourcing in the form of RFI/RFP capabilities.
  • At this stage, sourcing services/SOW has become has become a significant and differentiating part of the solution for many clients and prospects, according to Konrad. Shortlist, he said, must be able to allow companies to source, not just from the freelancer population, but also from different kinds of sources, including consulting firms, creative agencies, staffing firms and even online marketplaces.

In addition to platform development, the company has been working with MSP providers positioning Shortlist as a technology partner to those organization. Konrad told us that Shortlist has already entered into a contract with a global MSP/staffing company and implementations are now under way.

Based on our conversation with Konrad and the rapid evolution of the platform to address the requirements of more complex and larger organizations, the need for additional funding would be normal at this stage. According to Konrad, the funding would largely be targeted in a few areas:

  • S. Market Expansion: Hiring sales/account management professionals and channel development (mainly through MSPs, like Hays)
  • Ongoing Platform Development: Enhancement of invoice processing and payment functionality for more complex client use cases
  • Content Marketing: Getting more visibility and brand recognition in the U.S. market

Spend Matters Commentary

Two years old and four months out of the Alchemist Accelerator, Shortlist is one of a few new entrants into third-party technology solution providers offering an enterprise platform for the management of freelance or independent workers and increasingly SOW/services providers. This solution segment is not quite new (previously referred to as freelancer management systems), but it remains an emergent and evolving one, with enterprise adoption of these solutions (usually considered complements to VMS) at a nascent and uncertain stage.

That said, it is encouraging to see that solutions in this segment continue to evolve and investments and new entrants continue to flow into the space. For companies like Shortlist, there is both good news and bad news. First the bad news: It is a tough road ahead in unchartered territory, as different, competing solution providers (including WorkMarket) attempt to find the right formula to accelerate enterprise adoption. And now the good news: Because this is an emerging and evolving segment, nothing is decided and there is much latitude going forward to get the formula right, at the right time. In fact, it is under such conditions that savvy “fast followers” can gain advantage over time.

Procurement practitioners must “mind the solution gap” between enterprises and the evolving and expanding range of — often digitally-enabled — types of workers and services providers. The filling of that gap, by whichever solution provider or providers, will be transformative for contingent workforce and services. Keeping a pulse on the dynamics of this space, and solution providers like Shortlist, is important.

Article written by Andrew Karpie, originally published on SpendMatters: http://spendmatters.com/2017/06/13/shortlist-continues-market-entry-enterprise-freelancer-services-platform-space/