Who you optimise your platform for is probably what’s ruining it. So do the reverse.
You may have noticed a flourish of “premium” or specialist freelancer platforms lately.
It’s an obvious problem to solve; everyone who’s looking to outsource creative or development work complains about how hard it is to find talent.
The video call was about developing a niche specialist platform within a particular medium.
As the wireframes came through and we discussed the business model and features, it became obvious that this platform was falling prey to a typical thought-trap that affects a lot of startups when it comes to product design: what to optimise the platform for in order to be profitable.
The typical thinking of people with investor money follows a sort of obvious logic, e.g.
- Your high tech startup should invest highly on recruiting the most talented engineers (necessary for building stuff), and not so much on HR, right?
- If you have a paid platform for recruitment, or freelance platform aimed at big companies wishing to outsource work, you optimise for the paying customer, right?
- If you have a national park around seeing the Iberian lynx, you make sure the environment optimised for the lynx. Not the dime-a-dozen wild bunnies, right?
It’s obvious and logical, right?
- Bunnies are the basis of the the entire lynx ecosystem. No bunnies? No foxes who eat the bunnies, no lynxes (who eat foxes).
- Those highly motivated, super-talented employees need even more care and maybe even personal development than average employees. You absolutely need skilled HR or risk becoming the next Uber.
- without optimising to attract high quality talent, your customers have nothing worth paying for on your platform. You’ve created an expensive HR/Freelance equivalent of those dollar book clubs. People will try it out, and then they’ll move on. And the next platform will try and fix the problem.
It’s the opposite of trickle-down economics. Especially since this model actually works.
Optimise your platform around the bunnies, the building blocks upon which the whole ecosystem depends.
Make it attractive and easy to those niche case designers, graphic artists and developers who bring that ‘magic extra’ perspective to a team, not just your mental image of what a ‘typical’ developer or ‘creative’ looks like.
Make it attractive to people with ten+ years in industry who aren’t desperate for any job but are interested in sharing skills and belonging to a community or seeking a better quality of work/life balance.
Make it inclusive to women and non binary people (that means at least having a documented process for behaviour policy and how complaints are dealt with, and well as a diversity plan), not because it’s ‘PC, but because it results in stronger products and more sustainable businesses.
Think of it this way: everyone else is optimising in other direction and there’s still no clear best in breed. So, this is how you can differentiate and stand out.
Need a hand finding that building block?
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