Manchester start-up looks to AirBnB enterprise model
A social platform connecting creative freelancers with businesses is targeting the enterprise market with an AirBnB-style approach.
Manchester-based start-up Twine has 220,000 freelance graphic designers, animators, musicians and filmmakers on its books and was named one of our '101 Rising Stars' of the UK tech scene earlier this year.
CEO and co-founder Stuart Logan, 31, told BusinessCloud that there was previously a “disconnect” when describing the marketplace to larger companies and agencies.
“They couldn’t see how they would use it,” he said. “They would rather get on the phone or drop an email to someone with their requirements – it’s how they work.
“Twine Enterprise gives these companies an account manager. The value proposition is similar in terms of saving them time and money when hiring good quality freelancers, but it’s a more personal approach.
“Our team will actively do outreach with our network and find out if they want to work on these projects.
“We vet the pitches which we allow through to the client as we don’t want them bombarded with 10, 20, 100 pitches, which happens on similar platforms.”
He continued: “There’s an AirBnB Enterprise, which is basically B2B sales, which brings in between 10 and 20 per cent of that company’s total revenue.
“It’s not the biggest amount, but allows large contracts to come through on a consistent basis. I see it heading a similar way with us.”
Since launch Twine Enterprise has signed up six new customers: US-based legal services giant Legal Shield and five digital and creative agencies based in the Greater Manchester region.
“The main problem agencies have is in finding good enough quality freelancers that they can trust, which leads to lower growth as they cannot deliver on all their clients’ requirements,” Logan said.
“Using recruiters is expensive and opaque – you don’t know how much the freelancer is getting, just know how much the recruiter is billing you for.
“Our algorithms help hand-pick freelancers for projects. Our clients are then able to build a relationship with someone they can trust which they have never worked with before.”
Founded by Manchester University computer science graduates Logan and Damien Shiells, the firm’s mission is to “empower creatives” – something it achieves through online portfolio building, constructive feedback on unsuccessful pitches for projects and the opportunity for creatives to collaborate on personal projects.
“One example is graphic designers pitching on animation projects when there’s no evidence on their portfolio that they’ve worked on any animation projects,” Logan explained.
“Or someone pitching on a £1,000 project and only writing one paragraph of text to explain why they should be chosen.
“We give them active feedback on why they’ve not got through to help them for next time. On other platforms they don’t hear anything so they rinse, repeat and get the same response.
“Every freelancer started somewhere – no one starts working with Coca-Cola at the age of 18!”
Twine has a staff of seven – including two full-time developers – who, in true start-up fashion, are involved in many areas of the business.
However Logan has taken a back seat when it comes to the tech side.
“I pitch in when needed but now I mostly work on the business side of things,” he said. “I’ve had to learn how to sell the company to investors, customers and the team, something that did not come naturally to me!
“British people are more reserved than those in the States, and I’m no exception – which doesn’t help!”
With £900,000 raised to date from Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Creative England, Seedcamp, AXM and and notable angel investors such as Herb Kim, Chris Mairs and Stephen Pankhurst – founder of FriendsReunited – he must be learning pretty fast.
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