SI Review: September 2013


The Buzz: Social freelancing

Coworks makes a cool ‘category’ trustworthy

By Andrew Karpie

Online staffing started as a vast open marketplace, where independence and free choice prevailed. Businesses and workers have been embracing new ways of arranging and conducting work.

And new kinds of online work platforms, based on different models and strategies, have been entering the staffing ecosystem.

This month, we cover a young online platform start-up that is pursuing a category specialization approach, but with a significant social twist. That company (focusing specifically on the work of digital marketing and design creative professional) is called Coworks and is based in San Francisco.

Greed may be good, but being informed is better

For Coworks, founded by entrepreneurs Henrick Dillman and Mattias Guilotte, the movement to more efficient online work arrangements (through which quality outcomes can be reliably achieved) requires the development and preservation of socially connected “trust networks” (in effect achieving quality validation through trusted referrals from known businesses and people).

Many online staffing platforms today rely upon work history and employer ratings to denote workers’ potential quality and reliability. Dillman and Guilotte believe such evaluation systems do not go far enough in establishing quality and reliability. What, they ask, is the difference between different 5-star or 4-star workers? How can a business determine which worker will really suit its needs?

According to Dillman, future competition among online work platforms will be significantly based on quality and reliability of workers. To efficiently achieve high quality and reliability, he says, there must be sufficient category specialization (i.e., certain types of work/workers engaged by certain kinds businesses) and established, trusted social referral networks (which can only really occur with category specialization).

Creating trust can promote business growth

Coworks provides a platform through which it is not only possible for businesses to source digitally savvy creatives, but to also establish trusted social networks of these creative professionals. When a business posts a gig, it is not only posted to workers who have already registered on the Coworks platform, the post is also pushed out across the social networks of the individual or business making the post. But this is just the beginning, as the pattern of social referrals and validations is applied again and again on the platform, gradually weaving together a network of trusted professionals.

Coworks anticipates a near-term future in which millions of small businesses will require more and more digital presence to succeed. Coworks aims to supply quality digital, creative talent to these small businesses in ways that other online platforms cannot by establishing social graphs not only among the network of digital, creative professionals, but among different businesses as well.

The Buzz

In the online staffing ecosystem, establishing quality and reliability of workers — in addition to promoting fluid and efficient work arrangement transactions — may be more like the staffing world, where referrals are a mainstay of sourcing candidates. In fact, maybe social connectedness will play an even greater role. Coworks may show us that some amount of “cooperative” behavior may be necessary to optimize the performance of online work marketplaces.

Andrew Karpie is an affiliate analyst with Staffing Industry Analysts. He can be reached at


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