In November 2010, we at YourStory had put together a quick guide on working with freelancers (check out that story here). For startups (and sometimes, even for large corporations), getting the right kind of people is one of the major challenges. Put that together with cases where startups get the opportunity to work on a large project that needs to be executed in a short span of time. In such scenarios, entrepreneurs are torn between hiring more people and rejecting the project altogether. Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and CEO of PeoplePerHour, promises a solution to that problem. In this exclusive chat with YourStory, he speaks to us about the online marketplace that he’s created for freelancers and his venture’s plans for India.If someone asked you to tell them about PeoplePerHour in about three sentences, what would you say?
PeoplePerHour is an online marketplace connecting small businesses and freelancers all over the world in a trusted environment where they buy and sell services to each other.
Businesses use our site to remain flexible and efficient, scaling their business up or down as and when they need to without the overheads and cost of traditional employment.
Service providers (‘freelancers’) on PeoplePerhour come in many varieties and with various skills, from self-employed professionals, incorporated businesses or simply people who work around their job to supplement their income and explore the talents that they are passionate about.
How is PeoplePerHour different from other online freelance opportunity listings?
PeoplePerHour is about finding talented people who work freelance, as opposed to the cheapest solution. Hence, we are seeing a reversal of trends in that companies in India are using PeoplePerHour to outsource work to those in the West. It is a cost-effective way of bringing in expertise for those booming companies in India that want to harness the expertise available in the West.
How did the business idea for PeoplePerHour come about?
In 2003, I was fresh out of university and totally inexperienced. I started a business whereby companies and individuals could outsource project work to a team of virtual assistants remotely and pay on a ‘per hour’ basis. A few years later, I thought of a better way of connecting businesses with talent online, essentially cannibalising our own business. The result of this was (what was then) ‘pa-per-hour.com’ an online marketplace connecting small businesses with virtual assistants through online bidding.
Six months later, following the quick success of this model, it was rebranded to PeoplePerHour and we expanded to cover over 10 service categories and 30 sub-categories. Less than 3 years later, the business is now in over 150 countries. There are 3 offices worldwide and we have more than 100,000 registered freelancers and over 36,000 registered businesses across the globe, transacting business of over $ 5 million per month.
Today, PeoplePerHour is one of the fastest growing communities of talented freelancers and small businesses who connect online. In 2009, we were dubbed as ‘an eBay for business’ by BBC and a ‘barometer for business’ by CNN.Tell us about your background.
I started my career as an engineer working for a big FTSE 100 company where, in 6 months time, I realized that I was intensely allergic to large companies and the bureaucracy that governs them. Inexperienced and utterly unemployable at the age of 23, I decided to pursue my dream of being an entrepreneur by starting a service that allowed time-starved individuals to outsource work and tasks on a ‘per hour’ basis to a multi-skilled remote team. Three years later, this led to the creation of PeoplePerHour.
I also hold an MA/M.Eng from Cambridge University and attended executive education at Harvard Business School.
Let us know about the tie-ups that you have (if any). Is there acceptance for your concept? Can you give us some incidents to illustrate the same?
When we speak about the acceptance of our business concept, I would like say that we are proud to be backed by some of the world’s smartest and most successful investors including Index Ventures (who’ve funded Skype, Betfair, Etsy, Last.Fm, MySql, LOVEFiLM) and angel investors like Michael Van Swaaij who started eBay in Europe and was, most recently, Chairman of Skype.
Where do you see outsourced project work and PeoplePerHour five years from now?
The key trend we are witnessing is that outsourcing is shifting from being a pure cost-saving solution to one of hiring the best talent at the best possible cost. The internet is opening up a huge and competitive landscape for even SMEs and competing in that scenario requires a better execution methodology across all business functions. It is all about raising the bar for business and at the same time, opening a huge opportunity.
To capitalize on that, businesses need to hire experts in their respective fields affordably, and that’s what PeoplePerHour is all about. This is especially true in case of high growth and emerging economies that are developing an SME sector. We are serving a huge market where essentially every small or medium-sized business is a potential customer. We believe that, with time, all SMEs will work in smarter, more flexible ways by making use of freelance talent that they can hire in a trusted environment like PeoplePerhour. Our site is all about making that basic proposition more accessible, more trusted and more reliable. We are growing at a fast pace and on an average, the growth rate is more than 20 % in terms of registered businesses and service providers (freelancers) across the globe.
What is PeoplePerHour's revenue model?
Creating a profile is free. We charge a small service fee on success based on the usage plane that the service providers would like to choose. There are no charges for service providers who opt for the “standard” usage plan. We charge £ 7.95 per month from service providers who opt for the “gold member” usage plan and £ 14.95 per month who opt for the “platinum member” usage plan.Our site is “free” to businesses (‘Clients’) and we charge a small service fee to those who win work only on success.
PeoplePerHour successfully amalgamates the concepts of online professional reputation and an outsourcing marketplace. Key features include ‘posting of jobs’ followed by ‘review of bids by freelancers’, ‘allotment of work’, ‘make payments for the job’ and the ability to leave ‘feedback’ on each service provider, which helps other businesses evaluate each freelance professional.
As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?
The best reward of being an entrepreneur is watching your own creation coming to life and that too, in a form which drives people and help them accomplish their desired objectives. At the heart, there lies a deep passion for innovation. As an entrepreneur, I hate when things are done badly and need to rework on them.
There are many challenges which are primarily related with business expansion, especially when you are expanding your footprint in high growth and emerging economies. The biggest challenge is to bring about a change in the mindset of the people and make them aware of the potential of the web and opportunities of doing business in a virtual environment.
How big is the PeoplePerHour team? Are you looking at hiring?
We have our offices in London and Athens. We also have a small office in Hyderabad where we have some freelance staff doing web development and customer support/community moderation functions. We are looking to grow this as our presence and usage in India grows. We are proud to have a multi-talented, multi-cultural team with an inspiring mix of ethnicities, and background, all of which come together to deliver our shared and bold vision with envious zeal and passion. We are a team of more than 35 people working from our three offices.
You had mentioned that you've been funded. Can you tell us about the kind of investment made? Also, let us know about your expansion plans.
We have recently raised over $6 million in venture capital funding to invest in our international expansion of which India is a key part. We are primarily focusing on high growth and emerging economies.
How has the journey been so far? Can you tell us about the usage patterns that you’re seeing?
Since launching in 2007 in the UK followed by US and India, more than 36,000 small and medium sized businesses across the world have used PeoplePerHour to outsource over $ 33,100,000 worth of services, from small one-off projects worth less than $150 to on-going contract work.
Over 36,000 business clients now use PeoplePerHour to outsource work regularly giving our community of more than 1,00,000 talented freelancers immense reach for little or no cost. India has more than 14,000 registered service providers (freelancers) and is growing at a rate of 20 %.
The quantum of work that is being currently transacted at PeoplePerHour is over $5m per month and India is currently at 20% of the global pie. The average hourly rate for freelancers globally is $26 approximately and for India the average hourly rate is currently at $16. Earnings primarily depend on the nature and quantum of work being outsourced, which is being calculated on an hourly rate basis.
Jobs like web and graphic designing, software development, content writing and editing, translation and transcription, data entry jobs, accounting jobs, marketing consultancy, research, etc, are available for freelancing in India. Technical jobs related to the information technology domain and technical writing is outsourced online. IT outsourcing tops the list from India.
We at YourStory wish Xenios and the entire team at PeoplePerHour all the best. To try the services provided by the featured enterprise, check out http://www.peopleperhour.com/. Also, please do share with us your thoughts and comments about this story. You can write to us at email@example.com.
Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 18th March 2011 | Bangalore