Fixing a Broken System: How On-demand Talent is Paving the Way for the Future of Work.

10 min read

In early 2017, I joined MVP Factory as its first employee. At that time, the small four people MVPF team got together for one crucial reason: to find a better way to automate software development. Having built tech products ourselves we identified that access to top product teams was the number one problem holding great ideas back. The plan was to build and launch an MVP in a matter of weeks at a fixed price, enabling anyone to test their ideas quickly with real market users. We were builders by heart and wanted to ship code to generate real user insights, rather than filling PowerPoint slides with assumptions that many of our industry peers were selling for outrageous sums of money.

While our ambition to use standardized software skeletons and proprietary component libraries to reduce development time and costs was certainly a bit too future thinking, we made a very important decision that has remained part of our DNA till today.

We believed that to truly deliver the best digital products we needed to be "talent light". That meant leveraging the capabilities of a lean internal team in design, tech, product, and business by blending them with freelancers on every project. This would enable us to always work with the right people at the right time.

Using on-demand talent strategically this way, was a competitive advantage for MVP Factory. We laid the foundation for what would soon become Match, making this unique model available to the outside world.

MVPF

From day one we not only started to form a community of freelancers, but also built our very own proprietary software to grow, manage and retain this community. We wanted to keep the entry-level high and only work with the best in the industry. We personally screened every talent, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, preferences and dislikes to help us approach them with the most relevant projects and form the best teams for any of our upcoming projects.

We had found a winning formula: 

  • Freelancers worked on projects they chose themselves, being fully committed to the mission and experiencing steep learning curves. 

  • Their perfectly matched skill set would allow them to deliver better results faster and our clients would delight their end users with wonderful user experiences and, reaching their business goals more efficiently.

  • We were flexible, minimizing the risk and optimizing the costs of digital product building for our clients.

Learning from our clients and community

Building products and working with freelancers ourselves we learned about a few things that were broken in the industry. 

While access to the right digital talent will remain key to the success of any company in the coming decade, companies were struggling to identify what talent they needed, where to find it, and how to attract it. To further complicate matters we witnessed the demanded volume and variety of specific digital expertise evolve rapidly. Even the Big Tech companies (GAFAM) with immense capital and strong employer branding were not able to build the required skills internally or permanently hire them. To keep up with the pace of innovation, digital leaders will need to augment their permanent teams with a remote, on-demand workforce.

It's in the nature of software development that challenges are constantly changing. Digital leaders need to address each of these challenges with just the right talent for the job. This can only be achieved through a highly skilled and diverse liquid workforce.

At the same time, talent wanted to work on challenging projects with inspiring peers to build successful careers, but were confronted with unnecessary struggles: Finding new projects, understanding their strengths and weaknesses and what projects truly fit them, presenting themselves to clients, negotiating commercials, tedious legal paperwork, managing conflict on projects, running after overdue invoices, not getting feedback for their work, dealing with tax, legal and accounting hassle - all this often on their own. Despite these obstacles more and more digital talent was switching to freelance to enjoy constantly steep learning curves, flexible working hours, and remote work.

In between the talent and clients, recruiters and agencies had manifested themselves but unfortunately were mostly focusing on optimizing for their gain. They were arbitraging with sometimes outrageous commissions instead of making perfect matches between the two sides and enabling flawless and fruitful experiences for both parties involved. 

What was supposed to be an exciting process of innovation and shaping the world of tomorrow: taking risks, trying new ideas, designing scalable architectures and writing sophisticated code, seeing millions of users smile about flawless experiences, had become a game of distrust, lack of transparency. Both sides were left disappointed. Clients had become extremely risk-averse in building digital products and talent was essentially hiding from the market not to be bothered by the wrong companies and projects. We felt the need to focus back on maximizing the experience for both sides by aligning digital talent to organizations' delivery goals in a fully transparent and trustful way.

While we were and still are certainly far from perfect at tackling this market inefficiency we noticed that we were perceived differently by our clients and talent. Moreover, the talent light, agile staffing delivery model we set up for our own MVP Factory projects started to spark the interest of our clients. In 2019, we started to get more clients that had reached a certain level of maturity and understood what they wanted to build but did not have the team or skill-sets internally to execute on their vision. So they came to us and asked for our support to connect them with some of the awesome talent we had worked with to complete projects for MVP Factory.

We started to pilot the service with a selected group of clients and freelancers and saw tremendous success by the end of the year. We learned that what we had built over the course of two and a half years for us internally was actually a new way of working, the future of work. 

In January 2020, we separated Match from MVP Factory creating a new brand with its very own mission and vision. To bring back transparency and trust we decided to offer our services at a 20% commission transparent to both sides at all times. To make great matches we brought domain experts (ex Lead Engineers, Designers, or PMs) to every project who would understand our clients' challenges, personally screen talent, and personally oversee the matchmaking. Perfectly matching the world's best talent with outcome-driven projects we helped companies solve challenging problems and delight their users and talent to build a successful, fulfilling career.

Overall, we wanted to focus on building lasting relationships with our clients and talent, instead of monetizing short-term opportunities. We wanted to become a trusted partner for both sides in navigating the digital future.

Coming together to face new challenges

Starting the year with a record quarter, we were soon hit by a happening that would strongly shape our culture, business model, our community, the industry we were operating in, and everyone's individual lives.

Hybrid-workspace-Berlin

The global COVID-19 pandemic hit us mildly with only a few projects getting canceled, some engagements not getting extended, but what was truly different and challenging was the insecurity and uncertainty. Being a  small company, would we be able to sustain this? Worldwide lockdowns caused feelings of loneliness and stress. The team grew closer together and the ties to our freelance community strengthened. We started looking out for one another, regularly checking in, helping to cope without being able to see family and friends. 

While being hybrid before Corona, parts of the team working out of our Berlin HQ and parts being fully remote, spread across Europe, the forced move for WFH for everyone was doing us good and bad at the same time. Even for us having worked with distributed software teams since 2017, the pandemic brought new learnings on how to motivate, lead, collaborate and deliver while not being able to meet face-to-face (not even for a project kickoff or once per quarter). Being unsure about the future we stopped hiring new team members and quickly shifted our sales and marketing strategies.

Soon we received signals that despite the sorrow and pain this pandemic was causing around the world it was in fact having positive effects on our business model. We realized that this was our moment to shine. The accelerated digital transformation across all industries resulted in increased demand for highly skilled tech talent. Combined with the shift to remote work and the digitization of the workplace our global approach to talent sourcing enabled us to make matches independent of borders or timezones. Quickly changing our sales and marketing efforts had allowed us to catch the shifting demand from new industries and players in the tech scene allowing us to give job security to freelancers in our community that had lost their gigs due to COVID-19. What had been a slow process before the pandemic, had leapfrogged by almost a decade: The time for freelance, remote outcome-driven work and talent light is now; the future of work is here today, and we are in a prime position to shape it.

Enabling the Future of Work

Beyond just delivering talent on an ad-hoc basis we have become the go-to partner for some of these companies in ensuring that they have access to just the right skills for their strategic initiatives when they need it. We have consulted and provided talent for building deep tech PoCs up to the internationalization of platforms across the globe. Just last week I found myself in a call with one of our domain experts discussing the architecture, tools, and team setup for the modernization of the global frontends of a B2B market leader, engaging in deeply technical conversations and our client leaving the meeting refreshed with a ton of new insights. 

MVP MATCH TEAM

We have worked with more than 500 freelancers on over 1500 jobs, and most importantly, we’ve paid out over €6m to our talent community. We have built close relationships with many freelancers in our community, meeting them regularly for (virtual) coffee, exercise, working with them on open-source projects, advising them on career moves, and discussing venture ideas. Many of them claim that the projects with us have been among the best in their career and they prefer us to other providers in the market.

Yet, all this would not have been possible without our amazing core team of close to 20 people, spread across three continents and with an above industry average share of over 50% female members.

We are matchmakers, we are a platform, we make the market for digital talent smooth and efficient.

By doing this we enable our clients to hire digital talent with confidence, worry-free, and seamlessly just when you need it - we are your strong partner, so you do not have to worry about the most important challenge of the coming decade: Access to great digital talent.

As a developer, designer, product manager, or data expert we are your haven for building a successful freelance career with ease while enjoying what you do every day - all the benefits of the future of work while taking away the hassle of being on your own. 

Our whole business model is centered around connecting people, and it's a constant reminder that our teams and the ways we engage them, really are the difference between make or break. If MVP Match has taught me one thing, it's that people make our successes, and I'm so grateful to our team, our community and our clients for collectively coming together and pushing forward - here's to many more adventures to come!

About the Author

Levin joined MVP Factory as its first employee in 2017 as a product manager evolving to lead internal product development. In mid-2019, he took over talent operations responsible for how the company attracts, selects, matches, and retains the talent community. From there he co-founded Match in 2020, spinning off the community and vetted freelance talent service offering into a separate brand and entity. Before joining MVP Factory Levin studied Business and Economics at the RSM in Rotterdam, the NHH in Bergen, Norway, and the IPADE in Mexico City and worked in private equity finance in Mexico City and various ventures in the European startup ecosystem.