When one thinks about the iconic companies that have propelled the growth of commerce throughout American history, the most popular brand names tend to rise to the forefront. Classic examples from the 20th century include corporations such as Disney producing Media, Ford innovating transportation, Marriott providing accommodations, and Wal-Mart in the Retailing Industry. Companies like these were characterized by their ability to employ thousands of people, impact millions of lives, earn billions of dollars annually, and help shape their respective industries. In recent years, a new generation of companies has risen to take the place of these older titans; however, they are doing so while employing fewer people and producing less. A recent Techcrunch article mentioned that this new class of company (led by modern archetypes such as Facebook in Media, Uber in Transportation, Airbnb in Accommodations, and Alibaba in Retailing) seeks to transcend new economic benchmarks by creating technology to connect consumers with content rather than producing the content themselves. Yet as we look forward towards the next wave of companies positioned to impact our nation’s economic growth, the downward trend in corporate employment coupled with the upward movement in innovation utilization has led to the birth & scale of Transient Intellectual Labor or “Individualized Corporations”.
Freelancers, Independent Contractors, Moonlighters, and even Temporary Workers comprise a uniquely diversified & rapidly expanding segment of the total U.S. economic output. Their collective impact is positioned to grow exponentially as Millennials continue to enter the workforce in droves and more Boomers embrace the shift towards work independence. Despite the growth of their influence, however, independent workers often lack access to tools that can streamline their search for new work opportunities. When looking at Independent contracting, like many other areas, the most favorable opportunities typically come from managers with whom one has built rapport with. Yet with time being the most precious resource for a freelancer, devoting a set period to contacting previous project managers through email & voicemail can be a risky proposition. Though it would be unwise to pass on “previously vetted” opportunities, the tradeoffs of losing potential billable hours or intruding on personal/family time can both have costly consequences. With this niche avenue in mind, the only services that exist today are several digital platforms (such as Elance and oDesk) that aim to match individuals with prospective work suppliers, but their focus on “low-priced freelancing” devalues and dilutes the quality of the contributions that independent workers provide.
With these obvious flaws in the freelancing marketplace in mind, the solution to the growing multi-billion dollar problem is a concept we are calling UnLocked. In a manner that is both simple yet effective, our team is focused on designing tools that provide freelancers with the ability to effortlessly manage a curated portfolio of contract opportunities provided by previous hiring managers. With decades of experience in IT staffing and seeing firsthand how difficult it was to search for the “next contract” while trying to remain completely focused on the current assignment at hand, UnLocked has been a very personal undertaking for our founding team. As the workforce continues trending towards independence, and UnLocked’s member base continues to grow, we felt that it was very important for those outside of our team to understand what drives us forward.
Technology and innovation are often considered industry changing forces, and those within the space must learn to adapt. The process of finding work in America has certainly evolved from the days of hand bills tacked on walls to digital postings on numerous websites, yet there is still a very partisan feeling when it comes to “employers” being in control. The quality of our workforce has increased exponentially over the past century, and we believe that the very best performing freelancers have earned some semblance of control over their independent careers. To be a successful freelancer, one must have a certain level of drive and internal motivation to manage themselves and their workflow. This inspiring level of belief is something that our team felt absolutely necessary to emulate as we designed a resource intended to impact millions of Americans over the next decade.
Through our quest to innovate for the future of the American workforce, we discovered three critical “doctrine” that have inspired the advent of UnLocked. Individualized empowerment, passionate freedom, and merit-based equality are the three beliefs that have become so essential to explaining why UnLocked is so important. Each of these phrases has a unique meaning for us because it is not only integrated into how we operate as a company, but it is also valuable in peeling back the layers on the constituents we are working to support. Even if the manifestation of our work in it’s technological form is lost upon someone, these beliefs should provide as a clear picture as any about our startup’s agenda.
Individualized empowerment means the world to freelancers (and the companies that hire them) which means that it was foremost among the things we value. This belief is essentially the democratization of labor in a manner that has never been available before, and as a national driven by independence, we are more than proud to help support labor autonomy for all. Passionate freedom is a concept that unfortunately most don’t get to enjoy, but having to the chance to integrate one’s work with their interests is just as vital to freedom as empowerment is. The freedom to do what you love, and to love what you do, is another pillar of what freelancers desire. The last belief, merit-based equality, is very simply the principle of getting what you earn. Freelancers and independent contractors all understand that their personal progress is a major determinant of how much or how little they earn; and as we hope to revolutionize how the world works with UnLocked, we often reference this belief when deciding how hard to work. With our “Why” as the undercurrent pushing us forward, understanding how UnLocked is changing the workforce is much easier conversation.
In terms of how UnLocked actually benefits both companies and freelancers, the product is very straightforward. The two critical groups of stakeholders that derive value from the platform are independent workers searching for contracting opportunities and project managers that are looking to staff an operation or undertaking. For freelancers, there is often difficulty in identifying the right opportunity in a timely manner; and for managers, identifying and retaining quality project workers was cited as their largest operational challenge. The UnLocked platform easily solves these challenges by integrating one’s network of professional connections with a passive communication strategy to streamline the typical search process. For UnLocked users, the expectation of curated portfolios of opportunities for freelancers and top personnel recommendations for project managers has replaced the use of cumbersome spreadsheets, endless email threads, and voicemails that were the former symbols of contracting.
When creating UnLocked, one of our key goals was to design a product that had the functionality of a social network with the intimacy of a genuine relationship. UnLocked’s true value is entrenched in how the patent-pending status & availability system not only matches the best talent with the possible contracts (and vice-versa), but also serves as a filter to “cut through the noise” associated with other networking and search methods. Many independent contractors are familiar with the plethora of calls and emails that accompany a resume update through traditional job boards, and managers can attest to the number of unqualified candidates that respond to their job postings. However, when consultants can be directly notified of credible opportunities based upon criteria such as their: availability, hourly rate, proficiencies, & status; then managers can evade the typical pains of the process and see the best quality candidates in a single location. By creating a simplified interface that treats contracting more like matchmaking than blind dating, we believe that UnLocked can offer the most streamlined solution for both independent consultants and project managers.
As industries transform and companies continue to progress, the workforce certainly must evolve to keep pace. Currently, over 53 million Americans consider themselves independent workers, and as that number grows, there will be more chances for innovation in bridging connections between and corporations. Despite the presence of services like Elance, Monster, and o-Desk, the contracting process is broken and inefficient. That being said, transforming the contracting search into an experience that is efficient, effective, and enjoyable is our primary goal. Today, UnLocked is truly a startup hoping to “disrupt the marketplace” in the way that startups do. We are a team filled with young minds and old souls constantly learning, changing, and expanding our reach to better connect contractors and managers. Each user that joins our platform and offers feedback is not only a testament to the need for change, but also a vital key to “UnLocking” the future of work.