Startup Bus is once again in high gear, as scrappy startup teams across North America (as well as remote Elancers around the globe) motor their way towards Texas for another epic showdown.
Follow the action through Thursday, via our social media pages, as we report live from inside various Startup Buses. This includes regular updates on how a plethora of talented Elancers are helping fuel the innovation.
In fact Elancers have been a huge part of many successful Startup Buses in the past, and have been on several winning teams.
This year, Startup Buses departed Sunday from Mexico City, Kansas City, Seattle, New York City, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Nashville. They’ll wrap up the completion in Texas on Thursday, March 6.
If you’re not familiar with Startup Bus North America, it’s a wild pitch competition. More specifically it’s where an assortment of entrepreneurs (most of whom are complete strangers to each other) pile into a bus with one thought in mind: Combine the know-how onboard (and online) to create a great company.
It’s a 3-day journey where each team buckles down to first decide their best collective idea for a company, then uses every resource available to bring that idea to life before rolling into Austin.
Hold onto your hat, as Startup Bus North America is sure to be a fast and festive journey.
Follow along and enjoy the ride! Oh, and to join in the conversation yourself, use hashtag: #startupbus
Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to freelancers who work on Elance. Here are some thoughts from Nikolaj Astrup Madsen, a Danish entrepreneur and creator of the popular Workaway Camp (which is a one week camp for entrepreneurs in a beautiful house in the mountains north of Barcelona). Check out how you can win a spot, including airfare.
There is a major trend towards working when and where you want to. I’m sure the internet and concepts like Elance are a big part of this trend. Nowadays it is possible to work within a niche, selling stuff online to the whole world just with a laptop.
In my eyes we are seeing a change of the perception of “success.” Normally success is defined by wealth, how far you can get in a big organization, etc. This trend is changing this, because it makes it possible for people to work and live like they truly want to. People living and working when and where they want to measure success in another way. They measure success in terms of knowledge, experience and most importantly happiness.
A lot of other articles describe why this is a cool and interesting way of life, so I am not going to dig deeper into that, but instead I am gonna give some concrete ideas and tips you can use, to make it easier to work and live wherever you like to.
I have gathered these experiences in around two years’ time. In that time I lived in Beijing, China for about a year and travelled a lot always with my laptop, working as a self-employed marketing consultant.
4 Tips on how to make it work.
Most self-employed people have some kind of customer contact. Most of the people I meet, whoworked remote had some kind of freelancing job, where they have to have contact to their customer.
Many customers would like to meet sometimes and many want to call you all the time. These kind of customers can be really difficult to work with when working remotely. I have been lucky to have customers that like the flexibility and email communication. I will always prefer these kinds of customers, because they are nice and easy to work with.
If you have some kind of freelancing job and you are thinking about doing it remotely, you might wonder how you can get your customers to agree to do it. Many people fear that they will lose customers.
I met a designer for an American newspaper in Beijing He had lived there for 5 years. He said that trust is the key to make it work. He asked his employer if they could just test it for some time and see how it went. The result was a cheaper employee (no office, lunch, etc.), and he was much more efficient because he worked when all the other employees were sleeping because of different time zones (which resulted in fewer emails, calls, etc.).
So if you need to convince a customer, show them that they can trust you. Try it for some time and show them even better results than before. Normally the fear of losing customers is not that relevant. Customers just want things done at a good price without too much trouble, so that is what you should give them!
1. Get an office abroad.
When I moved to Beijing with my girlfriend (who was going to there to study), I needed some kind of an office. I started out with working from home and coffee shops, but it can be pretty difficult to work in a Chinese coffee shop they can be pretty loud.
Instead, I did two things: I got a membership to Regus, which is a worldwide chain of offices. Normally, they are quite expensive, but they have a really nice concept called “Business Lounge”. All of their offices have these business lounges. It is just a kind small café where you can work with good Wi-Fi and free coffee.
Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to businesses and freelancers who use Elance. Here are some thoughts from Adam Franklin is a social media speaker, author of Web Marketing That Works and co-founder of Australian marketing firm Bluewire Media.
The future of work is already here. With a laptop and WiFi connection, your location suddenly doesn’t matter at all. Companies like 37signals and WordPress.com have been paving the way and demonstrating that ‘work’ now exists outside of the office cubicles that many of my friends inhabit.
Over 5 years ago I chose to start working remotely. I moved to the Gold Coast from Brisbane, and weaned myself from five days in the Brisbane office down to three. Since that day in 2009, my team and I have been taking baby steps that free us from the confines of traditional office. At the same time websites like Elance have made it a cinch to source freelancers from an ever growing global talent pool.
My business partner and I have now built a great team of people who are located all over the world. After eight years of paying rent, we’ve also just moved out of our Brisbane office too. We are one hundred per cent remote and these days I choose to work from Bondi Beach in Australia.
The remote toolkit.
The internet of course makes this new life possible, and the toolkit we need is pretty straightforward.
Skype: for video and audio calls
Gmail: for email
Google Drive: for collaborating on documents
Dropbox: for sharing and backing up files
Basecamp: for project management
This is all it takes from a technology point, and the only paid product there is Basecamp and it is very affordable and free for 60 days.
As a business owner, having all of our team members on an ‘as-needed’ basis is amazing for cash flow and flexibility. A typical week in the life of managing a remote team looks like this for me.
If you’re looking to win more jobs on Elance, you may want to lean in when Ming D. Leung speaks about Stretchwork.
Ming D. Leung is an Assistant Professor at the Hass School of Business on the University of California’s Berkeley campus. He specializes in economic sociology and the study of online labor markets. Ming has recently published an enlightening article outlining his findings in the area of “Stretchwork” (in layman’s terms – ever-so slightly broadening your skillset and work experience to your economic advantage).
In the article, Ming reports that freelancers are more-likely to get hired when having an incrementally expanding career path.
The benefits of incremental career growth.
More specifically, this means that you’ll be more successful on Elance by moving between similar, but not identical, types of jobs.
The paper also concludes that despite conventional wisdom, if you work exclusively on one specific type of job, you’re actually less likely to be hired.
An example would be a graphic designer. If you work solely on logo projects day-in and day-out, eventually you’ll be pigeonholed as exclusively a logo designer. Hence you’re not as desirable. But if you branch out to also design websites, brochures, and book covers, you’re more likely to get hired.
And important footnote is that the research suggests “incremental” stretching, not enormous leaps. “If you’re a writer who also does tax preparation, that’s not going to help you,” said Ming.
It makes sense when you think about it.
The underlying reason for this, as Assistant Professor Ming D. Leung explains, appears to be two-fold:
1. By stretching, clients see you as more committed to your career and they have more confidence in your abilities.
2. Clients want to build ongoing and ever-expanding relationships with freelancers who they’re comfortable working with. By seeing a broader range of skills in a background, they can project using that freelancer in various roles down the road.
To gather information for this study, Ming, an advisor to Elance, analyzed hundreds of thousands of job applications and tens of thousands of freelancer profiles on Elance. To take a closer look at his methodology and findings you can view his article, “Dilettante or Renaissance Person? How the Order of Job Experiences Affects Hiring in an External Labor Market,” published in the American Sociological Review.
Note that Ming is now building on the study, researching the role “online reputations” plays in this mix. As soon as he determines how your ratings and reviews factor into the big picture, we’ll let you know. Around here we can’t wait for the results.
Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to those who engage freelancers on Elance. Here are some thoughts from Nicholas Wright. He frequently hires freelancers and is one of the founders of AppInstruct, an online Course that teaches people how to make an app utilizing the Elance platform.
In our last guest post, we looked at how you might set about starting to turn your idea for a new mobile app, into an app. Today we’ll discuss a hot topic in the relatively new discipline of startup science, which is having a growing impact on traditional management education, the ‘minimum viable product’, before looking at how that relates to current market expectations for mobile apps.
Since the first dotcom boom in the mid-nineties, technology changes have made launching new products dirt cheap, radically lowering the barrier to entry for new ideas and products. What once required months of planning, writing a detailed business plan, pre-funding in the tens, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, can now be achieved for thousands of dollars. This shift has seen new management practices exposed and adopted.
Possibly, the most significant enabler in all this, has been the growth in the volume of computing power and digital storage that is now available online. This was pioneered by Amazon Web Services (when one of their product managers suggested the business as a good way to use their excess capacity), which remains the largest ‘cloud’ provider, with a free basic package, which includes 750 hours of server time. Similar services are now offered by the likes of Microsoft (Azure), Google (App Engine) and, acquired by Facebook, mobile focused Parse.
What this means, is that when turning your idea into an app, you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars building your own, proprietary server systems to support your app. Rather, you can hook it up to one of these cloud providers, which then allow you to increase your bandwidth (usage) as you grow your user base and needs demands it. An example of a very high profile mobile app company which has done this successfully, is Snapchat, which launched and ran for about six months, before it raised its first round of outside funding. We’ll return to Snapchat later.
Returning to the management theory, there are two leading authorities, who developed different theories whilst actually being involved in the same startup. Steve Blank and Eric Ries were both involved in IMVU, which was an instant messaging firm, where Mr Blank was an investor and Mr Ries, the Chief Technology Officer. Their approaches differ, in that Mr Blank in his books ‘Four Steps to the Epiphany’ and the more recent ‘Startup Owner’s Manual’ favours an approach of ‘customer development’, of ‘getting out of the building’ to talk to as many potential customers as possible, to learn what it is they want.
Let’s be honest, startups aren’t just for seasoned entrepreneurs who are branching off from the business world. Millennials are also starting new companies, often while still in college (or earlier). Our friends at Degree Library have created a fun infographic on the topic. Enjoy.
If you’re an entrepreneur with a healthy thirst for success, you’ll be glad to know that the future remains bright. There’s even a case study that validates you’re on the right path.
As this case study illustrates, here at Elance we’re constantly discovering new startups who’ve taken their business to the next level. Whether it’s getting initial funding, releasing that first product or earning some eye-popping revenues, startups today are enjoying unprecedented success.
But if there’s one theme we hear often from startups, it’s that given the time crunch you’re under, it’s absolutely critical to get to market faster with the best-possible product. “Those who hesitate are lost,” says entrepreneur Heini Zachariassen of Vivino. Founder and CEO of the Copenhagen-based startup, Heini and his team make an engaging phone app that allows wine lovers to photograph and share wine labels – as well as rate and discuss those wines.
Vivino has become a huge global hit, earning the distinction of being the most-downloaded wine app in the world and the highest-ranking wine app in the U.S. To give you an idea of how successful they’ve become, Vivino was recently featured in a Forbes article and has now opened an office in San Francisco.
What made Vivino’s startup success possible? As well as having a great idea for a product, one key factor was working with Elance to supplement their core team. “Without Elance we couldn’t have launched Vivino,” explains Heini. He hired freelancers at all stages of developing and launching the app. This includes hiring online freelancers ranging from mobile app developers to database experts. As mentioned above, there’s an enlightening case study on how Vivino was able to streamline development and get to market faster with a better product.
Check the case study out for some inspirational words, and insightful advice, for any startup looking to gain a competitive advantage. See Vivino case study
What a competition, eh? Let’s look back and reflect (including with this fun video recap of the event).
Thanks again to everyone who helped make the Elance Big idea Startup Competition a success of Olympic proportions. The international startup community is still buzzing about the contest – and naturally we’re thrilled to have helped so many deserving startups fund their vision.
In case you missed the action, here’s a quick wrap up.
The competition began in earnest back in December as over 800 startups began submitting “Big Ideas.” Each startup proposed what they would do with $2,500 worth of freelance work, entering in one of seven regions around the globe (or participating as a Worldwide Wildcard contestant).
By early January our judges had narrowed the field to 40 Semifinalists, with each receiving $2,500 in Elance credits. By late January Semifinalists used their $2,500 in freelance talent to create the work they proposed, bringing those Big Ideas to life. After live pitch events in seven cities (and online voting for our Worldwide Wildcard contestants), the competition was narrowed to eight Finalists. Each Finalist received an iPad plus prizes from local sponsors.
On February 6 our Grand Prize Winner was announced.
But not until all eight Finalists presented at a thrilling thee-hour Grand Finale.
It was at this online pitch event where the “great eight” Finalists put forward their Big Ideas to our panel of esteemed judges. Alas, in the end there could only be one winner, and Labster triumphed. Congratulations to Copenhagen-based CEO Mads Tvillinggaard and the entire team at Labster, who earned $10,000 in Elance credits plus an online meeting with a top venture capitalist. They also won a 10-year subscription to accounting services from Billy’s Billing -- a global sponsor of our competition. Labster will be using the freelance work to help “empower the next generation of scientists to save the world.”
We couldn’t have done it without you.
Putting together a contest of this magnitude couldn’t have happened without the support of so many people from the Elance community, as well as our generous partners, high-profile judges, inspirational guest speakers, lively audience members and many, many others.
Our gratitude goes out to one and all for helping us pull-off such an amazing event. To see what people are saying about the Elance Big Idea Startup Competition, check out (and share) our specially-created social media page.
One of the hottest fields these days is 3D printing. It’s front and center on most everyone’s mind – from journalists and venture capitalists to manufacturers, consumers and of course, enterprising startups looking to cash in on the next big thing.
In case you’re unfamiliar, 3D printing allows people to use plastics and other materials to print anything from car parts to toys (and who knows what?), right from the factory floor or kitchen table. The revolution is without question shaking up what’s possible.
Here at Elance we’re always among the first to see trends, and we’re definitely seeing a spike in activity related to 3D printing projects. We also have a full-range of freelance 3D experts ready to tackle projects, so feel free to hire a CAD designer for your next project. Right now we have nearly 400 3D printing jobs on Elance, among the 70,000 3D jobs currently listed (ranging from 3D CAD, modeling and scanning to 3D animation). For more information, see our trends section.
Hoping to support those in the 3D printing realm, Elance has also hosted meetups recently to foster better communications and to accelerate development. Much like the “homebrew computer club” that spawned the personal computing industry in the 70’s and 80’s, these meetups focus on the quickly-emerging world of 3D printing. Last week at our Silicon Valley headquarters our 3D printing meetup featured 75 entrepreneurs who enjoyed a presentation by Geoffrey Doyle, CEO of GrowShapes and Steve Nguyen, VP Marketing of Sixense Entertainment.
After whittling down an impressive list of over 800 amazing and inspiring contestants to our 8 Finalists, the Elance Big Idea Startup Competition winner was announced today at our Grand Finale competition.
Our Finalist from the Copenhagen region (and located in Copenhagen as well), Labster is an internationally focused company dedicated to the development of pioneering online tools for teaching science globally. They partner with top universities and their leading faculty to create and develop innovative, scientifically advanced laboratories.
As the winner of our Big Idea Startup Competition, Labster has won $10,000 in Elance credits – as well as a meeting we’ll soon arrange with a top venture capitalist. They’ve also won a 10-year subscription to accounting services from Billy’s Billing -- a sponsor of our contest.
According to Labster CEO Mads Tvillinggaard Bonde (who presented at our Grand Finale), the freelance work will go a long ways to grow their business.
“We will use the award of $10,000 Elance credits to expand our platform to the next level by implementing detailed analytics and feedback to students and teachers,” Mads explained. “Elance makes it possible for us to hire domain experts that can rapidly co-create what we need together with our team, while our in-house developers can focus on our core products.”
We’re sure the awesome freelance talent, funding get-together and accounting assistance will go a long way in bringing Labster’s big idea to life. Good look from the team at Elance.
A big success. Thank you.
We want to thank everyone who participated in the Big Idea contest.
This ranges from the many startups who submitted ideas to our esteemed judges. We also want to thank people who voted online, and everyone who attended live events. And last but not least, thanks to folks who followed the action here on our blog or through social media. We hope you all enjoyed the competition as much as we did.
Gracias, and look for additional startup events from Elance once we catch our breath (whew!).