This recent Essay by Paul Graham took me back to the beginnings of PeoplePerHour. I read it with nostalgia remembering those early days of insanity, of doing things that don’t scale and make little sense at the time. Yet make all the sense in the world tpday 5 years in.
PPH began as an experiment from an older business I started which was in essence an offline version of what we do today. We were an old fashioned ‘outsourcing shop’. Initially for consumer services and later for business. We’d go to companies (mainly small businesses) and say “give us all the crap you don’t want to do and we’ll do them for you”. We charged £25 per hour. The model was simple: I hired ex-secretaries, and as long as I kept them busy for 70% of their time I covered their costs. The 30% was my profit.
One day, I had an insane idea. I thought “why am I paying for these people and hiring them out instead of creating a website for them to hire themselves out directly?”. It was one of those profound ideas where your next thought is “why on earth didn’t I think of this before”.continue reading »
I wrote this piece recently in a column i contribute to for the Huffington Post link
In the past year we’ve seen the amount of time UK freelancers are selling their services to companies abroad (and in particular to far Eastern countries) more than double on PeoplePerHour. You’d think that these are specialist services from the upper echelons of our labour force. But they are not. They are skills that the average middle class Brit has, thanks largely to our education system. Skills like writing good English copy, organizational task, helping a small business to basic math or data management, voiceovers, and some more specialised skills like design and technical development work
These services ‘exported’ to the fledgling SMB sector in less developed countries is a reflection of a basic macro-economic principle: what’s in abundance in some countries is scarce in others. The Western economies like the UK may have some of the most sophisticated medical systems, militaries and – once although dwindling – manufacturing infrastructures. What is often overlooked, is that we also have is a middle class that’s more educated than most economies across the world. The middle class is what emerging economies are in need of the most in order to trickle down their new-found wealth to small and medium sized businesses – which, lo and behold, become the backbone of a developed economy.continue reading »