Grindery, simply put.

This post is continuous work in progress, a draft, a simple collection of thoughts about our rapidly evolving venture: Grindery.io. Rather than seeking the ultimate truth and the perfect way of expressing it, I decided to put down the words as they first came to mind. Primarily for all of my fellow team members and partners at InboundLabs.co. If you would like to provide feedback just catch me on Slack, Telegram or jump right into the source document here.

Update 25th of October 2018: If you are interested in the latest iteration of our thoughts regarding Grindery read this blog post instead.

 

To understand the concept of Grindery it is important to understand the origins and history of InboundLabs. At InboundLabs we have found a way for people from many walks of life, professions, and skills to work when, where, and as much as they want. While this in itself seems to be a simple result of the “freelance” model, it is worth pointing out that we achieved this without the common downsides. On one side no micro-management and automated screenshot software for your desktop computer. On the other side we have not fallen into the 5-dolla-an-hour job category: we have been delivering team-based solutions at-par with other major marketing agencies.

Through InboundLabs we have not only created special value for customers by giving them access to effective teams instead of just individuals. We have also created lasting value for team members by creating stability, continuity, and community:  a sort of “family,” the missing part of 99% of all freelancer work. Something I personally enjoy and that - as it turns out - significantly impacts productivity as Stanford research found out. 

InboundLabs has allowed all of us to spend time in “the pit” (surfing lingo for being at the best place of a wave :) rather than “on the bid” (freelancer lingo for wasting time writing Upwork bids). Less marketing yourself, less competitive selling, less invoicing, less of doing things you are not enjoying. Less hustle. We can all spend more time doing things we are good at and get paid for it.

With Grindery we will take this experience from the last few years to the next level. At the center lies a simple, yet powerful idea: member-curated supply. Simply put, it will allow you, us, the Grinders to decide when and how new members join the network and when they will be assigned paid work. 

 

Let me explain: 

How we work today is that a project comes into the pipeline and we pass it to existing team members depending on their availability. If our current team is maxed out, we add team members as necessary. This means that supply (number of team members) is driven by the demand (work that needs to be done for customers). Yet the decision of who does the work was, up until now, done by the company’s leadership. Our intention is to leave this decision to the team: you, the Grinders.

 

This concept brings a lot of benefits.

First, it tends to give current members more work until they decide for themselves that more people are needed. Again, this means work comes to you. You don’t have to go out and hustle all the time.

Second, with the right incentive model in place, it makes sure the customers get the best people - vetted by fellow team members - for any given job. It provides more value to customers. If implemented correctly incentivized recommendations will create a scalable network effect. This will result in a significant sustainable competitive advantage, a network based on reputation and driven by referrals.

Initially, Grindery will need to invest in the scouting, vetting, and training of its members and find ways to further increase productivity, connecting people to jointly tackle opportunities. We will need to invest in tools and technology to facilitate payment and compliance just like traditional Payroll. 

Our most important investment however will be will be into the governance model of Grindery. We truly believe in a future beyond the Gig Economy fill with disenfranchised Uber drivers and instant shoppers. Generations of people have fought for workers rights which are now being thrown overboard in exchange for the freedom of sipping margaritas in Phuket while writing a travel blog.

I believe we need to build a system that makes freelancing a valid option not only for 21-year-olds with a backpack, but for 41-year-olds with two kids. We need to combine the “power of the crowd” to find ways to negotiate health insurance contracts, give people visas, and allow them to buy a house anywhere in the world with a mortgage. Provide people with a secured minimum income. We need to transform freelancing from a temporary gig into a valid road to independence, ownership, and entrepreneurship. Maybe it’s time for the idea of freelancing to disappear altogether? Who really want to classify its workforce by type of contract? Employee vs freelancers vs employee of subcontractor or subcontractor of subcontractor.

But all of this is hard to imagine and impossible to realize in a world of local labor laws and a flawed financial system that is not ready for a global, unified workforce. In the short term this means we will need to invest in building transactional solutions that work faster, frictionless, at lower cost and reduced business risk for all stakeholders. We need truly distributed, incorruptible systems and public ledgers. We need ways to better establish and manage agreements, smarter contracts.

Significant brain power will be spent on finding the right monetization model.

The most obvious would be to charge - like most marketplaces - a 10% to 20% commission on every transaction. However, the adaptation (especially in early stages) could be significantly hindered. Commissions are an incentive for participants to cut us out of the equation, out of the business.

Another way is to follow in the footsteps of workingnotworking.com, Behance, or Dribble: charge a membership fee. However, the perceived value obtained in exchange for a fee usually grows over time. This value initially tends to be zero and hence the contribution to profit of the organization tends to be the same.

Finally there is the original “Zenefits Way”. A tool that was free to both sides of the market, paid for by third parties. In this case insurance companies. Zenefits was (and is) extremely successful but was ordered to stop giving away free software. We are seeing similar experiments including insurance for freelancers by the freelance union and credit for freelancers by the recently launched y-combinator backed Oxygen.

No matter how Grindery will charge for its service, one thing is clear: the organization needs to focus on generating value for its members. What the exact revenue mix will be, should be - in the spirit of a self governed organization - determined by its stakeholders.

Again, this post is continuous work in progress. If you would like to provide feedback just catch me on Slack, Telegram or jump right into the source document here. 

Thanks to Christian, Gary, Craig, Alberto and Luke for the feedback! Would not be able to do it without you!

 

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