Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding have been two of the biggest trends to effect how businesses — especially small businesses and sole traders — raise money, with sites like Kickstarter.com and in the UK Funding Circle attracting a attention for being a great way of getting backing for projects or business ideas bypassing the traditional and expensive world of bank loans in the process.
Now a site is launching that gives this model an additional twist: AskYourUsers.com is a simple service that helps you find people for microconsulting projects lasting no more than 15 minutes — and it uses your LinkedIn network to help you find them.
From the demo that I have seen, the service is basically that simple, but it works very smoothly, and definitely solves a need — one that Amelia Dunne and her co-founder, Chris Bumgardner, essentially stumbled on unintentionally:
The two had been working together on startup ideas for the last four years and finally both left their day jobs to concentrate on startups full-time:
“But after a month of development, we were still trying to validate the idea in order to feel comfortable spending our time and money building the prototype,” she says. “The validation process was time consuming, expensive and we weren’t finding the right people to talk with or getting objective feedback. AskYourUsers.com is the tool we wished we could use – but it didn’t exist. We determined that the value in it made AskYourUsers.com worth developing even if only for our own use. Quickly, it made clear business sense as well. We were surprised to learn how inefficiently other startups were conducting their market research, holding focus groups and learning about their customers’ needs/interests.”
This included businesses engaging in the lengthy and costly process of conducting in-person focus groups; businesses using Craigslist posts to recruit people that could provide feedback; using Surveymonkey to filter down the respondents, and choose which ones to interview. Then the time spent analyzing the results was another issue. “We knew the process could be easier than what we (and other start-ups) were experiencing,” she says.
The solution is a simple web interface that lets you set questions, decide on tasks (user testing, feedback on a feature and so on), how many people you would like to target and even some demographical information. Then you pay $22 per “consultant”. On the consulting end, would-be helpers set an hourly rate of between $20-40, with each job paying out a minimum of $7.50. The site advises that if you charge $40 or more you may not get as many jobs.
Then AskYourUsers does the rest.
Dunne says that she believes this might be the first to use LinkedIn to help find people. It’s an interesting way of using the enterprise-focused social network not just for networking, but for actually making a bit of money. LinkedIn, however, is just the beginning, she says. The plan is to integrate Facebook Connect soon, in addition to other new services that it plans to roll out in the coming quarter.
As for funding, the company is taking the less networked route for now: totally self-funded. “We have not yet explored additional funding or spoken to any potential backers, but we intend to begin looking for angel funding soon after this beta launch,” Dunne says.
The plan is to kick off now with a closed beta for the next two months. Dunne says the company already has some startups waiting to be its first customers at launch.
And for those readers who would like to try this out early with their own microconsulting request, we have a code. The first 1,000 users to go to the site and enter 66214506-5229-48d6-be5f-6eff5a164b68 can do so for free. I’m sure they’d love your feedback.
Oh and P.S. That startup they were working on? A mobile app for real time promotions where the merchants offer things for free (overstock, giveaways, inexpensive products). One to look out for in the future I guess.