There's a space in between something like a TaskRabbit and a full-featured consulting firm with physical offices and in-person assets, and that's where current TechStars class member Ziptask hopes to operate with its new outsourcing platform. It's a little like an oDesk or a Freelancer.com, but with features from products like Asana and other PM and reporting software included, too.
The primary difference between Ziptask and its competitors, according to founder Shawn Livermore who I spoke with in an interview, is that whereas others act mainly as hubs for sourcing talent, Ziptask is more about helping to actually solve issue around hiring, communication and project management throughout the process. It features things like Skype meetings, a milestone-based payment system, goal tracking and more, and this is just the start.
“We've put together this platform that allows you, from the ground up, to fix outsourcing,” Livermore said. “It allows you to drag-and-drop in files, type in instructions, submit it off, and then a real project manager will Skype with you and go through your requirements, and then provide one estimate back to you, and then if you approve the estimate, that kicks off the project and you have a seamless, autonomous process of oversight by the manager as he takes on all the outsourcing effort.”
The use of the real live project manager is a crucial distinguishing trait, since that person shoulders the screening and hiring of managers, as well as setting milestones and making sure they're complete. All of that is handled via a web-based dashboard, which the client can use at any time to get real-time info on project progress. For its efforts in running the process, Ziptask charges a fee of 8 percent of the total contract value.
I worked previously at a small consulting firm, and essentially what Ziptask does is bring that entire process (from proposal to deliverable) online, and consolidate a variety of tools into a single central location. It's designed to be affordable for small to medium-sized enterprises, and to work for people of varying technical proficiencies. The beauty of it is that while you get access to a full-featured dashboard, there's actually a contracted PM running that for you, so if you're not so comfortable with cloud-based tools it's still accessible.
Ziptask's core business will be around developing products based on popular CMS platforms like WordPress, IT projects and app development undertakings. But it's the kind of general purpose tool that could replace traditional outsourcing for a variety of needs. In the coming months, the company hopes to extend the range of features built into the platform, and is currently actively seeking participants in its seed round (which is mostly subscribed, Livermore says) to do so.