Elyssa Pallai founded micro-tasking website Pocket.Jobs to match talent to need, skill to shortage, pet feeder to pet feeder needer.
She describes Pocket.Jobs as ''a connection marketplace'' linking people to people online, facilitating the delivery of a needed service or talent in the real world within existing communities.
People with a need for curtains can find someone nearby who can sew curtains, for example. Ditto dogwalking, lawnmowing, housesitting, fence painting and so on.
Outsourcing talent and resources is a common way people are using the web, and provides great avenues for business models delivering platforms for this behaviour tailored to specific communities of users.
Dubbed the 'sharing economy' it is home to some of the fastest growth and most hyped web-start-up companies.
Elance, based near San Jose, is an online site that allows companies and individuals to hire and pay independent professionals and contractors online and in the cloud.
The site boasted 80,000 new employers and $43-million in contractor earnings in the first quarter of 2012. And the number of people hiring on Elance grew by 120 per cent in 2011.
Another successful site is AirBnB which advertises people's spare rooms for rent. There are countless others making huge revenues, as well as those looking to earn.
A start-up based in Wellington, Pocket.Jobs is another take on this emerging sector, enabling human behaviour through online connection.
The sharing economy, peer-to-peer marketplaces, collaborative consumption, whatever the label around this space, the ethos lies in 'access not ownership'.
Some might call it productivity, a familiar yearning of the policy wonks for years, and at the heart of business strategy long before that.
To this point, Pocket.Jobs founder Pallai says the ''sharing economy'' has been around forever in many shapes but three moons are aligning to make it hum louder than ever.
A combo of burgeoning tech in social networks, the mobile web and the increasing user uptake on these platforms means communities are better linked and, importantly, more comfortable with trusting this technology to deliver solutions.
It's an opportunity that is finding growing favour with policy makers as much as tech entrepreneurs.
Startup City San Francisco's mayor Ed Lee launched a working group in March to focus on the sharing economy, naming a bunch of start-up founders on a panel to advise on policy around this movement that was ''becoming more than a trend''.
Consumer-to-consumer online businesses like AirBnB, Angies List (reviews), and SnapGoods (short-term rentals) are poster models of this new economy, leading the shift several years ago.
Hundreds of start-ups have followed and still new ventures appear regularly, leaping on the opportunity to monetise this behaviour.
I have seen at least two at every Startup Weekend (an annual event where entrepreneurs get together to form new businesses in a 54-hour marathon of inspiration) in New Zealand and web start-up rhetoric is packed with metaphors like ''it's the Facebook for lawn bowls,'' or ''it's like AirBnB for chihuahua lovers''.
The ease of engaging online supercharges behaviours that were once the exclusive domain of ''it's not what you know but who you know'', and so powerful is the hyper-connected network effect here that panic clubs are forming around the threat to actual face-to-face relationships. Those fears are reactionary, but the sharing economy is the flip side of that perspective, Pallai says.
She says it is actually directing people back towards local contact, and providing avenues for communities to reengage with each other and connect without having to wait for Glenys next door to make the introduction.
''I think it is all connected to the sharing economy, towards living life with a purpose,'' Pallai says.
The point Pallai makes as Pocket.Jobs grows is that this micro-focus but hugely scalable 'economy' is exactly as Mayor Lee says more than a trend.
The power of the network effect means the commercial opportunity for businesses here is massive. The opportunity for entrepreneurs is huge, and the risks for businesses not paying attention are as large, if not exactly immediate. Traditional transactions are being replicated in micro-style, and the 'middle-man' may well soon be an endangered species, replaced by websites.
''Ultimately it is going to change how businesses operate. Business will have to adapt,'' she says. ''It's not just job tasking like on Pocket.Jobs it's shipping, it's car sharing, it's everything. The opportunities are endless.''
Nick Churchouse is the venture manager at Creative HQ
- © Fairfax NZ News
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