Mancx, the business Q&A site has pivoted to Coworks, an online freelancing platform with a social recommendation twist to it. According to the company, the decision to make the switch was not because Mancx was not working as expected, but because the market was simply too small, whereas the online jobs market is expanding at an incredible pace.

What differs Coworks from the likes of Elance and Odesk is that they are not trying to offer you a choice from hundreds or even thousands of freelancers. Instead, they focus on your social networks to find freelancers that your friends and connections know and are willing to recommend. Basically they want to digitalize “word of mouth”.

Personally, this comes as a very welcome spin on the whole freelancing topic. The super cheap prices from unknown freelancers always seem dodgy, even if the portfolio seems decent. Besides, if you don’t know them, its always a risk. Not in a monetary form, since Elance and the others are pretty good at making sure you pay only when you are satisfied, but more from the time investment perspective.

When registering with Coworks, you can connect your Facebook and/or Linkedin profile and if the freelancer was recommended by one of your connections, it will be clearly visible. For instance once I created an account and wanted to order a design job, I was immediately offered 2 designers that were recommended by my friends.

Another interesting thing about Coworks is the pricing plan. For clients it is free with 8% Coworks commission if you need 5 or less jobs per month or alternatively a flat fee of USD 69 per month with 0% commission. If you are a freelancer then you can either opt-in for a monthly 5 jobs / 10 proposals free plan or an unlimited plan with weekly payouts for USD 29 per month.

To find out more, we got in touch with Mattias Guilotte, the CMO of Coworks (Mancx):

ArcitcStartup: The original idea was really interesting, why do you think it did not work?

Mattias Guilotte: The simple answer is that it actually worked, but we realized the market was too small and grew too slowly. Last year over 5,000 good business questions were posted at a pay at Mancx, so there was definitely a demand. If there was an actual pain point, inhibiting our growth, is that we had problems sourcing the answers, and that lead to slow user adaptation. Our matchmaking engine was darn smart and matched the questions to the right people in the Mancx network. The payments were, in my opinion, decent, and averaged at $250 /question. But even with this, it was just difficult to get people to respond to the extent the buyer wanted. The biggest tell sign for me personally was that I couldn’t get my friends to use the service repeatedly. I am pretty certain a similar tool will show up in a couple of years when the market is more ready.

ArcitcStartup: Given that it is a pivot, what made you decide to pivot away from Mancx and why was it decided to focus on the freelance industry?

Mattias Guilotte: As with many other pivots we were driven into the pivot by user demand. Many of the business questions that were posted were actually “jobs” rather than “questions”

For instance: “I need someone to spend 3 days researching this market for me. Budget 30 hours”
Initially the freelancing space seemed crowded, but the more we looked at it we realized it was a huge underserved market. 
 
ArcitcStartup: Other than the “word-of-mouth” and “personal connections”, do you see any other hole in the online freelancing industry that Coworks is going to fill?

Mattias Guilotte: We are all about quality and ease of use.  The personal connections and recommendations are just means to achieve this. The means we have found most effective to use since this is how you always have found people to work with offline.

One of the competitors boast they have “millions of freelancers”. Who needs millions of freelancers? That’s not customer oriented. You need one freelancer who your friends recommend and trust, someone who can help you do the job with a minimum of hassle.

ArcitcStartup: Is this actually a complete pivot or do you have plans for Mancx?

Mattias Guilotte: We have more interesting ideas for what we can do with the Mancx APIs and the platform, so we’ll keep that part of the business.