We need new startup software platforms as more people want to leave companies to “go it alone”

What is the creator economy? Why are startup software platforms increasingly needed? In view of the actual needs of independent workers, this article puts forward the idea of ​​developing a new entrepreneurial software platform, and puts forward suggestions for implementation. Recommended reading for students interested in entrepreneurship or entrepreneurial software.

Many people want to leave the company “go it alone” for various reasons, so there are more and more independent workers. But the transition from “employee” to “individual” is usually not smooth, because when working in a company, a series of things such as finance, legal affairs, and operations are handled by dedicated people, and as independent workers, we must Handle these things yourself.

While each area of ​​expertise is aided by related software and products, these platforms were previously largely independent of each other, adding a lot of frictional costs. If the needs of independent workers can be integrated into one software, and the needs of practitioners in various industries can be customized (for example, the needs of barbers and software engineers are different), it will be more helpful for these independent workers to achieve own value. This article comes from compilation, I hope it inspires you.

Creator economy is an umbrella term often used to describe independent contractors or self-employed individuals. But in reality, most of the innovation revolves around passion project content (Substack writing, Teachable courses, etc.) and niche side projects.

To date, “creator” tools have been largely semi-level, designed to serve a wide range of mostly creative pursuits: writing, podcasting, course creation, and more.

However, in all the talk of digital nomads and side jobs, there is a plethora of independent professionals who work independently, earning a living, but not necessarily pursuing their creative passions. Not everyone has the talent to be a creator. While lawyers, recruiters and even venture capitalists may not fully resonate with this new creator economy, they have been “going it alone” at an alarming rate since the outbreak, executing existing companies without corporate infrastructure. professional work.


Creating specialized vertical tools for “these independent workers coming out of the company” is an urgent need and a huge opportunity. There are many vertical software tools that help companies run their business, but the next generation of great companies will be those that provide integration for individuals.

1. Replacing the company

Solo workers include two types of people:

Veteran, experienced professionals who leave the company to start their own business;

Newbies, career changers, or young professionals entering a field for the first time without the support (and limitations) of traditional institutions.

In both groups, they may have previously been intimidated by the barriers, risks and costs of starting a business independently. They need the tools to start, sell, manage and market their craft so they can focus on doing the work that matters. Whether it’s a psychiatrist, insurance agent, decorator, hedge fund manager or tutor, everyone needs a different set of tools to run their business.

Employees who come out of the company to work alone need to do things themselves that can be done at the company level before. Traditionally, companies bring three things to support a core process or product:

Operational support : Functions such as finance, legal, and human resources that help employees do their jobs.

Demand : Lead generation, introduction of customers (through marketing/sales, branding and relationships)

Networks : Enter into communities that support individuals, provide access to communities

In the future, software platforms will replace every function of a company.

Future solo stacks will offer a mix of these three things (depending on what makes sense for any industry), giving employees the tools to leave the company to go it alone, and the confidence to leave their jobs.

The software will also be vertical-specific, as lawyers, personal trainers, financial planners, and graphic designers all need different tools, marketers face different clients, and need access to different networks to do their work.

An example of a single stack is Shopify. The company provides e-commerce sellers with tools (websites, payment tools, etc.) and a network (dropshippers, suppliers, etc.) so they can focus on producing, curating, or sourcing items for sale. Sellers need the toolset the company has previously offered, but tailored to their individual circumstances.

This can be broadly broken down into: a set of SaaS tools to manage the business (including financial technology tools to accept payments and grow the business); marketing and lead generation tools to drive the business forward; and a set of networking to help these new self-employed succeed . Each type of job will have its own specific combination of these capabilities.

2. Build a software platform

For most people going it alone, many don’t know what it takes to get a company off the ground. Additionally, managing accounting and bookkeeping, launching email campaigns, renting office space, etc. all take a lot of time. If you work in a company, these jobs can be done by the finance department, the office department, and the operations department. Just figuring out what tax status to choose (such as LLC, small corporation, corporation, or no corporation) can be difficult. People who go it alone are exposed to a wide variety of tools, most of which are unrelated to each other, as the list below shows.

Integrate the functions of different software together.

Additionally, many of these tools lack domain-specific features, such as teachers needing video and whiteboard capabilities, and fitness trainers needing the ability to sync music. The same goes for how products are packaged, priced, and billed, and the contracts and legal forms they need to build their business and sign up customers, and so on.

Individual workers also need software to connect their operational needs, such as finding office space for freelance designers, studios for fitness creators, or chairs for hair stylists, all of which are different.

Imagine how convenient it would be if certain vertical and horizontal tools could be bundled together and provided as a one-stop shop. This stack also works together: Calendars will sync with CRM software and booking tools, reducing the time it takes to create manual entries across software platforms. If the customer is not present, the cancellation fee can be automatically charged, and the expenses can be automatically transferred to the relevant customer and billed to them.

The software stack creates a “system of record” on which everything else depends. If software is the central hub for businesses to track customers, manage communications and see how much money they make, it’s also a platform for additional services, such as analytics around marketing efforts or tax estimates. Furthermore, these additional services can leverage the data captured by the platform.

An integrated software stack also adds stickiness, and if an employee’s business runs on this stack, it can be difficult to replace it.

3. Entering the Fintech Field: Operational Tools and Financial Products

For example, it is often the case that a company needs upfront capital to rent office space, hire people, buy or lease equipment, purchase inventory, and so on. To grow, companies seek working capital loans to meet cash flow needs or long-term loans for large-scale capital expenditures. For its employees, the company negotiates and provides benefits such as health and dental insurance, as well as job-specific benefits such as occupational injury insurance.

Independent workers also need these financial products, but obtaining and negotiating them is much more difficult. Companies may be eligible for small business loans or working capital lines, while individuals need to obtain personal loans secured by their personal and household assets, even if the money will be used for the business. Banks or commercial insurance companies may not be accustomed to underwriting individual individuals.

In this regard, platforms can also help. Aggregated data on the platform can help underwrite underwriting and strive for better rates, especially for the needs of specific occupations. This ability has historically hindered capable and thoughtful individuals from going it alone. For example, Substack Pro offers writers upfront payments to support their independent creation.

Likewise, a dentist, doctor or photographer may need to obtain a loan to purchase equipment that generates direct income. These financial products can be combined with software to guide individuals through the initial journey.

When it comes to benefits, the compensation needs of a fitness trainer are different from those of a designer who sits at a desk all day. An independent truck driver doesn’t have the ability to negotiate discounts on fuel cards, but a software platform that aggregates demand can. There are also financial products that may be unique to independent workers, such as income smoothing products based on contractual payments.

Fourth, demand: expand customers

Another key characteristic of a company is its ability to generate leads and bring in customers. Within a company, this can come from a brand, an existing relationship, or a sales/marketing department. Customer acquisition is often the hardest part of the solo process.

The relative importance of generating leads depends on:

Whether the platform is designed for veterans or newbies

How monotonic is this type of customer relationship?

A person with a strong customer base (like from a previous job) is less dependent on demand generation than someone who is just starting out. For example, an established recruiter with a strong reputation and a close recruiting network may not need as much outside help to generate demand as a young person trying to enter the recruiting field for the first time.

Veterans are more focused on improving retention and deepening relationships than creating demand.

Areas with high loyalty or repeat customer relationships also require less demand generation. For example, some clients may only use a certain hairstylist. On the other hand, lead generation (marketing outreach) is more important for services like food delivery (like Shef) and restaurant reservations (like OpenTable) where customers frequently use multiple platforms and often want to discover new content.

A marketplace that connects buyers and customers is a classic example of marketing outreach. For example, freelance marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr can connect independent workers with one-time jobs. However, the market model also has its flaws. Independent entrepreneurs often need to compete to retain customers, and some platforms struggle to keep them in a direct relationship with customers. Therefore, there is always an opportunity to build a “vertical SaaS” competitor market, especially in those areas where marketing outreach is less important.

The reverse is also true: platforms that rely on their ability to expand their customers face the threat of disintermediation. Once a service provider (whether a hair stylist or a Pilates instructor) finds enough clients, it may choose to leave the platform. In this sense, pure market and traditional companies face the same risks.

That’s why it’s so important to build products in specific categories.

Platforms will need tools that allow for direct relationships with customers and other customer retention tools where suppliers are concerned about competing with other suppliers. Where disintermediation is risky, platforms need to provide enough software tools to increase stickiness. The platform may also need to develop a business model that recognizes the dynamics of the specific industry it serves, which could mean charging a SaaS fee instead of a commission, for example.

Even on the most conservative side, these platforms can build a powerful suite of software tools to generate leads. For example, Shopify doesn’t have a marketplace, but it does invest heavily in tools and training to help generate compelling content, run email campaigns, and execute effective advertising campaigns. This can help individual entrepreneurs find business while alleviating concerns behind the market.

5. Network: Provides access to the community

Companies offer a complementary set of professional networks not traditionally available to individuals. A big-box retailer might have a relationship with a supplier or shipper that a mom-and-pop store or regular one e-commerce seller might not have. A newspaper has a network of professional editors to perfect an author’s work, or a lawyer to fight a bogus defamation lawsuit.

Individual worker platforms can also provide access to these ecosystems without the onerous overhead that corporations have. A good example is Substack’s Legal Defense Fund, which provides individuals with the courage and resources to act independently.

The company also provides a social platform for individuals to collaborate and learn from. Mentors have a great interest in helping the new generation find their footing and training the new generation. Junior lawyers and accountants are usually trained by senior partners. If a client has specific questions about tax or other jurisdictions, individuals can turn to in-house experts for help.

The presence of colleagues also provides an outlet for sharing the joys and sorrows of work. Bringing an offline community online can be a challenge, especially when there is no shared coffee machine. However, platforms like Betterleap and Practice are working hard to create a sense of community among individual entrepreneurs.

6. Make the numbers work

A natural question is which career categories present opportunities. A very narrow industry may limit the overall addressable market, but something like fitness can expand to many areas, including wellness coaching classes around diet, nutrition, meditation. Vertical software has begun to emerge in some categories, but most areas are untapped.

The attractiveness of a field is measured not only by its size, but also by acquisition dynamics, specialization, and profitability opportunities. The more specialized the software tools, customer outreach, and network that the platform can provide, the greater the value of the platform.

Most of these businesses are likely to achieve combined profitability in the following ways:

Charges for SaaS tools

The interest rate charged on the payment

Additional fees for other fintech products

Yield from lead generation

Subscription access to the web

Which combination, and where the software stack starts, depends on the core value the business provides. If the platform is able to generate leads and thus earn revenue, then charging transaction fees is justified. The SaaS model makes sense if the platform offers SaaS back-office tools. Most of these businesses will also make money from payment processing.

Fintech offerings also help build a larger business than niche verticals, adding incremental revenue streams on top of SaaS and payments revenue. In general, fintech helps to scale vertical SaaS, especially on the smaller end of the SMB market, where SaaS fees tend to be lower. In order to advance the business, the platform may offer some core services first, and then offer additional products in layers, most likely through partnerships. These expansion and collaboration decisions will also determine the platform’s economic model.

From a platform perspective, another issue is the customer acquisition model and the sales model required to build a “go it alone” platform. Since individual entrepreneurs can be like consumers, businesses, or something in between, adopting a hybrid B2B/B2C model is tricky. This balance requires branding and marketing expertise in consumer businesses, as well as sales and account management for SMEs. Not only does the team need expertise in both disciplines, but the unit economics must also be able to sustain this hybrid approach to marketing.

We are still in the early stages of a “go it alone” economy, with some people leaving their companies in search of more freedom, flexibility and autonomy over their work. We’re still in the initial stages of software platforms that can identify and deliver core, employee-dependent, and historically company-provided services. Software will fuel the continued growth of this market by enabling individuals to smoothly make the leap from working in a company to working independently.

Translator: Jane; from Shenyi Bureau, the translation team of 36氪.

This article is authorized to be published by @神translation bureau on everyone is a product manager. Reproduction without permission is prohibited.

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