The gig economy is rapidly growing with millions of specialists worldwide switching from traditional employment to freelancing or influencer careers. Not only have more than 2 million U.S. adults joined the freelance workforce since 2019 but in that time the income of freelancers increased 22% to a stunning $1.2 trillion. This was fueled in part by an influx of younger, highly-skilled professionals seeking flexible alternatives to traditional employment.
As a result of the increased demand and supply of freelancers, the number of freelancing marketplaces is growing too. A freelance marketplace is a two-sided platform where companies can find and hire individual specialists for specific jobs, and, in turn, freelance specialists can apply for positions if their skills match requirements.
Brybe, Inc. is one of these platforms leading this paradigm shift. This week we caught up with Igor Fedenkoff the Co-Founder and CEO of Brybe and we learned more about their exciting story and plans for the future. Enjoy!
The startup at a glance
Startup Name: Brybe, Inc.
Industry: Online Marketplace
Date founded: July 1, 2019
# of employees: 20
Vonage API used: Verify / SMS
In one sentence, what does Brybe, Inc. do?
Brybe is a comprehensive online marketplace connecting freelancers and influencers with buyers worldwide for digital creation and promotion services.\
What is the problem you are solving? Was this the initial problem or did you pivot?
It started with Influencer Marketing. The hazards and inefficiencies of the influencer marketing industry (set to exceed 10 billion in 2021) have made it difficult for brands and influencers to achieve their goals efficiently.
Issues for Brands:
- 70% of bands experienced influencer fraud
- Difficulty finding influencers for in-house brand campaigns
- Existing influencer platforms are extremely expensive
- New FTC regulations
Issues for Influencers:
- Finding and contacting brands
- Distinguishing valid business offers from spam
- Entry barriers and lack of education
- No credible contact with brands
- High cost of the multiple platforms listing/subscription
Brybe was able to address those issues by democratising the influencer marketing industry via an open marketplace where direct contact was possible, fund flow was controlled, there were no subscription fees and the platform was incredibly easy and safe to use.
The Pandemic brought new changes to the online community; when not only did the workforce go remote, but so did the consumers. Very quickly freelancers have begun taking over the space ($1.2 trillion market in the US and over $40 trillion worldwide), and platforms were needed to accommodate such a huge workforce migration. Due to the changing landscape of the digital service industry, the speed of the offline freelancing migration to online has increased and presented an unprecedented wide open market with geometrically progressing supply and demand. We opened Brybe to Freelancers making Brybe Marketplace a one-stop shop for any digital creative services.
What differentiates Brybe from your competitors? Is there a secret sauce?
The vision and the approach that we take are user-centered and aimed at automating and simplifying the processes that today are associated with many additional steps and redundant details. Marketing campaigns are cumbersome and expensive.
Hiring is not only tough in the human factor sense but involves endless bureaucracy and time consuming processes. There are numerous solutions on the market, but they are either offering services to niche groups or focusing on charging huge fees, having an agency approach, and basically offering to outsource the HR or Marketing departments.
There are very few that are relatively successfully pursuing the true marketplace concept by facilitating the deals, not making them, and by providing solutions that streamline hiring, information and asset exchanges, and payment processing.
We have a plethora of very unique things under the hood, but realistically we chose not to reinvent the car, but learn from the experience of the existing providers, and build a really cool and superior vehicle :) Having healthy competition in any space is beneficial to everyone involved. And this is incredibly true in the Digital Creator space now, for it’s still uncharted, yet vast and exponentially growing. There will be plenty of work for all of us.
Brybe is just gearing up to be in the leading group breaking through the unknown and setting the bars for the industry to follow.
VC, Angel, Bootstrap or Other?
Brybe started self-funded. We were fortunate enough to have sufficient funds to create and release the MVP and obtain initial traction that proved the concept and served as a viable investment for the Seed round (we raised one year into it) that was led by an institutional investor Luxiena and had two additional angel investors.
We were quite fortunate to have Cooley, LLP as our advisors and legal representation for this round. Their expertise definitely made navigating through the complexity of the Seed Round much more manageable, and I will most definitely not advise anyone to do this on their own. No matter how smart or educated you may be – there are clauses, and implications, and investor-specific details, and agreements/amendments, and don’t forget about making sure that your business is protected… forget about it! Legal spending for your round, no matter what it may look like to you, is an intricate part of the process and matters volumes to you and your company.
In Brybe’s case, an institutional investor led the round, which made it possible to work through mainly one package of documents, which were also vetted by their legal counsel. I can’t tell you how many nights I spent reading the most fascinatingly confusing, sometimes deadly boring, but at times highly enlightening pages upon pages of legal and financial language, revision after revision, sometimes with one-word substitution that changed the meaning of the entire document.
Having legal counsel does not remove the need for understanding what you will be signing, because the initial funding round docs will guide your life from the moment that wire hits your account, and will impact any subsequent financing or reporting, all the way to the exit. Now that it’s behind us, I must say that the due diligence process, although tedious and nerve-racking, is a huge blessing in disguise. It gives you a chance to add to or build from scratch the image of your business that will make sense to the investors, but ultimately, will give you a clean, ordered, and legitimate picture of what you have done and provide tools to move forward. Many founders will probably agree with me, when I say that startups focus on their idea, tech, MVP much more than the board resolutions, meeting minutes, amended articles, and bylaws revisions that are of vital importance nonetheless.
What’s the biggest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges a startup faces is focusing on perfecting the product prior to the release. That usually equals increased costs and prolonged delay of going to market. I recall a moment at one of our development status meetings, where we discussed yet another feature “it made sense to add” before the release. It dawned on me that we will never release if we follow that suit. Long story short - we all left that meeting shaken by the final decision - test and release the MVP in a month. We went for it, and we did it. In the weeks that followed we had a team of testers run multiple tests and scenarios. The site that the platform was on had one issue after another. Our team worked with ferocity and perseverance all while the product was out, first registrations poured in, and even occasional little orders were done.
Don’t try to release the perfect product - it’s a trap and a vacuum that sucks in the efforts and the funds. Create the version that is stable and workable, and let the users help you mold it into the successful version of itself because you will never have enough imagination to eliminate everything that can potentially go wrong :)
The biggest mistake Brybe has made so far and what did you learn from it?
This question brings a smile to my face, and rightfully so. It was a great segway from the previous one. Any business founder or entrepreneur has numerous stories of things going wrong, challenges coming out of the left field, gross miscalculations, or even some completely comical missteps. And all of that is because we are each in our own Wild West, trying to stake our claims in sometimes very much uncharted territories of the business world.
As hindsight is always 20/20, I can look back at us limiting ourselves to one type of user and focusing more on the supply of the sellers than comprehensively bringing in the demand, i.e. buyers. With the help of our investors, we were able to expand into a new space by adding Creators (Freelancers) as a logical step and consequently obtaining an ability to cast a wider net as to the parties interested in utilizing our platform. We must always remain flexible and open to change.
Things move a lot faster in the 21st Century, and there is no place for complacency in the tech world. Embrace the change, cut the losses, renew your project to keep your target audience not only engaged but wondering also about what else you got up your sleeve.
You can choose one to be on your board: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. Who do you choose and why?
Brybe was started by marketers and entrepreneurs. We strive for unorthodox approaches, creativity and breaking the rules. Mr.Musk will be my choice out of the options provided. From following his career, business decisions, interviews, and even online posts, I can see many traits that our team would embrace and experience synergy from. Although he may seem like he is way ahead of our time, there are things about him that just can’t be discounted.
My Top 5 Reasons to get Elon Musk on our board :
- He has a laser-sharp focus on what he does and works the hardest at it.
- He is overwhelmingly intellectual.
- From what I have seen, he never takes “no” for an answer and doesn’t care about rules.
- He doesn't BS, and
- He has some of the most out-there imaginative ideas this world has ever seen or will see.
How have you been using Vonage’s APIs?
Vonage has been vitally instrumental in building our user solutions. Any marketplace strives for having real legitimate users that bring with them the buying or the selling intent, ability, and willingness to negotiate and breathe life into the multiple-sided platforms like Brybe. As the world moves to mobile, to remote, to fast and efficient, it also grows the number of individuals that want to abuse the systems and run fraudulent schemes, thus creating the need for additional verifications which we are successfully utilizing via Vonage’s solutions.
Another tremendously important aspect is that we as modern-day users are prone to missing information without specific reminders, so Vonage API makes it so much easier for us to communicate to the marketplace participants their order alerts, communications alerts, transaction statuses, and delivery confirmations. We are also excited to explore more of Vonage’s solutions that we can successfully implement.
What progress have you made since launching?
It really has been quite a journey! What originally started as a proprietary influencer database, has evolved into an Influencer Marketing Platform, has then been changed into a two-sided Marketplace, grew organically and due to the gig economy had freelancers incorporated as the third cohort and became a unique online creative talent-hiring solution.
We were able to increase our organic self-registered user base to 150,000 and the discoverable user base to 5.5 million since the beginning of 2021 and are experiencing steady growth while being ready to scale.
What’s next for Brybe? Where do you want to be in 3 years?
Our mission is to be the ultimate marketplace that sets global business flow standards for the Digital Creator industry worldwide by inspiring creativity, increasing accessibility, and curating transparent, safe, and data-driven solutions. With the upcoming addition of the fourth cohort of users as well as incorporating e-commerce and mobile solutions, we are aiming at disrupting the online creative space while democratising and automating the future of work. In three years we will be in the top 5 global providers of Digital Creator Services via the Marketplace business model.
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