Worksome provides a matchmaking service for IT freelancers

A UK/Danish startup wants to connect freelancers and contractors with employers

Hiring is one of the Janus of business management. Have the time, tools and luck to look forward and get it right and it can be your not-so-secret sauce. Get it wrong and you're saddled with looking back and regretting how you found square pegs for round holes or incompetents that it will cost you more to get rid of. Add the complexity of today's global economy and you can see why more companies are looking to technology and automation to help them find the right people.

Doing so is the job of a startup called Worksome with headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark but now also with an office in London, England. Two of the co-founders have backgrounds at Google, and Worksome is very much a cloud era response to processes that have become unwieldy and no longer fit for purpose.

There are lots of companies in the automated hiring space with filtering tools and online presences and pretty mobile front-ends of course, but two-and-a-half year old Worksome differentiates by providing a service dedicated to freelancers and contractors. Currently it's forced largely on IT workers but there's no reason why the model would not be extensible to other sectors.

I recently met one of the co-founders, Mathias Linnemann, for lunch in London. A thirtysomething Dane transplanted to the Big Smoke, Linnemann says that having a base in London makes sense because it's an international, cosmopolitan city with a large swathe of Worksome's two target audiences: the IT freelancers/contractors and the people who need to hire them.

The big picture for Linnemann is that there's a mismatch between the need for short-term assistance with IT skills and the convoluted process of finding the right people. It's time consuming and Worksome's boast is that it can cut the hiring process from 42 days to four or even one. He and his colleagues can help to bridge the gap by providing the equivalent of a dating service, matching the needed skills to demand and price band, stack ranking candidates and handling the red tape of contracts, background checks, insurance and so on.

"There's a huge talent gap," he says. "Companies don't have enough people but there's no talent shortage in the freelance economy and more people now want to be freelance: they accept the risks and build portfolio careers. The cultural barriers are becoming less and less."  

Living in the free world

That's surely true. We no longer expect Junior to think that a 40-year career with one employer is a desirable state while freelancing and contracting provides the chance to add skills and knowledge. And on the demand side, more companies are turning to freelancers to switch capacity on and off where it's needed with a manageable outlay and minimised risk.

"It's the Hollywood model," Linnemann says, "and it's very much project-based." Just as Tinseltown is fed by an everchanging cast of actors, camera people, producers, directors, lighting and sound engineers and others, businesses want to put together SWAT teams, supplementing core staff with experts on demand. In return for finding the right people for the right jobs, Worksome gets a four per cent cut from both sides, making it an affordable option with margins significantly lower than those of many hiring agencies.

The sweet spot that's emerging, Linnemann says, is small to midsized companies with perhaps 200 staff who can't afford, or don't want, to take the chance on full-time employees. The service has only been live for six months and Linnemann is keenly anticipating that turning point every startup wants when critical mass occurs and attracting business happens without quite so much effort, but the numbers so far don't seem too shabby. He shows me his phone where the dashboards say 784 contracts have been awarded, almost 13,600 freelancers have signed up and one short of 10,000 potential employers are on the roster.

Room to grow

Worksome has a few options up its sleeve, it seems to me. One of them could be to become an adjunct to the large IT services companies, helping them to fill their own gaps. Another could be to supplement some of the big jobs boards that often lack the tools and specialisms new companies can focus on.

Linnemann talks me through how Workforce can also add value, mapping the talents of companies' workforces and alumni - the sorts of knowledge management tasks that are desirable but can be neglected. And, as mentioned earlier, the model is extensible to other verticals. Certainly, you could imagine an equivalent for media workers, marketers and many others.

With 16 staff on board in London and Copenhagen, these are early days but Linnemann is already eyeing a Series A round of about $20m to add to the seed funding of about $1.7m. Worksome seems an attractive, modern option to the hassles and dangers of hiring; now for getting to critical mass…