In Richie Etwaru’s book on Blockchain, he states that “every company is at risk of being disrupted by a trusted version of itself.” For the marketing-crowdsourced-sharing economy, that disruptor is Calgary’s startup Communo. With 40% of the US workforce expected to be independent contractors by 2020, this is a market that is not only growing but will be mainstream in the near future. The industry surely has its competitors, like Upwork and Freelancer, but Communo not only has the capacity to keep pace with them, but has also built a suite of products that will disrupt the industry and make the company the most trusted.
From a cost comparison, while Upwork deducts 20% or more from fees paid to its contractors, Communo collects nothing. Communo’s business model is membership-based. Members are vetted from the start and their work is reviewed each year to ensure a consistent production of high quality marketing materials. Each member is their own agency. With a monthly fee, members are provided access to the talent on the platform to staff their agency as needed. Just like an agency, members pitch and bid for projects. Just like an agency, they bring together talent, through access to the platform, to fulfill the requirements of the contract. The lead, or leads, on the project complete the work on the contract that they specialize in. They then recruit the rest of the talent from the platform. Communo members provide mutual benefit: one day, the member could be the talent being recruited and on another day, be the member recruiting talent. For an additional fee, their business can learn from industry leaders about how to manage and grow their company through group and one-on-one coaching.
The digital platform of Communo is also complemented with fee-based, internet enabled co-working spaces called Compounds. A Compound is a physical space that allow members to congregate, collaborate, and cross-pollinate. The effort to create collaborative environments is bolstered by events such as Jump Days (monthly), an Annual Summit with speakers, and an AGM where management reports the company’s progress to members. When members bring clients to the Compound, the Compound is transformed into the headquarters for their marketing agency where video screens display the logo of the company, clients are greeted by a receptionist who knows the details of the member’s company, and the conference rooms are stocked with snacks and drinks.
Communo has created the capacity to not only build trust through their vetted talent and collaboration in their co-working spaces, but they also set themselves apart by alleviating one of the biggest stressors on independent contractors: stability. They assist in alleviating this stress and provide stability three ways. First, by providing top-notch talent, it’s members can confidently build a trusted client base who will return to Communo which will provide members with more predictable and stable workflow. Second, in addition to the work received from Communo, members also qualify for equity after their first year, making the community owner-operated. The more successful the members become, the more successful the entire community become. Lastly, Communo also leverages the crowd, its members, to provide additional services such as healthcare plans, phone plans, and the Adobe Creative Suite. As membership grows, so does the capacity to offer more services and to lower the costs of services.
While Communo’s web-based platform has already been launched, a phone app is currently being developed. There are currently two Compound’s that exist in in Kingston, Ontario and Calgary with a Compound launching in Vancouver later this year and Toronto in the spring of 2018. In late 2018, another Compound is planned to be launched in Houston, Texas with expansion plans that include other US cities, Europe, and Asia.
I would invest in this company because I think they represent the future of the marketing industry. It is a business model that is rooted in community, collaboration, quality, stability, and trust. Best of all, it's easily scalable. Like 3D printing and blockchain technology before it, in ten years we'll be wondering why we didn't invest in Communo.