Welcome to the sixth edition of “Startup of the Week” which features many great startups and interviews with successful business heads. This week, I interviewed Kate Kendall, the founder & CEO of CloudPeeps. I’ve asked Kate a series of questions regarding CloudPeeps and also regarding tips for budding entrepreneurs. Have a read at what she had to say.
How did the idea of CloudPeeps come about?
CloudPeeps was an idea I had back in early 2011 when I was living in Melbourne, Australia. I was working in the publishing and travel space, managing multiple social media accounts for startups. I was thinking how great it would be if community managers could curate content and manage accounts while working remotely, and how a lot of businesses can’t afford agencies or full-time employees so it made sense to connect with individuals to do it for them.
Fast forward a few years later when I was building The Fetch, I was on the other side finding it hard to find reliable, consistent and experienced freelancers to help grow my business. Kicking off CloudPeeps was about solving this problem and the company was officially founded in January 2014.
Simply, what does your site do?
CloudPeeps is a talent marketplace that matches businesses with top freelance marketing, community and content professionals. The platform makes it easy to find, hire and manage freelancers. We also have a really active internal community of freelancers who are all sharing their best practices, knowledge, and even connecting offline through our #freelancefriday meetups.
Did you have a business plan?
We never had a business plan in the form of a printed, 40-page or so document. I’ve only created one business plan in my life and that’s when I was in university! That said, I am a huge believer in having a business model. CloudPeeps went from concept to revenue in five weeks and could be an independent business – without relying on investment – in its own right.
For anyone thinking of creating a technology-driven company, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a must-read and startup classic. The Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder is also a nice and simple framework to plan your business.
What were the boundaries you faced when creating CloudPeeps?
CloudPeeps is the first marketplace to focus on the social media and community management vertical. When we launched and for most of 2014, we were tightly focused on this space. During our beta testing, we noticed that our customers were really seeking a range of growth and marketing-focused tasks, and that social media was a slice of the total. The other challenge was that social media changes very rapidly – sometimes weekly with Facebook algorithm changes or new apps that launch.
Three years ago, it might have been enough to post content across your channels and see a conversion – many companies focused heavily on their Facebook pages. Now most page content does not see the light of day to an audience, and generally it’s harder to get cut-through so people need to work a lot smarter and be more specialized to get the results. With this in mind, we opened up to include different types of marketing, content, community and some design work, so that businesses can grow their businesses how they need to.
The other boundary I’ve faced with CloudPeeps to date is with hiring the right team at the right time. This means not only finding the team that is the right culture fit for the company and its values, but also people who want to work in this stage startup environment who’s skill-set and experience matches that stage of the startup. That’s one of the reasons, I love what we’re doing – with the future of work being more and more independent, we can test out our working relationships before ramping up the commitment through contract-to-hire or ongoing freelance arrangements. I think that’s a positive for both workers and employers.
What is the difference between you and your competitors?
There are a lot of freelancer and creative marketplaces out there. Many of them started in Australia, where I’m from! Most are more horizontal in nature and automatically accept freelancers from all backgrounds and all over the globe. Last time I checked, I believe Upwork (formerly oDesk) had 10 million members – which is a lot of people! I’m not sure what the average hourly rate is but typically, it hasn’t been geared towards attracting the best talent.
CloudPeeps is the opposite of this – we are more of a curated talent community that houses freelancers who wouldn’t ever think to work off of freelancer marketplaces. We attract great people because we ensure a minimum hourly rate and spend a lot of time educating customers about pricing in our vertical. We also have focused on growing by region – the US is our biggest market and most of our talent is here. We have to make working off the CloudPeeps platform attractive to someone in San Francisco (with the crazy rental prices) as well as digital nomads working in places that have a much lower cost of living.
What were you doing before CloudPeeps?
I have a completely random education background – I studied science (microbiology/biotechnology) fashion and then did an MBA in marketing.
For most of my career, I worked in media and was a business journalist, editing the equivalent of AdAge in Australia. I was digital director of a magazine publishing company before working in and consulting to startups for five years at the likes of Stripe, Adioso, Travellerspoint, AVOS, The Conversation and others.
I was also a community-organizing junkie, having started the longest running social media meetup in Melbourne, called Socialmelb, hosting the first Instameet outside of San Francisco, then recently the Down Under New York Tech meetup when I lived there. The biggest thing was creating The Fetch – it’s similar to Startup Digest in that it’s a newsletter and event list but it covers more stuff outside of startups.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Listen to your gut, lead authentically, understand and own your personal power, don’t wait for permission to do things, don’t seek self validation from others, take risks but always make sure you have a solid foundation, when you get comfortable – it’s time to shake things up so you keep growing.
“Listen to your gut, lead authentically, understand and own your personal power, don’t wait for permission to do things, don’t seek self validation from others.” – Kate Kendall
Take some time out to reflect – when so much is changing, you need to find your inner compass – look at old photos, spend time with your family, sleep, exercise, don’t burn out. Finally, don’t take things too seriously – the universe is huge and life is short. Be grateful for what you have right now.
What is the one thing you think an entrepreneur should focus on that they may not find important?
Building a personal brand. I often dislike the word and concept of personal brand and self marketing but it’s become increasingly important for success as an entrepreneur. Some of the founders I follow such as Joel Gascoigne from Buffer, Danielle Morrill from Mattermark, Ryan Hoover from Product Hunt, Kathryn Minshew of The Muse and Tina Roth Eisenberg from SwissMiss are all masters of profile and online networking.
In one word, describe your job?
I’d like to say thank you to Kate for this interview. Have a look below at CloudPeep’s social links. Get in touch if you want your startup to be in the running for an interview.
Headquarters: San Francisco, CA, USA.
People: Kate Kendall, Mathew Holroyd, Tessa Greenleaf, Shannon Byrne, Kat Loughrey and Aaron Dodson.
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