BEIRUT: Feedeed.com initially came to life as a freelance marketplace, where a variety of experts could set up shop on the platform, selling their skills to both large and small to medium enterprises (SMEs).
However, later down the road, the platform failed due to high price and skill variations between freelancers, which forced its three founders to pivot their idea toward a more successful yet simplified mission. “We decided to transform the platform from a free flowing and uncontrollable e-market, toward something we could control to ensure the maximum quality possible to our customers,” Dany Abu Jawdeh co-founder and CEO of Feedeed, told Annahar.
Currently, the platform runs on a matching system model, whereby hiring clients post in English what they’re looking in terms of services and skills offered by almost 150 freelancers ranging from writing to web development and digital design.
“This idea was morphed according to what suited the market more, which is a more simplified version of the platform where people just tell us what they want and we match them with the right expert for the job from our pool of freelancers based on the customer’s given preferences,” Abu Jawdeh said.
What’s unique about the platform is its direct approach toward both clients and freelancers, since minutes after a client sends out a request Feedeed agents will call the customer to confirm their request; and in parallel these agents will place freelancer and client in a monitored chat that allows them to communicate directly on what they want as well as having the ability to accept, refuse or negotiate quotations and confirm payments.
“Since the Lebanese market is still in its infancy in terms of e-commerce and digital marketplaces, we decided to call customers to confirm their request in order to make them more reassured by adding a human touch,” Abu Jawdeh said, adding that placing both customer and expert within the same chat box will help clients an freelancers to negotiate the best deal quickly and limit the loss of time.
If the customer feels that the matched expert was not a good fit, then they can inform the platform and the agent will provide the client with another freelancer to work with until the right one is found, noting that “usually the first match is always the best one.”
The platform contained a very large numbers of freelancers in its initial version, which made the founders’ desire to handpick the top five percent of them relatively easy after the websites’ makeover.
“We set a standard of accepting the best freelancers we had, with a minimum of two to three years of experience and established portfolios; thus the number of experts shrank from 400 to 50 at the early stages, and now we have between 150 to 200 freelancers who’ve gone through a thorough screening process,” Abu Jawdeh told Annahar.
The screening process is spread out onto three stages; the first being a regular application form which would be reviewed by the team, while the second would be conducting an in-depth one-on-one interview with freelancers to ask them about their background. The third stage – which is an optional one depending on the level of experience of the expert – would be for freelancers to work on a sample to present to the co-founders.
Feedeed’s income revenue comes from a 10 percent commission on transactions between clients and their experts, since “we are acting as the sales force for the freelancers.”
Lack of e-commerce culture in Lebanon has been a challenge for the platform’s three founders especially that “people are still uncomfortable paying on the Internet and don’t trust online commitments to be made, but we are trying to counter that fear by providing a cash on delivery method which is applicable to roughly 60 percent of our total transactions,” Abu Jawdeh noted.
He also highlighted that companies prefer cash on delivery since there isn’t a company credit card, and also can pay via cheques which are being accommodated by Feedeed. “As a young startup, we have to accommodate these customers to eventually turn them into paying ones via credit card; if you don’t go into a startup flexible then you’re going to die,” the young entrepreneur added.
The startup funding process for Feedeed came on three levels; the first was through themselves as well as angel investments made by their friends and families which were around $25,000 in 2014 for the older version of the platform. The second, slightly larger, stage was via Oasis 200 – a Jordan-based accelerator program – where the team landed $30,000.
While the third and final stage for the new and improved platform came from a BLC Bank invest program funded through Banque Du Liban’s Circular 331 for a sum of $300,000 in 2016; however, the money was received with an eight-month delay due to the circular’s initial launch, thus the Lebanese banking system was still taking its first steps of working with it.
“During that period, we were bootstrapping to stay afloat while waiting for the money, it didn’t let us market ourselves nor build a mobile application to expand our reach,” Abu Jawdeh told Annahar.
When the money was finally received in August 2016, the company kicked off the creation of their mobile application which is currently in its Beta version, alongside a marketing plan that will be launched via digital outlets. The first is through Google search using keywords to help people come more in contact with Feedeed.
“The second stage will create brand awareness by pushing a small video ad that’s going to be pushed on social media outlets, while the third channel of our marketing plan is by retargeting previous visitors to our websites by placing in front of them ads that will push them to come back to the site,” Abu Jawdeh explained.
On a later stage, the Feedeed team is hoping to expand their market outside Lebanon and toward English-speaking countries such as the UAE and Jordan and then creating an Arabic version of the platform in order to accommodate countries such as the KSA.
“Out-sourcing talent is growing year-by-year worldwide since it cuts company costs and renders people happier within their work; as you know the really, really good freelancers are sick of being employees and want to abandon the nine-to-five jobs especially in this digital boom,” Abu Jawdeh told Annahar.
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