It looks like some web-scraping robot has recently added my name to a prospect list for recruiters because I have received three unsolicited emails in the past week! The first one (something about healthcare staffing) didn’t reply to my follow-up questions, but recruiters 2 and 3 did. I also got an email from LinkedIn saying that 17 people have looked at my profile in the past week. Hello, 17 people!
Enough self-promotion. I’d promised that I was going to review the startups that contact me.
First off, I liked the recruiter for this startup way more than the recruiter for the previous startup. The emails used normal language and not hyperbole. As you might recall the previous one referred to the company as a “rocketship” which always triggers my instinctual reaction of “I am not an astronaut.” We talked about normal business things like normal people having a normal business conversation!
Today’s startup is also in the staffing space. As we continue to build out a “gig economy” there are more and more companies that are connecting people to gigs. This particular company has positioned itself in the “one type of gig” space rather than the “lots of types of gigs but sort of within a general category” model that is used by competitors such as TaskRabbit and Thumbtack. The elevator pitch here is clearly something like “TaskRabbit [or Thumbtack] but for exectutive assistants.” Fancy Hands (which I have used in the past!) is another company in this space. Based on my previous experience with Fancy Hands, one key difference is that you can have the Fancy Hands assistants do one-off tasks (it was super-helpful when I was moving cross-country, especially since I needed things done that required a mix of different skills), but this week’s startup is focused on dedicated assistants for people doing important business executive work. I used Fancy Hands eight years ago, and they seem to still be in business, so this definitely seems like a sustainable business model. The success or failure of this company is more likely to be contingent on running things correctly (including SEO) than “disrupting” something.
One thing that sets this company apart is that they are matching executives with virtual assistants who live in the local area (no idea what radius counts as local). This is going to be easy for people who live in locales with a lot of gig economy workers, such as any major city in California. Other places are going to be more difficult to find a match; this is going to limit the potential for growth. This emphasis on local workers is going to help with time zone issues. It’s also going to appeal to people who are kind of racist about off-shore contractors in various parts of Asia. I don’t know if there is some sort of policy about whether these local virtual assistants can be expected to do in-person work for the executive – or what sort of friction that would cause.
More concerning for me is that the same locales that have a lot of gig economy workers are starting to implement a lot of gig economy worker laws. My own employer has had to shift many of our “independent contractors” to “part time employees of a third-party service” in order to stay on the right side of all of the various laws in all of the various places. Maybe this startup will hire the assistants as employees and not as contractors? If that expense is already planned for in the business model, then that is a point in their favor, but that’s pretty uncommon for the gig economy.
The rest of my concerns about this startup are pretty nitpicky – and they may have already considered them. Due to the nature of my own work, I’m always attuned to data privacy situations, so I’m sort of curious about how this startup is handling those issues. I’m assuming that executives of small but real companies sometimes work with sensitive information, and there may be issues with sharing some of that with a third party contractor. This might be less of an issue for companies that don’t store personal data about eight-year-olds in California.
Overall, seemed like a pretty plausible company. If I were looking to work for a company that’s only been around for a year and that relies on investor capital (rather than profits) for cash flow and that paid notably less than what I currently make, I would consider the opportunity. However, I work for a profitable company that has been around for almost 20 years and that has put up with me for eight years, so this startup does not seem to be a fit.
Keep the emails coming! Is your startup compelling enough to lure me away? Does one of your KPIs measure whether or not I respond to your cold email (I respond!)? Maybe you are looking for someone to do consulting work? I value my nights and weekends, so my consulting rate is many times the hourly rate that I’m paid at my day job, but I am happy to hear about your project!