Reflecting on jovoto’s ten-year journey: An open letter to our clients & community

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Dear jovoto clients & community,

When I asked myself, “How do I want to work?” ten years ago, it sparked the founding idea of jovoto and kicked off our journey to create a platform-based, more open, social, and collaborative work environment. Ten years ago, a small group of students were motivated to unleash talent, motivated to shape alternative career paths that present a better fit for what we liked to call “the next generation of talent”.

Today, that small group of students has transformed into to a thriving team and a community of creatives from all over the world. A ten-year anniversary is a good opportunity to be grateful for many learnings as well as to reflect. First of all, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you. Thank you for all the feedback we have received along the way; thank you for bearing with us over all these years as we explored the future of work. Without your collaborative spirit, we would have lost motivation and not come so far.

Nespresso innovated with us to give their coffee capsules a second life.

But how far did we come? Did we change the world? How many creatives can make a living from their work on jovoto? How many creatives did we inspire to chose alternative career paths? Have we accomplished our mission? Have we lived up to the purpose that got us going ten years ago?

“We could have done worse,” was one of the first answers that I received. Well, over ten years we helped more than 100 leading global brands to open up and innovate with tens of thousands of creatives outside their own organization. For these clients, we solved hundreds and hundreds of projects in a mass-collaborative way and involved creatives from more than 153 countries. Under normal circumstances, most of these creatives would probably never have had access to these challenges. Over the course of 10 years, we’ve paid out millions and millions of euros to the creative community we’ve built. On a global scale, we’ve claimed to be the most sustainable crowdsourcing platform. We are recognized as thought leaders by several labor unions for shaping new ways of work and have educated the market that it is possible to solve complex challenges through open innovation.

“Crowdsourcing brings together different people, experiences, and perspectives from around the world. We want to be able to tap into this creative energy provided by the crowd to get innovative ideas for the future of work. Digitalization and networking also mean new opportunities to collaborate, learn, and share knowledge on an interdisciplinary and global level.”
– Ralph Linde, Head of Volkswagen Group Academy

Well, we did not do bad, but the responses I received were rather diplomatic and did not explicitly answer the question I raised. So I asked again: Have we lived up to the purpose that made us start our journey ten years ago? And then my own hunch manifested the more I insisted on tough love: We did not go offtrack, but we also have not changed the world. We have not accomplished our mission. We have not changed the world.

After ten years, it is exactly tough love you need if you don’t want to settle within your comfort zone. Which we could have: Last year was one of the best years since we launched. Our community size crossed the magical mark of 100 000 creatives, and we were looking at a solid 120% annual, organic company growth rate in 2016.  

One other answer that I received stuck with me: Well, with everything we’ve learned, with everything we’ve built, we should be able to make it happen since the market outlook is great. Large organizations have understood what they did not know ten years ago: They need to open up in order to keep up with the speed of innovation that is required today in order to be successful tomorrow.

Looking at a much friendlier market outlook in 2017 (which we had utterly misjudged in 2007), we kept raising questions. Two inconvenient truths were keeping us awake at night:

1. Despite all the positive progress, there are too few creatives making a living of jovoto. This is not a dimension that builds alternative career paths at scale. We are only changing the world for a tiny group of people. We are in a small niche.

2. No matter how sustainably you organize a contest, no matter how much contestants learn, no matter how much recognition or contacts they gain, in a contest model, only a few are paid. In the end, neither experience, network, nor fame can pay rent.

Today, I am more than happy and proud to announce the changes we have been planning and implementing the past few months to find valid answers to these two issues and build a lasting alternative career path.

“For me, these projects offer a completely new work environment. With no logistics from my side, I get to collaborate, exchange perspectives, and see how other talented creatives approach the same brief. And instead of becoming a competition like agencies pitching for the same client, it turns into a genuinely healthy space to solve problems.”
– Rodrigo Bardin, Conceptual Designer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Within the next six months, the contest model within the top-talent section of our community will slowly be faded out. We want to pay the best talent fair rates for their work.
Leveraging the data we have gathered over the years, we have developed a work mode that allows us to match the right talent with our clients’ challenges smarter. This new process leads to even better results for our clients and at the same time pays all participating creatives for their work. We want to continue shaping a model that resonates with top talent, which is why we plan to establish an average daily rate of a minimum of 320€. Although we believe it is quite old fashioned to pay people for their “time invested”, it at least gives us an early method to benchmark.

Running 18 invite projects as pilot tests has helped us validate the process.

A bottom up redesign of work processes led to new standards which led to increased quality and efficiency for clients and top talent.

Restructuring our work processes and work modes allows us to manage the deliverable format as well as the quality of results in much more standardized ways. The new structures help creatives to navigate the workload as effectively and efficiently as possible.This means that we can offer our creatives a better way to manage their work and provide a better payment-for-effort-fit, while ensuring a much better price/value fit for our clients.This does not only result in a better problem/solution fit driving client satisfaction, but we also believe this will lead to significantly lower entry barriers for clients to work with us. jovoto will become a strong tool to also work on smaller innovation challenges for smaller budgets while still paying creatives fairly.

Since the first days of jovoto, we were aware that we are looking at a platform-based business model with multiple stakeholders. That means we have to at least think win:win:win – only if creatives are “happy”, will our clients be “happy”, and only if our clients are “happy”, will we be able to build a sustainable and successful business. We strongly believe that this “win:win-update” of how jovoto works for talent as well as for clients will lead to the kind of scalable business growth that will enable us to provide a real alternative career path not only for the few but many, many more.

Without many of you who joined our journey along the way, we would not have been able to draw these conclusions. We would not have been able to constantly evolve and improve, and certainly we would not be around anymore. A ten year anniversary is not only a great moment of reflection but also a great moment to say thank you.

Thank you for being a part of our journey. We’d be thrilled to collaborate with you again next year!

Bastian & the whole jovoto team and community

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Bastian Unterberg

Bastian founded jovoto in 2007 to establish a more open, social, and collaborative workplace for creative talent as many of today's work environments do not match the DNA of the next generations of talent.