The Next Web recently described Manchester’s Twine as “the anti-Fiverr.” And if there’s one thing a marketplace for creatives should pitch itself as in 2017, it’s probably that. While Fiverr has established itself as the home of low-cost design jobs, voiceover work and the like, there’s space for something further up the chain.
Twine started out under the name Clowdy. It was a consumer-focused place for creatives to sell their wares directly to the public and build a digital portfolio. But it struggled to find a market, and the name made people think of cloud hosting – a reminder that startups can often get away with picking abstract names, but it doesn’t always work.
So last year cofounders Stuart Logan and Damien Shiells relaunched the business as Twine, a freelance marketplace pitched squarely at creatives in the audio-visual space.
“Fiverr and Upwork compete on price but we’re competing on quality,” says Logan. “On other platforms, the buyer can become overwhelmed by pitches.” If you have a piece of design you need doing, for example, you post it to Twine and the platform connects you with only the most relevant people to carry out the work.
The ‘quality’ ethos goes both ways. “On other platforms, the winner gets the job but no-one else who pitched gets feedback. Twine tells them why they might not have got the job. It could be things like an incomplete portfolio, or a lack of information on their profile.”
This feedback is given manually by members of Twine’s nine-strong team. Doesn’t that make it hard to scale as more creatives come on board? “It’s template-based, so it’s not as hard as you’d think,” says Logan. ” We could look at machine learning, but to differentiate on quality it needs the human touch.”
Focused on growth
Twine, which had already raised £500,000 from the likes of Seedcamp, recently raised an extra £400,000 from a group of investors that (full disclosure and all that) includes Herb Kim, the chair of Tech North’s advisory board. The new money will fuel growth, and that’s what 2017 is all about growth for the company.
Logan says they’re targeting startups as a market of buyers. He says they find content marketing works as a way of attracting tech entrepreneurs, covering topics like raising finance and using crowdfunding.
For a small company based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter (they share space with music metadata firm Beatroot), Twine’s market is surprisingly international. Logan says 35 percent of users are in US, 10 percent are in the UK, and 30 percent are in the rest of Europe.
Having seen the Northern tech scene grow in recent years, Logan is optimistic about its future. He personally doesn’t find recruitment a problem but says the funding landscape could be better. That said, he notes that activity from the likes of Ignite and ADV point to better opportunities for early-stage startups in the future.
Logan playfully suggests that Twine could end up a unicorn or even ‘decacorn’-level success story. And why not? As he says, “the ‘platform for freelancers’ problem is far from solved.”