SA’s start-up to revolutionise freelancing market for developers, designers and copywriters

“It’s a marketplace connecting local freelancers and businesses, with an emphasis on vetted skills,” by Hooros, an online network of experts connecting established businesses and start-ups to experts on a freelance or permanent basis. By Gugu Lourie

The Cape Town-based Hooros provides vetted talent through a comprehensive three step filtering process and handle all legal agreements to protect all parties and client invoicing.

Co-founders of Hooros – Emmanuel Sibanda and Sijabuliso Nkiwane – believe that their start-up “is the perfect starting and ending point for high performing student looking to gain work experience, professionals looking to attract new clients, or an expert looking for a new challenge to expand their skill base.”

Hooros is a name derived from the Egyptian sky god Horus. Horus is one of the most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times.

TechFinancials.co.za spoke with both Emmanuel and Sijabuliso about their reasons for creating this start-up, and why anyone – web developers, designers and copywriters – should trust their online marketplace.

When was the start-up founded?

The start-up was founded in September 2015, we used the first phase of our launch to test a few key assumptions and we pivoted our business model in mid – late January 2016 after measuring and learning from our market.

Why Hooros? What is the problem or challenge you are trying to fix in the freelance market?

We are trying to create a closed network that provides established and start-up businesses access to vetted skilled web developers, designers and copywriters on a freelance and/or permanent basis. For permanent employers we offer them access to a pool of talent that has been vetted, we ensure that all experts hired through Hooros are given a trial period by their employers to ascertain their skillsets. For our freelancers we want to protect them against client exploitation (not being paid on time, or dealing with vague client requests).

What attracted Hooros to venture into the freelance online marketplace?

As economies continue moving towards the fourth industrial revolution that looks set to be dominated by computers, big data and a more complex interaction between humans and machines, web/software developers, web/graphic designer and copywriters possess undeniably important skills for any business that operates in the modern economy. The problem however is that currently the hiring process for technical permanent employees is very flawed, clients seek out non-technical recruiters who in turn rely on some quickly identifiable attribute to find candidates; if you don’t look good on paper you might get over looked.

Emmanuel Sibanda
Emmanuel Sibanda, co-founder of Hooros

The recruiters then proceed take a percentage from the hire’s annual salary for a simple exchange of data this is a flawed process because; technical skills are not adequately tested, communication skills and compatibility are not taken into consideration and no this process adds absolutely no value to the client and the technical expert.

In the freelancer market you have similar issues (minus recruiters) and on top of those issues you do not have, particularly in South Africa, a viable solution that offers clients well drafted contracts to govern their freelancer relationships and a platform that essentially acts as project manager ensuring effective communication occurs between the client and the freelancer.These are problems we identified and as all young, highly ambitious entrepreneurs we wanted to solve these problems.

What is the unique selling proposition for Hooros?

Our unique selling point is actually a coalescence of 3 unique values.

Firstly, unlike other local alternatives when it comes to working with Hooros freelancers, Hooros takes an extra contractual step to ensure adequate communication occurs between the client and the freelancer- this is all done at no extra cost to the client or the expert- we also handle all mediation in the event a misunderstanding occurring between our experts and our clients (this is more applicable in instances where a client hires an expert on a freelance basis).

Secondly, because of my (Emmanuel) legal background, we draft and manage all contracts between a client and an expert on our platform whether the client is hiring said expert on a freelancer or permanent basis. We ensure in our contracts that there is a clear description of the client’s expectations.

Thirdly, we vet all our experts, for obvious reasons I cannot give exact details of our vetting process but I can say that we test for all our experts for communication skills, team work skills, ability to handle stress and we test our developers’ technical skills (and our copywriters’ ability to communicate effectively in written form).

What’s the uptake so far of the platform in terms of businesses and freelancers you have signed up so far?

I am not too comfortable with giving out exact numbers at the moment, for competitive reasons, I can give percentages. Out of our total freelancer base around 68% are developers, 12% are copywriters and about 20% are designers (some designers are both front-end and back-end developers, so the developer percentage is actually a bit higher than 68%)

Have you faced any challenges so far as Hooros?

The biggest challenges are cash-flow related, as a start-up that is 100% bootstrapped we have to ensure that we are cash flow positive. Additionally, we have to be careful how we spend our money and what we spend it on, if for example we are to spend money on marketing we have to draft clear assumptions that are measurable and give us a clear indicator of the ROI of the particular marketing avenue. We deal with those issues by getting more clients, because as the saying goes, when you are very early stage, ‘sales cures all ailments’

How do you make money through Hooros?

For a freelance project, Hooros collects a 15% commission from the overall fee payable for the project. For a permanent hire, Hooros collects a 15% commission from each hire’s salary for the first 2 months of his/her employment.

Are you profitable?

Yes, we are profitable, we have been profitable for the past 2 months. We are in the process of developing our platform further (to move beyond the functional prototype phase).

Any plans to expand outside of SA or into other areas such as construction to register workers with skills there?

We want to first entrench Hooros in the local market, fortify Hooros in the current 3 verticals and then possibly look into expanding to other African countries (Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana for example) and possibly certain parts of South-East Asia, depending on  a number of factors. We like the idea of focusing on only 3 related verticals (developers, need designers, and designers need copywriters) because that helps us continually iterate on our vetting processes and in continually gain a better understanding of our market. That being said we are not completely ruling out the possibility of opening our business to other verticals in the future.

Are keen to bring on board investors with big pockets to fund your expansion? Are you looking for funders?

We are definitely open to the idea of having an investor who understands our business model, shares a similar vision and who can help us grow our business further. At the same time as much as we need capital to expand our marketing efforts, develop our platform further and build a team that help us take our start-up to the next level, with or without an investor we are going to continue finding ways to grow Hooros.

As an entrepreneur are you busy developing other ideas, if so are you planning to launch another company soon?

I have a thousand ideas, I am sure my co-founder has a lot too, but at the moment our focus is solely on developing Hooros further. The snippet I can give you is that we will be developing Hooros further and we will be delivering a few surprises during the course of the year.

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