Many of the interesting and value-creating developments of the past 25 years of information technology can broadly be categorized as either decreasing overhead or increasing granularity of either computation or information interaction. Put in plainer English, much of what computers and the web have done is enable ever-smaller and more personal activities involving sophisticated equipment and technology.
To wit, the early days of computing were dominated by mainframe computers, huge beasts only found in the largest of organizations. Within those organizations individuals signed up for small slices of time and the rest was a dead zone. As computing moved from mainframes to mini’s and mini’s to micro’s and finally to PCs, the overhead was cut by an order of magnitude each time, ultimately resulting in individual home use of spreadsheets, publishing and, of course, games, all of which would have been unavailable to such users even a decade earlier.
We saw the same thing with software – for much of the art of enterprise IT’s development, software was sold as a monolithic piece of code, requiring months of consultant time to customize it to a given organization’s needs. Only large organizations could afford CRM systems, supply chain management, etc… Enterprise software was for the big guys, until Salesforce.com and others came along with Software-as-a-Service, cutting down the overhead by employing a hosted, multi-tenant model to deliver software. Quickly, if not overnight, small and medium-sized businesses gained access to enterprise capabilities, and now this is the primary method by which software is delivered.
We’re seeing the same phenomenon with computing infrastructure. In the first few innings of the internet, web companies made significant investments in infrastructure. Now, cloud computing enables ever-smaller organizations (down to individuals) to deploy web services, as people pay as they go.
People have gotten used to pay-as-you-go services. We buy cheap netbooks that run hosted software that’s run in the cloud. It’s against this backdrop that I’m pleased to announce RRE’s investment in Solvate, a company building a technology-enabled platform to deploy “Staffing-as-a-Service”. This concept, which could also be called Work-as-a-service (my term, not the company’s) means that people can pay as they go for a variety of different types of work, from administrative assistance to lightweight IT work to travel planning. I think of it as a hosted service to do the kind of stuff that sits on my to-do list endlessly waiting for a free weekend that never comes.
Solvate enables people to easily onboard (and then wind down) an extra pair of skilled hands and aim them at whatever tasks you need done. Solvate’s Timesmiths (the folks doing the work) are vetted by the company and are US-based. Solvate’s team and technology provide the front-end and match work with Timesmiths that are capable and available. We think this solves a lot of little problems, and adds up to a big vision for changing the way people deal with work. We’re delighted to join Mike, Julie and the Solvate team.