“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is an oft quoted phrase used in a philosophical context to demonstrate a seemingly unanswerable problem – the circular argument. Traced back to Aristotle, although undoubtedly rooted further back in time, this phrase was frequently used analogous to broader discussions about the origins of life, the universe and everything. Aristotle, in a verbal sleight-of-hand concluded that both the chicken and the egg must have existed forever more. If only the world of engineering could draw upon such simplistic solutions to complex problems!
When EngLancer existed as nothing more than glimmer in the eye of our founder and CEO, Gary Robinson, we were faced with a similar ‘poultrific’ problem, that of building and growing a double-sided network. While I don’t wish to belittle my own efforts in helping to create EngLancer, the technical solution – elegant though it may be – is not a revolution in software as a service. And it shouldn’t be seen that way. We didn’t set out to do anything particularly smart, clever, or overwhelmingly exciting – instead we set out to design something, exact, distinct, niched and that solved an easily identifiable and real world problem. Those not skilled in the art of software development, may see this as a gargantuan task, but as I discuss with other fledgling online startups, the skill is not in building the product, but in turning that product into a successful, profitable and scalable business. It’s at this point we meet our friend (or challenger), the double-sided network conundrum.
For our solution to work with have that classical problem, chicken or egg. To alter those terms to our own specific entrepreneurial itch, we are faced with two questions which we need to answer:
- How do we attract businesses to list jobs for tender without having a plethora of engineers† ready to bid on that work?
- How to we line up a plethora of engineers, eagerly awaiting work to undertake, when there are no jobs to choose from?
And herein lies the essence of a double-sided network. Fortunately for our meagre minds, such a generic problem has been solved many times over, and we have the comparative luxury of being able to pick and choose from a selection of tried and tested methods, those which best suit the nuances of our own network. I have to name-check Sangeet Paul Choudary for his excellent blog Platform Thinking, without which we would have taken significantly longer to start nurturing growth from our seeded platform.
I’ll refrain from inducing coma by going into the fine details of how we kickstarted our network growth. Needless to say, Gary’s background in Civil Engineering enabled us to draw upon his extensive network and respected reputation, allowing EngLancer to begin trading within a few days of launch, and financially stand on its own two feet within its first month of trading.
Its still early days, having soft-launched in July 2015, but signs are that EngLancer will quickly become the go-to place for outsourced engineering design, reflecting the vision that Gary had not so long ago.
Our continued success and growth therefore depends on our ability to continually find and develop relationships with the best engineering companies, engineers, draftsmen and modellers out there. We want to hear from you, what makes you different and how we can help you grow your brand. The network may be double sided but we are keen to keep it growing continually and to the benefit of the engineering industry.
†I have been informed that the correct collective noun is an awkward of engineers, but chose plethora to avoid the potential for confusion.
Image supplied under a creative commons license from Daniel Iversen.