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Work Week | Ahren’s Challenge

| LinkedIn Marketplaces | Virtual Events Are Hot: Hopin and Hubilo | Asynch Video: Weet | Microsoft Viva |

Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash

Quote of the Moment

It is a huge misunderstanding that the only alternative to planning is aimless messing around. The challenge is to structure one’s workflow in a way that insight and new ideas can become the driving forces that push us forward.

| Sönke Ahrens

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Linkedin Marketplaces

Microsoft’s New Gig: A LinkedIn Freelancer Market Rivaling Upwork, Fiverr | Amir Efrati looks into Microsoft’s plans for LinkedIn, which extend far beyond a business social network focused on finding jobs. How about a freelancer platform?

LinkedIn is developing a new service called Marketplaces to let its 740 million users find and book freelancers, pitting it against publicly traded firms such as Upwork and Fiverr, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

[…]

The service, which is slated to launch as soon as September, could help LinkedIn attract new users and generate more revenue from existing users of its professional networking site, which Microsoft acquired in 2016. LinkedIn generated an estimated $30 of revenue per monthly active user last year. That’s on par with Facebook’s revenue per monthly active user.

Still, it may take a while for the upcoming freelancer product to move the needle for LinkedIn’s business. The Microsoft subsidiary generated about $8.8 billion in revenue in 2020 from membership subscriptions and selling job-related ads, up about 20% from 2019. The existing leaders in the freelance marketplace field, Upwork and Fiverr, last year together generated about $550 million in revenue. That represents their cut of transactions between engineers, designers, and other primarily white-collar professionals and the businesses that hired them for temporary work or projects. Upwork said it keeps about 13% of transactions as revenue while Fiverr said it keeps about 27%. Collectively, the two companies’ revenue rose about 37% compared to 2019.

Microsoft has also hinted to Efrati that they may be tieing in a Microsoft digital wallet with this marketplace, and other services within LinkedIn, such as subscriptions to published content, as well as goods sold through its recent acquisition, Pinterest.

LinkedIn Marketplaces is expected to look similar to Fiverr, which lets customers shop around for services and compare rates, said one of the people with knowledge of the new service. Marketplaces will also allow users to post their own proposals to attract freelancers, similar to what Upwork does. Customers will be able to post reviews of freelancers they’ve hired. LinkedIn is considering taking a cut of transactions as well as generating revenue by letting freelancers post ads, this person said.

I’ve always thought that services like Upwork could provide better collaboration support for the freelancers and companies that use the platform. Clearly, Microsoft is in a great position to do that, especially if the companies are signed up to some LinkedIn Marketplaces version of Viva or 365. More to follow.

P.S. : I discovered a plug for Upwork from a Microsoft manager on the Upwork website.

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Virtual Events

Virtual events startup Hopin raises funds at a $5.65 billion valuation | Ryan Browne reports on the newest funding news from Hopin, which raised $125 million at a $2.1 billion valuation in October 2020:

Hopin says it’s raised $400 million at a $5.65 billion valuation, more than double what it was worth in a November investment round. The latest financing round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst and IVP, some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent VCs. The start-up has experienced rapid growth thanks to surging demand for virtual events in the pandemic.

The need for virtual events has been accelerated by the pandemic, but it’s clear that investors believe virtual events are here to stay, even if events transition to some sort of hybrid model in the future.

Hubilo raises $23.5M in Series A round, to hire 150 people | Vishal Krishna and Trisha Medhi reported on a Hubilo funding round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Balderton Capital, following a $4.5 million raise in October.

The Series A investment round also saw participation from industry experts, including John Thompson, Chairman of the Board at Microsoft, and Chris Schagen, former CMO at Contentful.

[…]

In a conversation with YourStory, Vaibhav Jain, Co-founder of Hubilo, said, “We will use the latest investment to bring strategic, tactical, and technological advancements to our core product, integrations, and platform — allowing us to empower our clients and partners with more nuanced experiences and more in-depth intelligence with their events. This means our clients can leverage all the indispensable propositions of Hubilo much more effectively, much more significantly, and much more powerfully.”

Interesting that both Hubilo and Hopin had raises in October and again in the past weeks.

I am planning a report on Virtual Events platforms later in the spring.

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Asynch Video: Weet

I read about a new asynch video tool called Weet, a product of Speach, a video knowledge management platform. Weet arose in a Slacklike fashion, in that the founders were using an internal tool during lockdown which led to the communication tool’s release. As Connie Loizos explains,

[Weet’s] entering a crowded field. [founder and CEO Najette] Fellache is hardly alone in recognizing the power of asynchronous meetings as an attractive alternative to phone calls, real-time meetings and even email, where tone is often lost and content can be misconstrued. Loom, for example, a six-year-old enterprise collaboration video messaging service that enables users to send short clips of themselves, has already raised at least $73 million from investors, including Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Coatue.

Another, newer entrant is SuperNormal, a year-old, Stockholm, Sweden-based work communication platform that employs video and screen recording tools to help teams create and send asynchronous video updates throughout the day and which raised $2 million in seed funding led by EQT Ventures in December.

[…]

Weet already features instant recording, screen sharing, virtual backgrounds, video filters, emoji reactions, commenting options and auto transcription. For a premium paid version in the works, it is also developing features that will make it easier to organize discussions for users. Imagine, for example, a salesperson looking for communications about a potential client and wanting notes from those auto-transcriptions that are presented together in one email to that individual.

Weet

I am a real believer in asynch communications (see Work Week | Focus and Asynchronous Communication), so I think people should take advantage of tools like Weet. I’ll report back after I have tried it a bit with others.

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Microsoft Viva

I had a chance to see and hear more about Microsoft Viva during Microsoft’s recent Ignite event this week (virtual, of course). I wrote about Viva recently in Work Week | Microsoft Viva Changes Everything.

The biggest takeaway is that most of Viva is not available at present. Viva Topics — an outgrowth of the Microsoft Cortex initiative is available in an early form, but we will be waiting a while for everything else. Viva Insights will begin rolling out in April, Viva Connections at the end of March, and a Viva Learning preview is coming in April.

I thought that Sam Marshall asks good questions about Viva in Microsoft Viva — Who is it for?:

From what Microsoft has revealed about Viva so far, I see a mix of elements, some of which are better suited to smaller companies, and others that only really deliver at an enterprise scale.

Take the intranet element, for example. The Teams integration embeds a SharePoint site into the Microsoft Teams tool bar with your company’s logo as the icon. As far as I can tell, this is a single SharePoint hub site, relying on the new SharePoint app bar supporting global navigation.

A hub site can roll up content from associated sites, but most larger companies have much more complex intranet demands that involve multiple locations and divisions. I’ve every hope that SharePoint will continue to evolve and fill the gaps, but until then it’s going to mostly feel like a small SharePoint intranet using Teams as the browser. It’s not clear that the ‘Viva’ element adds anything on top for enterprise scale.

I’ve seen demos of Viva Connections, but they haven’t gotten far enough along to determine if Sam is right. Still, given Microsoft’s approach of grind, grind, grind, we can expect release after release trending toward market fit.

Sam continues:

Microsoft is clearly trying to appeal to HR with the employee experience pitch. Although IT has successfully championed many Office 365 deployments, there’s often a sense that these deployments happen in isolation, without backing from the business. Compared to Internal Communications, HR budgets are often larger, and HR as a function tends to have more influence in the C-Suite.

A few commentators have celebrated this move, but we need to ask if Viva is what HR wants from a digital suite. After all, there are some large, entrenched players such as Workday, Peoplesoft and SAP Success Factors. These tend to cover the transactional end of HR processes but have been less strong on the wellbeing angle that Viva Insights is targeting. In that respect Microsoft is actually taking on the “pulse survey” sector, such as 15Five, Qualtrics, Culture Amp and Peakon.

And yes, they are going after the somewhat aging leaders in the HR platform marketplace, leapfrogging them with an employee experience orientation and built on the business operating system platform of Microsoft 365.

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