A Q&A with ServiceScape founder and CEO David Costello. The Brookline, Massachusetts–based company is the result of the merging of two separate businesses in 2007, and just officially launched its freelancer marketplace in early April.
SUB: Please describe ServiceScape and your value proposition.
Costello: ServiceScape is an online marketplace for editing, translation and graphic design services. We provide a simple, straightforward way for clients to find the right freelancer for their specific needs, set up a project in a few steps, pay, and be on their way.
The site allows clients to browse hundreds of freelance profiles and view each professional’s description, credentials, portfolio and client ratings of past projects. They can also communicate directly with any available freelancer by either sending a message or setting up a conference call. Unlike other freelance sites, ServiceScape makes it easy for clients to submit and pay for projects within just a couple of steps. They simply enter a few pieces of information, and ServiceScape creates a project tailored to their specific needs that includes price, due date, and all relevant service options.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Costello: There is a large market out there for freelance editing, translation, and graphic design services. For editing services, our target market includes publishers, book authors, universities, and individuals who need help with English writing. For translation services, we are mostly targeting international companies who are trying to reach a multilingual audience. For graphic design services, we are targeting everything from a small startup that needs help with their logo to a large corporation that needs a professional graphic designer to develop a product catalog.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Costello: Our competition falls into three primary categories. The first one would be big freelancing job sites, such as oDesk.com or Elance.com, which are based on freelancers bidding on project proposals submitted by clients. The second category would be crowdsourcing websites, such as 99designs.com or crowdSPRING.com, which allow users to create labor contests. During such contests, multiple freelancers would provide their services, a few would be selected as the winner, and the rest would not be compensated for their work. The last category would be smaller websites that provide a single service, such as Scribendi.com.
SUB: What differentiates ServiceScape from the competition?
Costello: With ServiceScape.com, most aspects of editing, translation, and graphic design services are integrated into the site itself. A client can go to the site, select a freelancer, and have an active project within minutes. All you have to do is answer a few questions, and the site builds the project for you without waiting for bids or contest submissions. By templating prices, due dates, and all relevant service options, an individual can buy a service as quickly and easily as buying a product online.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Costello: The company was founded back in 2000. I had just graduated from college and I set up a rudimentary site just for editing services called EditAvenue.com. As the years progressed and my programming skills got better, the site became more and more advanced. Then in 2006 I created a second site, LanguageScape.com, which offered translation services. Eventually, in 2007 I decided to combine the two sites and expand the business into new territory and started my work on ServiceScape.com.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for ServiceScape? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Costello: It was definitely more gradual. EditAvenue.com was conceived when I realized as a college student back in the late 1990s that there were few options for online editing services, and I created that site to help meet the demand. EditAvenue.com then evolved over several years based on client and freelancer feedback. Whenever there was a need for a new feature, I would tack it onto the old site. Eventually I had a good understanding of what the market wanted. With ServiceScape, I wanted to make those features more advanced and compelling. For instance, there was a need early on for client and freelancer communication so I added a simple messaging system to the old site. During ServiceScape’s development, I made sure the system could support rich text messages—bold, italics, etc., message attachments, and teleconference capabilities.
In addition, I wanted to make ServiceScape accessible to a wider international audience by leveraging the talent we already had available in LanguageScape.com. Translating the site into 14 languages also gave us the chance to ‘eat our own dog food.’
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Costello: The name is basically an homage to Netscape. Those days are long gone, but it was the first browser I ever used.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Costello: Translating the website content into 14 languages has probably been the most challenging part of the development. When you have a site that has over 50 dynamic web pages and each one of these pages has 14 language versions, suddenly you realize that programming this system will be very complicated. Throw in the fact that two of the languages are right-to-left, meaning that the text orientation is opposite from what you are used to, and you’ve got yourself a very big obstacle to development. It took many years to sort this out but I’m happy to say that every single page is now fully translated.
SUB: You just had your official launch. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Costello: For my company, business tends to slow down a bit during the summer months so I wanted to make sure that ServiceScape was up and running by the spring. Fortunately, I was able to wrap up development during the winter so now my clients and freelancers can interact with the new site during our peak season.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding to this point? If so, how much have you raised?
Costello: I have not raised outside funding. It has been my preference from early on for the company to grow organically and it has been self-sufficient for many years.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Costello: When a client finds his or her freelancer and creates a project, the individual submits payment on the last step of the project submission process. Revenue is split between the company and the selected freelancers 50/50.
SUB: What are your goals for ServiceScape over the next year or so?
Costello: My short term goal for ServiceScape is client satisfaction. I want to make sure that every project runs smoothly, and that any problems that may occur are dealt with quickly. I want to hear as much client feedback as possible so I know what is working well and what needs to be worked on. As long as clients are happy and are interested in becoming repeat clients, most other business issues will work themselves out.
ServiceScape – www.servicescape.com