Connect with us


Collective launches a SaaS marketplace for freelancer teams



Freelancers who work well together in teams are the target for Collective, a French startup that’s launching a software-as-a-service marketplace today. (Not to be confused with Collective, a US-based startup that offers back-office tools for the self employed running a business-of-one.)

Collective (the French ‘teams’ edition) is co-founded by Jean de Rauglaudre and Vianney de Drouas, and is backed by the SaaS-focused startup studio/venture builder, eFounders, which covers expenses during the first 18 months (so how much it ends up investing depends but typically runs to at least a few thousand euros.)

“As a former freelancer, I was really attracted by this new way of working,” says de Rauglaudre, discussing why Collective is focusing on “independents teaming up by mutualizing skills, networks and work methodology in a quest to go faster, think bigger, and find more meaning”, as he puts it.

The startup points to notable Collectives that have emerged in recent years — such as ProductLed.Org and in the US, and, and in France, as feeding the idea.

It argues that the indie ‘collectives’ phenomenon has only been accelerated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — with companies faced with more uncertainty looking for more resilient and flexible options.

The pair of founders worked with eFounders to hone their fledgling idea. “We understood that collective was the ultimate next step on this market. Though, we noticed that those forms today do not scale (because of so many admin issues), do not shine (because they do not thrive under a standardized reality), and work alone (while solo freelancers have a lot of tools and benefit from a legal existence, collectives are still undeserved). Therefore, we ‘imaginated’ Collective!” de Rauglaudre tells TechCrunch.

For teams of skilled indie workers the lure of Collective is a promise that it combines the benefits of working in an agency — because its SaaS platform automates a bunch of back-office functions like proposals, invoices, contracts and payments — with the flexibility of still being freelance and thus able to pick and choose projects and clients.

“Exhaustive” back-office is the promise from de Rauglaudre. (Which — yes — does include chasing clients for late/non payment of invoices. When we checked that detail he dubbed the service “a perfect combination of flexibility (inherent to collective models) and security (related to our back-office)”. Late freelancer payments are of course an infamous pain-point that’s been targeted by other startups over the years; but Collective is coming with the full back-office package.)

Additionally, Collective offers freelancer teams marketplace visibility — and thus help with their client pipeline.

It’s been soft launched for one month at this point and in that time says 18 collectives have been formed on its marketplace, comprising more than 150 freelancers in total.

Early collectives operating on its marketplace are offering “varied” expertise — from software development, design, product management, and growth — and are already working with five companies. Collective also says it’s speaking with more than 80 companies as it starts its push for scale.

“We did not expect such huge interest in so little time, coming both from independents and companies,” adds de Rauglaudre in a statement. “This confirms our initial realization: That people and companies are looking for more flexible ways of working and that it is by joining forces that we can reach higher. What we’re seeing is the very beginning of the teamwork revolution.”

“While solo freelancers benefit from a legal existence and have dedicated platforms, collectives are still under-served,” says eFounders co-founder Thibaud Elziere in another supporting statement. “They all operate under different legal structures and struggle to find work because they don’t have the right tools. Collective aims to become the go-to solution to help collectives exist, find work and scale.”

In terms of the underlying trends Collective is aiming to tap into, de Rauglaudre points to “skyrocketing” rates of independent work over the past decade (150%+).

As they investigated further, he says they noticed that more and more freelancers are working together in various forms — suggesting that around a fifth of independents “work as a collective consciously or not”.

“We estimate that +10M freelancers are merging in collectives worldwide but with very various forms (structured or not). They want to team up to increase their revenues (competing against agencies and not solo freelancers) while improving their working mode (not alone any more),” he suggests.

In terms of target sectors/skills for the marketplace to serve (and serve up), he doesn’t think there’s a single template — but Collective is starting by focusing development (on the ‘collectives’ supply side) on design, product, tech, data and growth marketing; and (on the client demand side) on large scale-ups and tech companies.

The business model at this stage is for it to a charge markup (5%-15%) on the client side. The lower fee is charged is the platform isn’t providing the client; while the higher figure is if it is, per de Rauglaudre.

Once all the bells and whistles are ready with the SaaS — in about another month — he says it will also charge a monthly fee on the collective side.

Given the branding clash with the SF-based back-office startup Collective, the French team may want to take that time to consider a name change — maybe ‘Collectif’ could work? 🙃

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.


Lime unveils new ebike as part of $50 million investment to expand to more 25 cities



Lime said Monday it has allocated $50 million towards its bike-share operation, an investment that has been used to develop a new ebike and will fund its expansion this year to another 25 cities in North America, Europe, and Australia and New Zealand. 

If the company hits its goal, Lime’s bike-share service will be operational in 50 cities globally by the end of 2021.

The latest generation e-bike, known internally as 6.0, has a swappable battery that is interchangeable with Lime’s newest scooter. Additional upgrades to the e-bike include increased motor power, a phone holder, a new handlebar display, an electric lock that replaces the former generation’s cable lock and an automatic two-speed transmission. The new bikes are expected to launch and scale this summer. 

The hardware upgrade builds off of the 5.8, a bike developed by Jump that was supposed to be deployed in 2020. That never happened at scale because Uber, which owned Jump, offloaded the unit to Lime as part of a complex $170 million investment round announced in May.

“Jump made great hardware,” Lime President Joe Kraus said in a recent interview. “And we made some further improvements on top with the new bike.”

The hardware upgrades and expansion were funded from its own operational funds, not new financing from outside investors, Kraus said. The funding was possible as a result of Lime achieving its first full quarter of profitability in 2020, according to the company.

“We have figured out how to be profitable and we are funding this,” Kraus said.

Lime not only added a new motor to the bike, it moved its location in an aim to make it easier to handle at low speeds and enough power to climb hills, Kraus said. The swappable battery was perhaps its most important upgrade directly tied to its drive towards profitability, Kraus added.

“When our operations teams is roaming around the city, they take can care of bikes and the scooter fleet, which allows us to both operate profitably and continue to have affordable pricing,” he added.

Lime’s investment in its ebike operation comes a month after it announced plans to add electric mopeds to its micromobility platform as the startup aims to own the spectrum of inner city travel from jaunts to the corner store to longer distance trips up to five miles. Lime is launching the effort by deploying 600 electric mopeds on its platform this spring in Washington D.C. The company is also working with officials to pilot the mopeds in Paris. Eventually, the mopeds will be offered in a “handful of cities” over the next several months.

“This idea of how to service more trips five miles within a city is part of why we continue to do multi modality,” Kraus said. “When we add a new modality like bikes into a scooter city, or when we add scooters to a bike city both modalities go up in usage.”

Continue Reading


Istanbul’s Dream Games snaps up $50M and launches its first game, the puzzle-based Royal Match



On the back of Zynga acquiring Turkey’s Peak Games for $1.8 billion last year and then following it up with another gaming acquisition in the country, Turkey has been making a name for itself as a hub for mobile gaming startups, and specifically those building casual puzzle games, the wildly popular and very sticky format that takes players through successive graphic challenges that test their logic, memory and ability to think under time pressure.

Today, one of the more promising of those startups, Istanbul-based, Peak alum-founded Dream Games, is announcing the GA launch of its first title, Royal Match (on both iOS and Android), along with $50 million in funding to double down on the opportunity ahead — the largest Series A raised by a startup in Turkey to date.

While Dream Games will focus for the moment on building out the audience for puzzle games with more innovative ideas, it also has its sights set on a bigger goal.

“We’re building this as an entertainment company,” CEO Soner Aydemir said in an interview, where he described Pixar as a key inspiration not just for size but for quality in its category. “What they did for animated movies, we want to do for mobile gaming. We are focusing on casual puzzle games first because everyone plays these, but we will also move forward with other genres. We want to be a huge interactive entertainment company that builds high quality games.”

The Series A is being led by Index Ventures, with participation also from Balderton Capital and Makers Fund. The latter two backed Dream Games previously, in a $7.5 million seed round in 2019. Index, meanwhile, is a notable VC to have on board: other successful gaming startups it has backed include Discord, King, Roblox and Supercell.

Interestingly, this is not Index’s first investment in a gaming startup founded by Peak Games alums: in December it led a $6 million round for another Istanbul mobile casual puzzle gaming startup founded by ex-Peak employees: Bigger Games.

Dream Games is not disclosing its valuation with this round.

Dream Games raising $57.5 million ahead of launching any games — or proving whether they get any traction — may sound like a risky bet, but there is some context to the story that sets up the odds in this startup’s favor.

The founding team all come from Peak Games, the Istanbul gaming startup that was so nice, Zynga bought it twice — first, in the form of one small acquisition of some specific titles, and then the whole company some years later.

CEO Soner Aydemir is Peak’s former director of product who built the company’s two biggest hits, Toy Blast and Toon Blast. Ikbal Namli and Hakan Saglam were Peak’s former engineering leads. And Peak product manager Eren Sengul and an ex-Peak 3D artist Serdar Yilmaz round out the rest of the founding team.

(Aydemir notes that the team left and formed Dream Games in 2019, about a year before Zynga’s full acquisition.)

The other indicators that Dream Games is on to something are its metrics for its limited test run of Royal Match.

Royal Match — in which players are tasked with helping King Robert restore his royal castle “to its former glory” by rebuilding it through a series of match-3 levels and obstacles, with new rooms, royal chambers and gardens making up the different levels of the game — was launched first as a limited test on iOS and Android in the U.K. and Canada in July leading up to this launch. In that time, Aydemir said it saw 1 million downloads and 200,000 daily average users.

“We think the numbers are very promising compared to previous experiences,” he said.

While Aydemir likes to describe Dream as an “entertainment” company, there is a lot of technology going into the product, from the graphics and the mechanics of the puzzles themselves through to the data science behind them.

“If you want to create an iconic game, you need to combine engineering, art and data science together with high quality user acquisition and a strong marketing approach,” he said.

And he believes that when you focus on these it will inevitably lead to quality, which means you no longer have to focus on simply trying to find a hit.

“We don’t like that approach,” he said. “We don’t want to find a hit.”

That was also the mix that Index also wanted to back.

“Building iconic titles requires a harmonious mix of craft, science and flawless execution,” said Index Ventures partner Stephane Kurgan, who led the round together with Index’s Sofia Dolfe. “The Dream Games team has perfected this mix over many years of working together, and has put it on full display in Royal Match. We could not be more excited to work with them in their journey to build the next global casual champion.”

While Dream Games’ long-term ambition is to build out interactive experiences around different audiences and genres, Aydemir said that casual games, and puzzles in particular, have proven to be a huge hit with consumers.

The strength of that trend has up to now meant that puzzle games generally have proven to have more staying power than other genres in mobile games, which have soared in popularity but also somewhat fizzled out.

“Every year we see the bigger market of users growing by 20%,” he said. “It will remain for decades.”

Interestingly, the focus on casual gaming startups in Turkey seems like a perfect storm of sorts. Undeniably, the proven success of Peak has brought in more punters, but it has also shown the way to developers: you can build a successful and global consumer tech startup out of Turkey, and perhaps puzzles — which focus on shapes — are especially good at transcending different language barriers.. Alongside that, Aydemir pointed out that the country is strong on engineers and developers but slim on opportunities with bigger tech companies.

“Mobile gaming is a younger industry, so that presents an opportunity,” he said.

Updated to correct that Index is not an investor in Rovio, and that the limited test had 200,000, not 200, DAUs.

Continue Reading


Qualcomm veteran to replace Alain Crozier as Microsoft Greater China boss



Microsoft gets a new leader for its Greater China business. Yang Hou, a former executive at Qualcomm, will take over Alain Crozier as the chairman and chief executive officer for Microsoft Greater China Region, according to a company announcement released Monday.

More to come…

Continue Reading