San Francisco-based Gigster, a two-year old startup that graduated from the Y Combinator accelerator program earlier this year, has what sounds like an obvious concept:
Connect freelance programmers with the companies that need them.
But there’s a lot more going on under the hood with Gigster.
The way Gigster works is simple. As a customer, you write, in plain English, what you want your business app to do.
Then, Gigster analyses your request, figures out the best team for the job — including programmers, product managers, and designers — and gives you a flat quote with a guaranteed price.
“In short, push a button, get software,” Gigster CEO Roger Dickey says.
It’s been enough to attract the attention of famed Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which today led a $10 million Series A round of investment in Gigster.
That round also includes participation from Y Combinator’s new Continuity Fund — and high-profile tech figures like Ron Conway, Jason Calacanis, and Ashton Kutcher (yes, that one).
Here’s how Gigster has attracted top Silicon Valley talent to help anyone build the apps they need.
All of that interest speaks to a real need, says Dickey, who sees the company as “the world’s software engineering department.”
In a world where the need for apps is rapidly outpacing the availability of developers, Gigster is trying to shorten that loop.
Customers work with a product manager, the same way they would if they were contracting their internal IT department to get an app built, says Dickey, and they have similar weekly check-ins and the like.
If you need software, Gigster provides an easy way to just get it done, whether or not you yourself are technical. And even if you are technical, it can be cheaper than hiring a full team.
In fact, given the Silicon Valley talent crunch, it can actually replace the costly and time-consuming need to recruit developers in the first place.
“We don’t think every company needs an engineering team,” Dickey says. “It’s a little bit ridiculous.”
Developers developers developers
Many of the 350-plus developers on Gigster are often past and current employees of companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, Dickey says. Many are winners of Apple’s prestigious Design Award, he says.
Where, in their day-to-day life, programmers may have well-paying but fundamentally boring jobs managing tiny bits of huge, tremendously complicated software, Gigster lets them exercise their problem-solving muscles — and get well-paid for the privilege.
“If you’re a really strong engineer, you’re going to want to do some work on the side,” says Dickey.
Moreover, it’s a great venue for the self-employed developer, or those who just want to make money while working on other projects, or basically those who don’t want to deal with office drama.
“These guys just need a clear understanding of what to build, and how to build it,” says Andreessen Horowitz partner and former Salesforce CEO Lars Dalgaard, who’s joining the Gigster board with this announcement. “The world of Silicon Valley engineers is uninterested in office politics.”
Dickey says that in addition to the ten Gigster employees currently working on the platform, there are ten more programmers hired from Gigster also working on it.
There are plenty of other freelance marketplaces out there, for programming and for other services, sure. But Gigster has a secret weapon, in the form of a “smart platform” built out by CTO and co-founder Debo Olaosebikan, Dickey says.
Behind the scenes, Gigster uses machine learning technology to get smarter over time. Basically, it can figure out the things that are similar about different customer projects.
That’s useful not only to figure out the best developer for the job, but also to suggest using code that helped complete similar projects in the past. It results in a shorter time to completion.
“Airbnb only had to build Airbnb once,” but Gigster gets better at solving similar problems over time, Dalgaard says.
It’s also how Gigster can afford to shoulder the risk with guaranteed price quotes, since the platform helps developers get more efficient over time.
The appeal to Andreessen Horowitz, whose cofounder Marc Andreessen once famously declared “software is eating the world,” is obvious, since Gigster puts more software into the hands of more people than ever.
“We like to say we’re ‘software eating software,'” says Dickey.
Disclosure: Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, is an investor in Business Insider.