Headquartered in Berlin, Germany, jovoto is a platform that helps businesses with their creative challenges in such areas as branding and product design. jovoto does this by connecting businesses with a global community of talented designers and creatives.
Since launching, jovoto has helped some of the world’s biggest brands to solve their innovation challenges, including the likes of Starbucks and Coca-Cola. The platform has been great not only for brands accessing creative solutions, but also for the talent helping to provide them; creating a fair and beneficial world of work for a global network of creatives.
TechRound was lucky enough to meet a member of jovoto’s team during a Women in Tech event at Disrupt Berlin, and found out a bit more about the company, the inspiration behind it, and its journey in becoming the innovative, co-creation platform it is today.
What was the inspiration behind jovoto?
“jovoto’s founder, Bastian Unterberg was a young designer who was just about to graduate from university. Like any young graduate, he was thinking about his future: he was motivated, talented, and full of ideas – but just like his graduating peers, he was still at the beginning of his journey. He knew he had no desire to end up in an agency where he’d idle for long hours in a cubicle, where he’d likely be underappreciated and where his creative freedom would likely expire.”
“He found some key people around him who also believed that there had to be a better alternative, and they eventually became his mentors, sparring partners, first supporters, and early team members. Their mission? To launch a platform where young designers can collaborate with cool brands on exciting projects, and grow professionally in the process.”
“From the beginning, jovoto has always had to keep the focus on both stakeholders on each side of our business: on one side we’ve focused on creating opportunities for an alternative career path for the creative talent working on our platform, based on the principles of freedom, fairness, and collaboration. And just as equally important for our model to work, on the other side we’re giving brands access to fresh creative talent, their ideas and their insights, which ultimately results in new innovations and unlocking new potential for growth.”
How did jovoto first start out and how has it grown since?
“jovoto started out in Berlin in 2007 with the support of angels in Germany and the USA and has grown organically, aside from a few small investment rounds that were needed to shape our product. This strategy led us to profitability early and has granted us the independence to shape our own growth story.”
How did jovoto find the process of starting up a business, were there any major challenges along the way?
“Most probably, our biggest challenge has been that we were on the market one decade early. In the beginning, few large companies were willing to open up and work with people outside their organization, let alone with relatively anonymous people represented by avatars on a platform.”
“Our early years took place during the “rise of crowdsourcing” era, where the concept of crowdsourcing was new. From crowdfunding, to microtask platforms, to idea competitions, crowdsourcing platforms in all forms were popping up across the internet.”
“We found a niche in Europe running design competitions on our platform that used gamification, prize money and community guiding to drive a more collaborative approach to crowdsourcing.”
“But our first big setback had to do with our operations in the USA. Some of our early supporters-turned-business-partners had launched jovoto Inc. in New York City, which was running in parallel to our Berlin office. Through our US office, we saw our first big lighthouse projects with global consumer brands like Starbucks and Coca-Cola. The design contests that resulted on our platform were launched with the PR buzz as the main KPI. Eventually when the hype ended, we were left with no choice but to scale back our US operations and re-focus primarily on the European market.”
“Recently, things are looking up again and persistence is paying off. I’d even say we’ve reached an era of “market-readiness for platform-based innovation”. The business world is talking about a decline of brand loyalty and hyper-customization for the consumer. Co-creation is often touted as one strategy to stay ahead. As a result, there isn’t a single future-oriented company who isn’t adopting their own co-creation strategy. We have the upper hand since we have the access to talent, a mature platform, and a deep understanding of the methodology needed to get drive great results.”
How do you evaluate designers and what benefits do the top designers receive?
“When a designer wants to join our community and have access to the projects, they must apply with their portfolio, which is standard practice for designers applying to jobs in the creative industry. Our talent managers evaluate the applications and assign scores based on their different skill sets. This allows us to invite a variety of designers with specific strengths and skills into the projects. We also gather an increasing pool of data including their age, gender, and place of residence, so we can pull designers with a specific demographic profile into any project, depending on the client’s needs.”
“As a designer, once you’ve been accepted, you’ll be invited to participate in projects. You’ll receive a score at the end of every project you participate, which is based on clearly communicated KPI deliverables. Great performance is rewarded with even more invitations to projects. Designers participating in these projects are guaranteed a fixed payment which we’ve aligned with a German standard. Sometimes a client wants to continue to work directly with the individual responsible for creating their favourite idea, which is great. Every designer’s success story is a success for us too!”
What would you say jovoto has brought to the design industry?
“I’d say that the greatest impact we’ve made goes back to our founding idea. We’re confident when we say that we’ve been successful in creating a platform that offers sustainable work opportunities for the designers who want to embrace an alternative career path.”
“We know that in fact, many do want to embrace it! Today, we have 120 000 creative professionals, subject matter and innovation experts in our creative community. Every year, we send thousands of invitations out to them to join projects, flex their creative muscles, earn money, and contribute to projects which bring them purpose. Many designers working on our platform have already fully embraced the digital freelancing model, and earn a living by contributing to our projects.”
“While crowdsourcing creative work was once about accessing cheap ideas and labour, we’ve set the bar pretty high for the other crowd work platforms, especially when it comes to fair (and guaranteed) payment, transparency, and access to opportunities. And we’re working closely with labour unions to keep pushing it higher. Because of the work that we do in this field, crowdworking no longer has to be a precarious path for professionals.”
“Our model proves that the better you nurture talent, the more you can guarantee a collaborative mindset that leads to great results. And we think this is the future of creative work.”
Does jovoto have any plans for the future?
“We plan on continuing to work towards improving the standards for designers who want to work flexibly on our platform, and increase the opportunities for income and professional growth on a global scale. As we grow, by unlocking new revenue streams through key partnerships with agencies and global consultancies, so will the opportunities for the designers who choose to work on our platform.”