4 questions for Alessandro Notarbartolo,
founder of tabbid.com
1. Quick introduction : who are you Alessandro and how did you get interested into the Sharing Economy topic, I am thinking here about your project Tabbid.com?
“I am from Milan, Italy. I studied psychology at the university. I was interested back then in all issues related to people’s relationship with the digital tools and the solutions those tools could provide to the people.
In fact, I run in total 5 Internet website projects and companies, so I already had some experience on that topic.
Regarding the Sharing Economy and Tabbid, well, 3 years ago, my mother got a tumor, a cancer, and I remember we faced a lot of issues while trying to encounter some basic services that could help her cope with her everyday life. My idea was then to build a website where people could be engaged by others to provide some short-term services or complete small tasks, in exchange of a small amount of money. This is how Tabbid.com was born.”
2. What were the main phases of development of Tabbid since the beginning, and where is it going?
“Operationally, Tabbid was launched for the first time 3 years ago, once the web platform was technically ready.
But there were some difficulties at the beginning: as a new concept, it was not well understood by the Italian people, and the platform was attracting only workers, people looking for jobs. People who wanted to delegate tasks would not join in, so the whole concept was just not functioning at first.
So I decided to completely change the marketing plan about 1 year ago and make the focus on the people who would delegate tasks.
That was major shift in the whole project development, so I would rather say that the current Tabbid was officially launched 1 year ago.
Tabbid started really to grow for two reasons in my opinion:
First, for the complete redesigning of the marketing plan I just mentioned:
In fact, I worked hard to understand how to connect with the people who needed personal tasks to be done. For that purpose, I decided to launch a facebook group. On this group, I did an intensive work so as to understand the words someone were using when they were describing a task they would like to be done by other peers. When Italians are searching for something, they usually type “ho bisogno di” in their search engine, which means “I need (something)”: this is now what people find on Tabbid’s website when they first land on the page and in just a few seconds they can create a task. Which is quite stunning in my opinion. Those individuals can be for example a woman who needs a babysitter on-demand, or maybe a man looking for technical support for their computer, or even a manager of a very small company looking for a freelance for a short-term mission. All of them would often go ask for it on facebook in his/her personal network.
In the whole process, I launched 27 facebook groups, first inviting acquaintances and asking them to invite people looking for specific tasks to be solved in their own network. All groups have quite big number of people actively conversing, and my job has consisted in studying them just like panels: the semantics they use, the tasks they are looking for, how frequently, etc. That helped me completely change the face of Tabbid that rapidly started to attract more and more users.
Secondly, I did an important work on the SEO (search engine optimization) process; everyday people search for keywords in order to solve their problems. So understanding what were the keywords or phrases used by the people who needed a task to be completed was key to Tabbid’s success.
Today the platform receives 6,000 visits/day, including 2,000 from google search alone, and it is growing at a 20-25% new users/day rate.
I would like to mention that Tabbid is quite unique in Italy in the sense that it is a “free access for all” platform.
Since the launch of the platform, people can use all the key functions of the platform without paying anything.
In a second phase, I have started to launch 2 optional services on top:
For now, there is only one paid additional service, that I think is best for the workers (not for me!); it is a plug-in that allows each user to connect automatically on whatsapp for 1,99 euros and thus move the conversation from tabbid.com to their usual private conversational channel. Today, Tabbid has 25,000 registered users, and after only 1 month passing since the launch of this “whatsapp connexion” service, already 1,000 people subscribed to that service. This is very positive and promising to me, considering that I have a very low maintenance cost for the webplatform in general. It is not such a sophisticated service technically speaking, but the important is that it is well appreciated by the users. In fact, I decided to design it a couple of months ago based on the studying of the conversational contents on the facebook groups I mentioned before;
There is a second additional service that is unpaid: the users can have access to some online courses proposed by HR and educational companies I partnered with. Tabbid proposes a free certification process were the members can ask for the review of their CV and skills, and eventually they can choose to subscribe to external training programs made to learn new skills and professionalize themselves: for example they can learn how to use microsoft suite, learn how to become a social media manager, learn how to build a website, and so on. They first have access to 4 videos for free, then if they wish they have the possibility of moving on and choosing to pay for the entire course directly in the organisation that offers it.Tabbid takes a commission on each selling of those external programs that would have happened thanks to the platform promotion.
Those are only opportunities. People can first give it a try freely, then see how useful or not it is to them, and then choose to upgrade or not. This is the secret in my opinion; people don’t feel forced to pay for extra services on Tabbid in opposition to a lot of other platforms’ practice. I believe this is all the more efficient in Italy where people can be sometimes quite skeptical to new concepts.
As of today, the next step I am planning is the launch of the platform in other countries (first thinking of the UK and France) in 3 steps:
Translation in English, French and German, doing an important study on the semantics used online by the potential users, just like I did in Italy;
Studying the local laws regarding small, short-term jobs or missions, as Tabbid is meant to support people who need a financial complement to meet their ends. Those are ruled differently in each country (for example in Italy, for very short-term jobs, it is authorized to pay small amounts of money hand by hand up to a certain limit, but of course we need to study how it works with French law, UK law, etc);
Invite the adequate local influencers to invite people of their local network to join Tabbid. I insist on the word “adequate” as for example in Italy, it would not make sense to collaborate with influential local politicians to support Tabbid, as the citizens just do not trust their politicians in general.
3. Last time we talked over the phone, you mentioned the confusion between Sharing Economy and Gig Economy in Italy: can you explain it to us? How does this confusion impact Tabbid?
In fact, I don’t think that Tabbid is a “sharing economy” platform, though in Italy it would be considered as such.
In my opinion, only a little part of the platform is actual “sharing economy” (people actually exchanging something freely, in a peer-to-peer way) and for the rest it is more part of the Gig Economy (people renting their services and people buying a service from other peers); in fact on Tabbid, an individual will complete the tasks proposed by another individual in exchange of money.
In Tabbid.com, like in Taskrabbit, people can post a task and others can propose to fulfill it. It is an Italian web marketplace. However, there is no commission fee in Tabbid: it is free for all, while other similar platforms would take a 20% fee on any transaction.
I need to tell you that for Italian people, “sharing economy” means: a situation where some individuals provide a service to other individuals or to other companies.
So all platforms that facilitate person-to-person or person-to-company (C2B) transactions would be seen as part of the “sharing economy”.
For example, here in Italy, AirBnB would be considered as such, however you can have a host managing a lot of flats and renting it to someone else, which in my opinion has nothing to do with sharing.
On Tabbid, I decided not to force the people to pay for the core value of the platform (post a service for others, and receive a service from someone else) but rather let the exchanges happen in the easiest way possible.
Then the users can choose to upgrade to some paid additional services or not. They are not forced to buy specific services if they want to go on using the platform over time.
4. Which advice would you give to an entrepreneur who would like to launch a new service supposedly based on sharing, so that one designs a platform respectful to its users and stakeholders? Same question but for a citizen or consumer who would like to use a new service supposedly based on sharing, so that one chooses a platform actually respectful to its users and stakeholders?
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to have a certain attitude, I by that I mean that you had better thinking that you are aim should not be to make a lot of money in a short time. I would also suggest those who want to launch a web platform to provide access to it for free, and then work on creating other opportunities to the users. Those optional services can be monetized, letting the users pay or letting other third-party companies pay, without forcing them while experiencing your platform.
Finally as users (note that when I say that word I mean someone who needs a problem to be solved in one’s daily life), in my opinion, unfortunately nowadays most of us do not fully understand what is at stake on a web platform by lack of technical knowledge about how the web service actually works. That is a big issue..
Thank you very much Alessandro!
Interview by Habib Belaribi (email@example.com / +34 631 21 85 91) for the World Forum for a Responsible Economy Forum‘s blog.