[Disclosure: Solvate is co-founded by Julie Ruvolo, a long-time VentureBeat digital media contributor.]
Solvate aims to take advantage of three major trends: the increasing popularity of contracting work, the ease of remote workplace communication, and a growing base of unemployed and underemployed skilled professionals — from recent college grads to stay-at-home moms. It lets anyone who needs administrative assistance get it from technically-savvy people with college degrees at the rate of $20 dollars an hour with no strings attached. This could prove a cheap alternative for people who have too much work and nobody to help, or people who are no longer able to afford paying full-time or part-time assistant employees.
New York-based Solvate has cobbled together productivity software including an open-source content management system and web-based calling, so you can track what people you hire are working on and how much time they’re spending doing it. Assistants will also adapt to use whatever productivity tools you might already be using, like your preferred calendar software, IM protocol, and so on.
The company measures time in five minute increments, so if an assistant spends 30 minutes helping you at one point, you’ll pay just 10 bucks. By making tasks transparent, clients can develop a sense of trust in the people they’ve hired — you work with the same assistant each time. To sweeten the deal, you can try out a first project for free to see if you like it, without giving Solvate your credit card. Your assistant, or assistants, will get back to you on the same day for any given task, unless you pay Solvate an extra $50 per month to ensure they’ll be immediately available.
A wide range of other companies also are trying to take advantage of web-based contracting work, from eLance to Guru to GetFriday and AskSunday. Solvate wants to be different by helping clients to develop long-standing relationships with assistants, based on its specialized software and knowledgeable assistants.
This seems like a great idea — I may have to get overworked VentureBeat founder Matt Marshall using this service, if not myself. But we’re used to controlling our own tasks, we’re also technically savvy, and we tend to work all the time. So while even we — and many other people in all sorts of industries who work outside of the office, unassisted — could really use a little help, one question is how many of us would really be willing to give up direct control over specific tasks.
Besides stitched-together management tools, Solvate also aims to make its service more attractive by carefully screening potential assistants for their understanding of technology and experience working remotely. A client can view an assistant’s resume and work experience in their profile.
Solvate has raised an undisclosed amount of venture funding from DFJ Gotham. Besides Ruvolo, co-founders include tech veteran Rick Lamb and Michael Paolucci, who was previously founder of Interactive Imaginations, a company that eventually became part of the 24/7 Real Media ad network.