A lot of us are in a constant battle with busy work, where random administrative tasks end up consuming as much time as the stuff you care about. But not everyone can afford to hire an assistant. Now a startup called Solvate wants to connect people with outsourced assistants who can do this work.
We first wrote about New York-based Solvate in March, but co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Julie Ruvolo said she sees today as the company’s real launch. (Disclosure: Ruvolo has written a number of articles for VentureBeat.) Solvate is ready to reach a broader audience, the site has been redesigned, and Solvate just raised $2.3 million from DFJ Gotham Ventures and RRE Ventures in its first round of institutional funding.
The basic idea is pretty simple. You tell Solvate what jobs you need done, then the company finds the right person for the task, and charges you for each 5-minute increment of work, with a base rate of $25 an hour. Solvate emphasizes doing things your way — you can contact the company via email, phone, or fill out a request form; the assistants (called Timesmiths) work on the software of your choice; and you can log into the Solvate website to see how the work is progressing. Possible tasks include creating PowerPoint presentations, expense report management, audio transcription, trip planning, managing your sales software, and more. If you only have a vague idea of what you need, Solvate can help you flesh it out.
As you can probably tell from that description, Solvate is taking a very different approach from most other startups offering outsourced labor. Companies like Elance, oDesk, and CrowdFlower are all about creating marketplaces where the job-listing and job-finding processes are as automated as possible. Asked if Solvate’s full-service approach might create problems as the company tries to grow, Ruvolo points to the traditional staffing market, where more than 100 firms are able to achieve more than $100 million each in revenue, presumably with very little automation.
“There’s this hegemonic Valley mentality that the way to scale is automation,” Ruvolo says.
Instead, she says, Solvate wants to use technology where it make sense, such as with its job monitoring tool, and to speed up the process of finding the right person or team for a job. But human involvement is also key.
The company previously raised a seed round from DFJ.