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    • Please join me in welcoming George Raptis for a Cake Panel discussing his experience as a serial entrepreneur and founder, most recently with Curated.io!

      A bit about George: George Raptis believes that “human-tech” will be at the center of the future of work. George founded Curated (www.curated.io) out of a frustration with both the standard and accessibility of outsourced work. Hailing from Australia and based in New York, George’s passion for building a trusted approach to work has grown Curated to over 15 countries. Curated gives companies access to the entirely new workforce of small, specialized teams for project-based work, and is an end-to-end technology solution supplemented by human “Curators” ensuring that pre-vetted teams deliver meaningful results.

      Welcome George!

    • So George - thank you for joining us today! You’re originally from Australia. What’s been your journey like to get here to New York City?

    • My background was in the professional services world. I was an attorney in Australia, and 6-7 years ago, saw from a distance the huge startup movement happening in the U.S. I was involved in starting a company in San Francisco called Credible (www.credible.com), and that is a fintech marketplace which has grown significantly and is helping people make important financial decisions. I had the opportunity to work between SF and NYC, often in coworking spaces, and was being exposed to fast growing companies who were looking for ways to be more productive – which is how I came up with the idea for Curated. 

    • Sure. When we launched Credible,  it was at a time when student debt was becoming a huge issue and the next blowtorch of attention in consumer finance was being applied to student loans. We built the first of its kind marketplace where users could receive real-time rates from lenders and simplify the process of making important financial decisions. Through the process of building that company I got a lot of exposure to hiring and building teams in the US, as well as fundraising and growth strategy. Credible IPOd at the end of 2017, at which point I was looking for a new focus. I also had an advisory business where we worked with emerging companies on growth strategy - helping me to further identify a lot of the issues we’re trying to solve with Curated – namely, how do you make cost-effective decisions when you’re growing really fast?

    •  I think as an entrepreneur one of the things you face is a constant sense of uncertainty. The work is never done. You’re always trying to grow the business while also building a solid foundation for it to grow upon. Funding is something entrepreneurs are always thinking about, but also thinking about the most efficient way to grow with whatever funding you have access to. In terms of challenges – for me a big one is how do you get everyone focused and moving in the right direction when your concept is constantly evolving?

       Building a product that can scale with users who have differing needs – is definitely a challenge. At Credible – the challenge was building a product that can meet the needs of consumers with different credit profiles. At Curated we’re focusing on how different-sized companies at different stages of growth can outsource similar needs. Looking for the ‘constant’ is definitely a challenge in any evolving market.

       The solution you think might be simple often turns out to be much more complex – but this is what provides an opportunity to build barriers to entry if you solve it faster and better than anyone else.

    • Do you think it’s more difficult to be a startup founder that’s not from the United States? Or have you found the tech ecosystem (in the United States, or more specifically NYC) to be a supportive one for an international founder?

    • I think that one of the great things about the US is that there’s a lot of people that are willing to help you on your journey. And there’s such a great connectivity in this place. Even as a foreigner, it’s more about your willingness to go out and ask people for help, and your ability, your tenacity to keep going at it. I think that building a business is hard anywhere in the world. One of the advantages about the US is access to capital which is unparalleled, as is the willingness to give people a chance. As a foreigner who hasn’t been through the traditional US college system, I come with a different perspective, and I may not have the connections that an experience like that would have afforded, but at the same time, being a foreigner can also be a unique point of difference. 

    • Great question. We see Boutique Teams as the natural evolution of people who are highly skilled in a particular field and who decided to forge their own path - working for themselves with a group of like-skilled people. Things that stand out are people who have, first and foremost, done great work. They have clients that support them, and they have undertaken really great projects in their own right. I think at Curated one of the unique things is that every project is different, so what might be a good Boutique Team to one company might not be a good fit for another. Boutique Teams are providing greater democratization of the workforce, where people are given an equal opportunity to put themselves in the best light – which is something that we’re focused on at Curated. Giving people a point of comparison also helps them to decide which team is best for their project.

    • You’ve worked with some exciting brands like Bluestone Lane and Optimizely through the Curated platform. How did you start those relationships? Any advice?

    • I think one of the most effective ways for companies to get access to early users is to give away something of value that you may eventually charge for, but that people can see is of real benefit that can’t be sourced anywhere else. With some of our early users we spent extra time walking them through the Curated process, giving them the opportunity to use the product without cost so they could experience the benefits. And that’s a great method for any business - giving people the chance to try before they buy.

       Because we consider the future of work to be “Human-tech,” relationships are an important component of what we do.  Traditional freelance platforms have catered lower-value work, whereas Curated is trusted with more complex, high-value projects. While we use technology to build in efficiencies, a key strength of our model and what drives repeat use in the business is the human reference that a “Curator” provides. This applies to both clients and our community of pre-vetted teams.  It’s about building trust, particularly when you are dealing with companies’ most important projects. So that’s how I think we’ve been able to work with some great companies.

    • I think companies are always looking for ways to optimize their spend within their business, especially in a market that’s really competitive for great talent. A statistic we use is 44% of all work is outsourced, so companies are looking outside of the walls of their organization to fulfil some of their larger spending initiatives. We’re seeing a greater reliance on project based work – which gives small to medium sized businesses the ability to compete without a reliance on huge fixed overheads.

    • It sounds cliché – but for any early stage business, the hustle is real. You can’t spend too much time building efficiencies into your business when you’re still learning how users interact with it. So you do need to be scrappy early on. And you just need to keep moving it forward. Because when you’ve got enough of a data set, you can then start making important decisions from those first 100 users that will help inform how the business operates with the next 1,000 users after that.

    • Curated is a community-driven business, so I’m big on community-sourced content. Anywhere (like Cake) that I can get real-time views of the world to me is a great way to consume information and opinions fast. For anyone growing a business – I’d also recommend reading content put out by investors – be it on Twitter or their own personal blogs. It’s an easy way to understand different perspectives on what trends they are following.

    • Be careful when asking your friends if they like your idea because they will often try to be supportive no matter what. Go and find early users who are unbiased and seek their feedback on your product, and use that to determine if you have a good idea, and whether or not people are actually going to use what you’re building. And anyone who comes to curated.io can speak with us directly – we’re always ready to help solve your next challenge. And you can find me @GeorgeMRaptis on Twitter.