Assignmint is the workflow platform that fixes the editorial and publishing relationship.
Los Angeles, CA
Jeff Koyen, CEO
What was the hunch that got you started?
I’ve been the freelance writer and journalist. I’ve been the editor, commissioning work from that writer and that journalist and on both sides of the working relationship, on both sides of the desk, the logistics are just a god awful mess and as far as I’m concerned the bad and broken logistics are what cause the most tension in the publishing relationships.
It’s not landing the jobs, it’s not delivering the jobs, it’s not the quality of work, it’s just getting all the paperwork and all the annoying things taken care of. And so, having been the writer and the editor, I never found, because it’s not out there, I never found any tool or software or solution to just handle all the annoying, mundane tasks. Everything from organizing your pitches, on both ends, sending them and receiving them, getting the paperwork back and forth, automating your contracts, getting your invoices in and approving them, tracking expenses, and then finally issuing and receiving payments.
That’s where Assignmint steps in.We don’t care what kind of content you are producing. We’re not an editorial marketplace. We’re not a CMS. We’re not even helping manage the words themselves. Those aren’t pain points as far as I’m concerned. The real pain points in the publishing industry are all the logistics and the paperwork and that’s where we stepped in.
What have you learned? How have you failed? How have you had to pivot?
If I could do it again from scratch, I would pare down the offerings and get to market quicker. That’s a lesson that’s already out there. That’s the lean startup, minimum viable product philosophy.
But we’re a workflow software and workflow software is incredibly complicated. We front-loaded a lot of our work to offer more fully functioning product. If I had to do it again I’d probably hammer the product plan some more – a leaner product to get to market quicker just so we can get out there and get users on board and real life feedback.
The good news is that so far, we are pretty much on schedule. We have our consumer-facing product that has been in open Beta for six months. We have a couple thousand users telling us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong, and that’s invaluable. I would tell everybody else who is doing this this to market as soon as possible, because there is nothing like real user feedback.
What is your team like? Company Culture?
It’s still just two of us. It’s just me and the CTO and we work around the clock. Regarding our culture, we stand out a little bit because we’re not a company filled with twenty-something’s playing beer pong. I have deep industry expertise, I come after twenty years of being part of the industry that I am serving. That’s also been a great advantage because my CTO is also a seasoned vet in terms of technology; he has a long history, he has been doing startups for twenty years. We know how to work around the clock and we know how to hit deadlines, but we also are very mindful of the real world.
There is a down side to it. If you have a team of twenty-five year olds all living in one apartment you could work twenty-five hours a day and live and eat and breathe together. That’s great, you get things done in a certain way. We’re not. We’re more traditional straight up business project management and you need to take a couple hours off because you have to take care of something at home. That’s good. Because happy home life means happy work life. So, we kind of manage our expectations with each other that way. We work remotely, but we’re in contact all day everyday, and we’re very realistic about our time management.
What is your plan for monetization?
We will offer premium accounts to the writers who are our B2C customers. But, I’ve been on the writer side quite a lot. Even if you told a freelancer, “You have to pay a just dollar for this convenience”, that’s a very hard dollar to get. I talked to my friend Jeremy months ago, and told him, and he said to keep it free because the optics on free for freelancers and writers is invaluable. No matter what dollar that you would earn from them, not getting that dollar is worth so much more than that dollar ever could be. So, we are trying our best to keep that side free.
On, the publisher side, it’s convenience fee for paying invoices, and it’s premium charges for team accounts. So, once you are a publisher and you want to put five of your editors on the same account with us so they can share their workflow, that’ll cost you fifty bucks a month, or whatever the price point ends up being. It’s very straightforward. There’s no one else doing what we do. There are editorial marketplaces out there that connect writers and publishers and they take commissions and I have a huge philosophical objection to that. If you’re a rainmaker and you’re creating original jobs, then yeah you can take your 10 to 15 percent. But, if you’re just sitting there connecting party A with party B and bringing no real value to that transaction, I have a real tough time with people taking a 15 to 20% take off the top – and that’s what they are taking, and I think that’s absolutely crazy.
Because of this, we are taking the harder path and making much less money but hopefully the longer view will all pan out. To be able to stand up and say we are absolutely free for the writers and the freelancers because that’s a huge, that’s invaluable to be able to stand up and say that. It’s worth any money that we are sacrificing to be able to say that.
What can brands learn from you?
The nickel-and-diming, the over-assessment of fees, and putting the convenience charge on everything is just detrimental. Like airlines, the days of free meals and free alcohol on flights are over, that’s gone the way of the 70′s with smoking on flights. But there’s a middle ground and if you can do the math and say okay, we can offer something that we wholesale for seventy-five cents would normally retail for five dollars. If you give that away for free you’re not losing five dollars, you’re losing your wholesale cost. Do the math on that to be able to say “We’re on our consumers side” and it’s absolutely worth it, and I think more brands would if they would take more than a quarter-by-quarter view, just the fiscal year, I feel like being more on the consumer’s side will pay off just because you’ll get more volume and you’ll get more loyalty. I think that’s underestimated in a lot of places because people are desperate to close their margins and they are desperate to close their books . It’s not just damaging to consumers buy I think it’s really damaging a lot of brands out there too.