There are dozens of marketplaces for creators to find gigs on the Internet. Is there really room for another one?
Anirudh Singla, Founder, Pepper Content, an Indian managed content marketplace, seems to think so. So do his investors – Pepper just raised a round of $4.2 million in Series A funding, led by Lightspeed India.
The Managed Marketplace
Pepper is a managed marketplace. Most existing marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr facilitate the connection between creator and buyer, but leave it to both parties to figure out the delivery of the work. Pepper differentiates itself by managing this relationship.
Pepper’s relationship managers, who handle 40-50 clients on an average, not only manage the interaction between business and creator, but also take accountability for quality of delivery.
When I asked Singla if Pepper is just a tech-enabled agency, he said, “Agencies often have problems of scale because they can only have so many people on their payroll. Pepper is overcoming this problem with access to a much larger talent pool, streamlining processes and leveraging technology.”
How Pepper Automates the Content Creation Process
1. Automating quality checks
A typical marketplace has no barriers to listing creators. Anyone can list and then potential clients judge them on the basis of portfolio, reviews and ratings.
Pepper has a different approach. The team accepts applications from content creators on a regular basis. It then vets them for quality and subject-matter expertise through:
- Automated online tests, which include language skills
- Specific industry-related assignments that are reviewed manually by subject matter experts.
While this is a slower, more resource-intensive process, Pepper says having a pool of vetted creators pays off in the long-term.
2. Automating creation of briefs
One of the toughest parts of managing a client-agency relationship is creating a robust brief. Pepper solves this problem by ‘parameterising’ every part of the brief.
Clients fill out an exhaustive form on Pepper’s platform that tries to capture their needs at multiple levels. It also captures success parameters and quality guidelines in an effort to help content creators get it right the first time.
Do prospective clients – most of whom are used to giving briefs over a phone – chafe at the idea?
The Pepper team says that as the client uses the platform, a machine-learning process tries to understand their needs and optimise each aspect, including form-filling. Past briefs and customer preferences are saved on the platform to provide continuity.
3. Automating the creative process itself
The final frontier for Pepper is of course, automating the actual process of creation.
The company has launched peppertype.ai, an artificial intelligence-enabled tool that generates text based on user input. Pepper says this can be used to help write copy that ranges from ‘Instagram captions’ to ‘Google Ad headlines’ and even ‘LinkedIn Thought Leadership posts.’
Globally, AI-generated copy is a hot trend with players like copy.ai and Phrasee raising funds recently. Peppertype is still in beta and you can request an invite to try it out.
What’s in it for Creators?
Singla is firm that he is building to aid creators, not replace them. The managed marketplace, he says, removes stressful processes for creators, from business development to invoicing. Pepper provides a single dashboard for all projects, as well as automated tracking of assignments and monthly payouts.
“In the current online marketplaces that use bidding models, freelancers are bidding their way to the bottom. Also, they need to stay on the platform at all times to be the fastest finger on new projects.”Anirudh Singla, Founder, Pepper Content
Pepper currently has 30,000+ creators on its platform, providing services from creation of blog posts to cover letters. The list of 350+ clients it has serviced so far include both large companies and startups.
How Creative can Tech be?
If the managed marketplace model works, Pepper could extend it to other creative disciplines, beyond text content. The human intervention it is predicated on, will mean that there is a limit to how hard and fast the model can scale. However, Pepper’s model seems to sew together two complementary pieces. The first is the marketplace, which gives it access to content, creators and enterprise marketing teams. The second is tools like Peppertype, which serve exactly the same audiences. If this synergy pays off, it could give Pepper a business advantage that the more traditional players lack.