Outsourcing chores: Serebra Connect
- Ed Prentice, Thank you for this link from the New York Times about Serebra
Connect https://www.serebraconnect.com I like the idea that the market is
open to participants (people who have taken courses) and we might take
such an approach. Andrius, ms@...
Outsource Your Chores - And Feel Good While You're at It
By Claire Cain Miller
Ted Moorhouse wants you to outsource your next Excel mail merge or
graphic design chore - and in the process give students in developing
countries the chance to improve their lives.
Mr. Moorhouse's new project, Serebra Connect, is an auction site for
services. Buyers post a task and sellers bid to complete the job. It's
a similar model to the popular freelance marketplace Elance - but with
a feel-good twist. Most of the people bidding on the jobs are students
in developing countries who have taken a course from the Serebra
Learning Corporation, the e-learning company where Mr. Moorhouse is
chairman and chief executive. He started Serebra Connect in October to
help these students use their new skills.
"We're helping people in developing nations become more developed,"
Mr. Moorhouse said.
Sample tasks posted on the site: creating a logo for a dental
practice, translating e-books from Arabic to English and building a
Web site with Flash. The average price is $200. It is free to post or
bid on a task. The buyer sends the payment to Serebra to hold until
the task is completed. Serebra then takes a 10 percent to 15 percent
cut and sends the money to the seller via PayPal or MasterCard's
Payoneer. Sellers on the site are rated on a five-star scale based on
reviews from buyers as well as how many Serebra courses they have
Serebra Connect is still tiny. It has 6,500 sellers: 4,000 in
developing countries and the rest from the United States, Canada and
Europe. Only 65 tasks have so far been completed and 40 more are in
the queue. When a Madison, Wis., company posted a PowerPoint project
that would have cost $2,000 in Madison, a woman in the Philippines
offered to do it for $200, 10 times her $22-a-month pay as a teacher.
Serebra itself posted a task to the site when it needed a new logo,
after getting a local quote of $7,500. Someone in Mozambique designed
it for $200, and Serebra was so happy with the finished product that
the company is continuing to work with the designer.
Serebra Learning Corporation, based in Vancouver, British Columbia,
sells online courses on topics like IT training and professional
development to customers including Raytheon and the Portland Public
Schools. Mr. Moorhouse joined in 2002 and a year later started a
program to offer $12 courses to students in the developing world in
exchange for a certificate of completion. He has sold 2.5 million
courses over the last four years, either directly to resellers or
students or to organizations that donate the classes.
In 2006, while in an impoverished part of Johannesburg, Mr. Moorhouse
met one of his customers in an Internet cafe. The woman, who was dying
of AIDS, was breast-feeding her baby while taking one of Serebra's
courses on Microsoft Excel on a computer. She told him that the
certificates that Serebra sent to people who completed courses didn't
help her - she needed to use her skills to find a job.
The next day, on the flight home, Mr. Moorhouse dreamed up Serebra
Connect. "It occurred to me we should have something like eBay for
services, where people around the world who take courses could make
money right in their own villages," Mr. Moorhouse said. It's different
from similar sites like Elance or iFreelance.com, he said, because it
is linked with classes, which gives students credibility when
marketing their skills to potential buyers.
Shortly after starting the program, he got a call from the Clinton
Global Initiative. He was invited to attend its annual meeting and
present his idea, and he pledged to give away 2 million free courses
to students in developing countries. Meanwhile, Serebra Connect helps
the company's bottom line by getting more people to take Serebra's
classes. Mr. Moorhouse expects it to eventually account for half of