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Desksourcing is a New Labor Market Concept in the Mobile-First World

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I'm skeptical of this entire industry segment:

Desksourcing: Managers in the business world have for some time been firing off emails and texts from their cell phones, asking their associates to take care of financial models or do desk research. But desksourcing has started to become a consumer phenomenon.

You can see it in the use of “conversational commerce” businesses, like General Catalyst-backed GoButler, wherein the consumer effectively text messages with a concierge service to fulfill generic requests such as “can you help me buy some new light bulbs for the office?” or “can you send a bouquet of flowers to my girlfriend?”

The concierge services use agents who sit in front of desktop computers with larger screen real estate  — better fit than the phone for more complex tasks.

These agents use a traditional customer service messaging infrastructure to respond to consumer inquiries and dispatch consumer requests to the appropriate vertical labor marketplace (such as DoorDashFlyCleaners or Shyp) to fulfill the order, while remaining the sole “throat to choke” for service quality.

To accomplish these tasks on the go before such services existed would require users to find a long-tail mobile native or web app, download it (if appropriate), register, pick out the requisite item and pay. While the purchase experience in some mobile apps (native or web) is highly optimized, most are pretty clunky.

On the whole, the tasks are much easier to accomplish on the desktop web. These new concierge services are ways of shifting the work to the lower-cost labor center, the desktop.

Desksourcing business models in the category are still in flux. Some services, like FancyHands, operate on a subscription model. Other services, like Magic, operate on a transactional model, whereby the consumer pays a premium on top of the price of each item procured.

And still others, like GoButler, are free to the consumer, with the belief that the businesses with which they partner will pay to acquire their customers.

It’s possible that as native mobile user interfaces evolve, the cost of doing any of this “work” from our phones may fall enough to become on par or even cheaper than desktop, making the labor arbitrage no longer favorable.

None of these business models make sense to me at scale because they all require exploitation of humans to make their margins work out properly.

MAYBE if the humans can be replaced with artificial intelligence, a business model around desksourcing could work.


I think no one has really hit on the right model just yet. For complex tasks the labor cost might be too high and not scalable. But if we are talking about small scale tasks....micro-gigs that can be easily routed and accomplished on a mobile platform then they become more scalable and cost effective. Even then, probably just a crutch until AI matures. 

Agreed, and I think AI will mature a lot faster than these companies realize. 

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