A group of freelance coders from London, Canada, are working together to take on industry giants. Coder Scoop comprises 38 programmers, who offer their expertise and services via a common platform.
The enterprise is not incorporated as a co-operative, but it aims to adopt a collaborative approach to decision making. Founder and chief executive Tom Germain explains how the idea for the venture came about.
“It happened in an unusual way. I just had fired myself from my lone remaining client and moved back to Canada from Colombia. After 20 years as a freelancer, I found myself having to start over and I didn’t want to work for someone else. Freelancing isn’t what it used to be, so I said to myself: ‘why go it alone?’ and hatched this idea without actually knowing anything about existing co-ops,” he recalled.
According to Mr Germain, coders get to decide what work they want to take on, have a say in planning projects and can vote on key issues.
“I consider myself a fair-minded person, and like anybody else, I hate dictators, so the co-op model allows everybody who participates to feel like they’re a boss among bosses. They decide what work they want to take on, have a say in planning projects, and can vote on key issues, such as whether someone should be removed from our team. While I do most of the work running the business, I defer as much responsibility as possible to the team members. The result is usually a happy one!” he said.
Asked how the Coder Scoop was run, Mr Germain explained: “The company is not incorporated as a co-operative. For that to happen, we needed at least three owner-workers, that is, three people willing to put their money in this venture. As a result, we can’t use the word ‘co-operative’. In almost every other respect, we operate the same as a co-operative would. Freelancers join for free as team members, and I/we try to find paid work for them. We want to duplicate our business model across the world, once we’re successful locally, so we can certainly accept freelancers from abroad. That said, our model is definitely based on using local talent and benefiting the local community. Offshoring the work would not fit our profile.”
Companies are not required to sign a contract, which helps to streamline the process. Another advantage of the model is that pricing is flexible and clients are able to negotiate hourly rates and budgets for projects without having to pay a deposit. “We want to make it easy and totally transparent to use our services,” added Mr Germain.
Coder Scoop has a screening process to ensure members have the experience and training needed for the project. The model gives clients more confidence than working with individuals but it is less expensive than working with companies.
The coders have on average 10 years of experience. They can provide a variety of services, from controller programming to mobile apps or web development. The company can already service accounts anywhere, but has plans to create local branches in Toronto and other Canadian and American cities.
“We’re much more inclusive, not requiring any investment by the ‘workers’, and that allows us to compete with the big development companies, rather than being just a small band of friends working together in the shadow of those same big firms.”