The Age of the Rebundler

New ways of working in the consumer age

Jim Barksdale, the CEO of Netscape, was at the end of a roadshow when they were taking Netscape public and was in a hurry to catch his plane home. In his haste, he allowed one last question from the audience. The chosen person stood up and asked how do you know that Microsoft isn’t just going to bundle a browser into their product?

Jim answered swiftly, “there are only two ways I know of to make money– bundling and unbundling.” It was the verbal equivalent to a mic drop.

Bundling and unbundling isn’t a new concept. Businesses have used different structures to save money, make money and offer more choice to consumers time and time again; from meal deals to compilation albums.

The difference that’s occurred in the past decade, however is the unbundling and re-bundling of more traditional services like banking, travel, hospitality, advertising, and talent; and it’s changing these industries in a big way.

Fintech and the Financial Industry

Fintech is an area currently seeing explosive growth. According to Forbes, an incredible estimated 5,000-6,000 startups have emerged attempting to unbundle the services that banks have traditionally offered, including P2P payments, P2P lending, investment and savings.

As a consumer, services like Transferwise and Funding Circle are an exciting alternative, but what’s not so appealing is having to remember the 20 different services and logins which comprise what a traditional bank offers.

That’s where new platform-based banks like Number26 in Germany and Monzo in the UK are stepping in in an attempt to be the one app for all of your banking needs. With the use of APIs and integrated services, they are encouraging other fintech services to be built onto their systems, combining the best banking products from around the world into one easy solution. A 21st century portfolio bank.

Each service on its own is still relatively small and handling a modest enough portion of the pie not to be a real threat to the more established competitors. If they start joining forces, however, and begin to offer a single integrated service, that’s when it starts to get interesting.

The hospitality and travel sector

Travel is another area currently being targeted. Almost gone are the days of booking your entire holiday via a travel agent. Now, a holiday might include buying tickets on EasyJet or Ryanair, using Airbnb to book accommodation and using apps and websites like Foursquare and Culture Trip to recommend sites and restaurants to eat at along the way.

With the loss of bundled travel deals, however, we’ve also seen the loss of some of the perks. One such loss is that of the hotel concierge, who offered customers bespoke recommendations and boasted an intimate knowledge of the area and local customs.

To fill this void, businesses like Airbnb have begun offering services that provide unique experiences hosted by locals to their customers. Experiences range from being a craft brewer for a day, getting the ultimate insider’s shopping experience, going on secret hikes, attending cooking classes and more.

Bespoke accommodation schemes with dedicated concierges are also starting to crop up. Hagiso, for example, as reported in LS:N Global, recently opened the first “dispersed” hotel in Yanaka in Tokyo, which links up various accommodations across the local community. The hotel called Hanare hosts a central reception, communal space and concierge service. The concierge advises on neighbourhood manners and etiquette and recommends retailers and local attractions, such as galleries and temples. Their aim is to allow guests to have more freedom and choice in where they stay, whilst allowing them to still have access to a community and local expertise.

The freelance economy and the “Fixer”

The rebundling of resources has also been instrumental in the growth of the freelance economy. 40% of the workforce is predicted to be freelance by 2020 and that rise in independent workers has created its own unique set of challenges and opportunities.

Scores of freelancer platforms and portfolio sites have emerged, attempting to rebundle those solitary freelancers into easy-to-consume databases for clients to access. Many of the platforms, however, rely too heavily on the client handling the curation of talent themselves, searching through 100s of designers, with the burden for finding the perfect match placed on the client.

Many services are discipline-specific, focused on design or film, requiring clients to use multiple services to get all the necessary skillsets for their campaigns. Drop down menus and pre-existing tags provide another obstacle, as clients are required to have a strong understanding of the disciplines in which they are hiring. For example, if you need to update your website, is it a UX designer, UI designer, front-end developer or web designer that you need? There are also currently very limited options for clients to access small teams or agencies, with so much of the focus being placed on freelancers alone.

We realized that there needed to be a one stop shop that combines the principals of what Monzo is attempting in the banking sector with what Hanare has done in the hospitality sector.

Like Monzo combining the best fintech apps into one, we’ve rebundled and brought together the best freelancers, teams, studios and agencies under the banner of The Backscratchers, offering clients curated access to a cross-disciplinary network of recommended talent for projects.

Like Hanare, however, we’ve also identified the importance of the concierge and have placed at the core of our service access to skilled “fixers”, the concierges of the creative industries. They work closely with clients to understand their brief and then connect them with the right resource to make it happen.

This two-tiered rebundling approach has hit a cord with agencies and brands who are looking to do things in a more innovative way. For example, we work frequently with Red Bull and have found them a freelancer to design their merchandise for Culture Clash, a design studio to build them a set of bespoke DJ decks with built-in-fridges and an event producer who produced a TED-talk style Inspiration Day for their staff whilst we curated the lineup of speakers.

Glyn Britton of KBS Albion believes that with this latest wave of rebundling, we have entered into the Consumer Age. In each of the cases above, consumers have decided that they wanted things to be done in a different way and services have been rebundled. These rebundled services aren’t a replica of what’s happened before, but a new model, empowering consumers to make their own customer experience even better.

Whether you call it the the Age of the Consumer or the Age of the Rebundler, we believe that in the next few years there will be more and more “concierges” and rebundlers emerging and empowering consumers.

Jody Orsborn is co-founder of The Backscratchers, the website that connects companies like Red Bull, Spotify and Unilever with the best industry-approved freelance or agency talent for projects. She is also a judge for Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Competition and was recently chosen as one of the UK’s Top Women Entrepreneurs by CNBC and a ‘One To Watch’ for Tech City News’ International Hall of Fame.