The gig economy has been around the Pro AV and digital signage install business for ages, but a Toronto startup has launched with the idea that it can get organized much like ride-sharing and other services.
AV Junction is trying to simplify and systemize the hiring and management of independent contractors, using a global web platform that pairs techs with integrators and solutions providers on a gig by gig basis.
“AV Junction is a fully-integrated, multi-featured web platform that enables AV companies to search for, hire, and manage qualified freelancers on a project-to-project basis, as needed, from anywhere in the world,” says company Founder & CEO Paul Weatherhead. “AV companies can post an unlimited number of jobs, search a vast worldwide database of independents, create work order contracts for hiring, message freelancers directly, and make secure payments. Meanwhile, industry freelancers can join the database free-of-charge to easily search for and apply to relevant jobs based on skill, sector and job type.”
Weatherhead has lived the business of lining up contractors, starting this company after working as VP Ops for Advanced, a well-established Toronto-area AV integrator.
Says a press release:
AV Junction is a solution built to address all of the issues that currently plague AV Operations Directors, Project Managers, and Resource Coordinators that are tasked to hire and manage AV freelancers for multiple projects. As the former Vice President of Operations at Advanced, a leading North American AV integration firm, Weatherhead experienced how difficult securing freelancers and navigating a long-distance employment relationship could be for everyone involved.
“I realized that there was no standard industry solution for finding and hiring AV freelancers. It was either through an ad-hoc process or via a ‘middle man’ recruiting agency,” says Weatherhead. “Likewise, there is no AV-specific job platform for freelancers to refer to when looking for work. I knew that there could be a better way to connect hiring companies and independent freelancers all over the world, and importantly, give both parties autonomy to find jobs and hire talent when they want, independent of an agency or coordinator – that’s how AV Junction was born.”
AV Junction encompasses the entire spectrum of the AV company and freelancer relationship – from the application process to the payment of the final invoice. Specific platform features include:
- Qualified Applicant Searching: AV companies can quickly find qualified and competent AV technicians in local or remote areas if their go-to talent is unavailable.
- Simple Invoicing: Freelancers can enjoy simple invoicing with easy work order creation for every hire, and the ability to set payment terms ahead of time. All they have to do is click ‘invoice.’
- Milestone Payouts: AV companies and freelancers can set customized project ‘milestones’ on fixed priced work orders to provide insurance of work completion, thereby improving customer satisfaction.
- Secure Payment Processing: A payment processor by STRIPE Connect handles payouts in multiple currencies and leverages a sophisticated milestone completion process. The milestone process ensures that freelancers get paid securely and on time and allows employers to approve payouts when work is completed properly.
- Ratings System: AV companies can rate freelancers after each project, boosting attractiveness to other potential employers after a job well done. Freelancers can also rate employers on factors like communication, use of tools, and timeliness of payment.
AV Junction is available to commercial and residential systems integrators, rental, live event and staging professionals, exhibit and production houses, and audiovisual manufacturers globally, wherever Stripe is accepted. Interested customers can sign up for a free three-month trial to begin. After 90 days, users can choose between an ‘Economy’ package, with a pay-as-you-go model offering access to the site with limited features and a flat fee per hire, or a ‘Professional’ package which includes a $150 USD monthly subscription with full site access, full features, and a discounted flat fee per hire.
All applicants are vetted by AV Junction; once approved, they will receive a “verified” check mark on their profiles. All participating freelancers can showcase their skills, search for short-term jobs, submit quotes, easily provide progress updates, and secure efficient payments.
As mentioned at the top, ask most systems integrators and solutions providers how they handle big jobs, and they’ll concede that they have “guys” in most of the major cities that they hire on a contract basis. There are also numerous companies that can manage national rollouts of things like menu-boards through good central project management, key staffers, and lotsa gig-based contractors.
The difference here is that this system pairs contractors directly to jobs. I’d assume the worry, both for solutions providers and for contractors, is commoditization and lowered fees. It’s way easier for people to start being Uber and Lyft drivers than it is to start offering themselves as video wall installers, but the general experience with these democratized systems is they can be great for the end-customer, but maybe not so much for the people trying to make a buck.
As always, time will tell.
AV Junction plans to be talking up its service in a few weeks at ISE in Amsterdam.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.