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Startup Wants to Bring Uber Marketplace Model to Data Scientists

  • Pivigo allows smaller companies to tap Big Data experts
  • Further evidence of ‘gig economy’ expanding to new sectors

A London-based startup wants to make hiring a data scientist as simple as booking an Uber.

Pivigo is launching a marketplace that will allow smaller companies that can’t afford to hire in-house data scientists or expensive consulting firms to connect with researchers on a project-by-project basis, the company said Tuesday.

The four-year-old London startup, which has around 1,500 data scientists on its platform, previously provided training courses and job boards for researchers looking for full-time positions, with clients including KPMG, Barclays Plc., Marks & Spencer Group Plc. and Royal Mail Plc.

Pivigo’s new online marketplace is the latest example of how the “gig economy” -- a term that refers to the way technology is enabling an increasing number of people to work on a freelance basis -- is penetrating a range of sectors, from law to accounting to research, where in the past most workers held full-time positions.

The startup is now targeting businesses with between 500 and 1,000 employees, Kim Nilsson, Pivigo’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in an interview.

“These firms typically don’t have any analytic skills in-house and they don’t have huge budgets to spend for KPMG or Accenture to come in and do a big, expensive project,” she said.

Unlike some marketplace models that connect buyer and seller and then take a cut of the resulting transaction or a set fee, Pivigo is more hands on, Nilsson said.

Data scientists will be able to use the marketplace to bid for jobs, while Pivigo will also help businesses define their proposals, and assemble the appropriate team of experts.

In one example, Pivigo assembled a team of four data experts who helped The Parts Alliance, a U.K. auto parts supplier, use its customer data to refine its pricing model. The researchers helped write a machine learning algorithm that advises sales reps on what prices to negotiate, Nilsson said. She said Pivigo’s team estimated that the algorithm could increase the parts supplier’s revenues by six million pounds ($7.5 million).

Pivigo’s customers are charged a day rate based on the seniority and experience of the data scientists involved. Pivigo passes some portion of this fee on to them while retaining a cut. Researchers are not charged to list their skills on the marketplace.

Nilsson and her co-founder Jason Muller started Pivigo after meeting in an MBA program at Cranfield School of Management in Cranfield, England. The company, funded through a combination of existing revenue and angel investment, currently employs 12 people.

The company’s name is derived from an abbreviation for present value of growth opportunities -- or PVGO, Nilsson said. The term refers to the current value of all future cash flows from an acquisition.

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