BigXP: Unique Service, Unique Opportunities
It often happens that one needs to contact an IT specialist from a particular field in order to get help with conducting a code review, realizing some function, configuring VPN, and such. BigXP is a unique marketplace where IT professionals offer expert services; amongst these experts are top-tier specialists from Yandex, Facebook, ITMO University, and other IT giants from the fields of both industry and education. ITMO.NEWS spoke to Ilya Zelenchuk, one of BigXP’s founders and staff member for the CODA Technologies ITMO-affiliated SIE, to find out more about the novel service.
How did you get the idea for your project?
One of my colleagues at CODA Technologies needed a consultation, and he asked me to find a specialist in a particular field. I spent several days looking for one amongst the people I knew, and found only a single person whom I asked for a paid consultation. It was an important issue for the business, so I couldn’t wait. After that, I decided to take note of every instance when I or my colleagues needed help from an expert in their or adjacent fields; back then, I already realized that we needed a service that would help us find a particular specialist with ease. At a certain point, myself and Artur Khanov, a tutor for ITMO’s Faculty of Information Technologies and Computer Security and CODA Technologies’ CEO, decided to create such a service and invite our acquaintances who would be interested in sharing their experience. The idea was quite simple: if you need an expert opinion, you can address a specialist. We launched a trial version of the website in the middle of March.
Who were the first experts to participate?
A lot of people I know possess unique competencies. They’ve studied for a long time, and are now ready to share their knowledge so that others can become more professional in their fields. On our platform, we have representatives of such companies as Yandex, Facebook, SKB Kontur, and others. Dmitry Kornev from Yandex, for instance, is a highly qualified specialist in the field of machine learning and deep learning. His motivation is that he wants to share the advanced knowledge that he seldom has the chance to apply in his everyday work. Since the launching of our service, we’ve already provided more than 20 different consultations.
What is the principal difference between the consultations provided by your service and those provided by IT bloggers?
The idea of getting consultations from specialists on a paid basis and in a designated time frame is nothing new: many professionals already do that, for instance, there are designers that keep blogs and offer their subscribers to discuss their projects with them. The same thing happens in the field of IT, though the problem here is that if specialists want to conduct such activities, they have to put much effort into keeping a blog, invest in advertising, create content, attract users, and the like.
There exist similar services that bring together a wide range of different specialists, from veterinarians to programmers. What makes BigXP unique?
On the platforms that you’re talking about, the specialists are mostly freelancers, and people don’t perceive those the same as specialists. Freelancers are people who, for whatever reason, don’t have a job and are ready to do low- or semi-skilled jobs, and they mostly focus on doing some practical work, and not consulting. Users make orders, and freelancers complete them. When you are looking for an expert review, you would rather address someone who’s already working in a particular field and making money of it. Our experts don’t perceive their consultations as a way to earn money; the three to four thousand rubles they charge for an hour is a lot less than what they earn on their ordinary jobs. This price cap is introduced so that they won’t be asked questions that can be solved by common specialists. In other words, you don’t seek assistance on BigXP if you are searching for someone to complete a particular job - the service is rather about getting quality expert reviews and assessment of your projects.
Is your service relevant to both private customers and business?
Yes, we receive requests from both private clients and representatives of business. Just think about it - there are people who work in laboratories and have unique experience that they can share with others and thus help them get the knack of certain processes two weeks faster, which is indispensable from the business point of view. For businesses, each day “costs” 30-40 thousand rubles, and if your advice helps speed up the process by two or three days, you help them to save up to a hundred thousand. Surely, companies are ready to pay for that, as this presents unique opportunities.
What kind of companies can be interested in the service?
One has to understand that such a service is of no use for big companies such as Yandex or Sbertech, as they already have specialists who possess all kinds of competencies imaginable. The smaller the company, the more it is focused on the processes it faces every day, so it focuses on surviving and earning only. When a company like this is faced with a need for an expert review, it has no one to turn to, so its staff members start looking for someone amongst their acquaintances. Another problem is that when you find someone this way, they are usually not the best experts in their field. On BigXP, however, you get the help of top-tier specialists, so their level expertise will definitely be enough for your projects.
Let’s say I need to find a particular specialist. I link to BigXP, press Find Expert, and what’s next? How long do I have to wait for one to answer?
Usually, clients pose a question, I get their letter, and then contact the experts to decide whether they can be of help with this particular issue, and when. Sometimes, it happens so that the expert is ready to consult on the same day the request arrives, sometimes the client has to wait for a couple of days. After we agree on the date and time, the client makes an advanced payment, and exchanges Skype names with the expert. In turn, I guarantee that the communication will be of high quality and will happen in time. For this reason, we’ve introduced advanced payment for the first hour - if the communication fails for some reason, this payment is returned. Another condition is that the first ten minutes are free for both the expert and the client - during this time, the client and the expert can learn whether their communication will be effective or not. Sometimes, these 10 minutes are a huge help: three or four of our consultations ended even before they passed.
What are your plans for the future? Are your planning on expanding the field you provide consultations on?
We focus on IT, this is the field that we know well, and we have no intention of expanding it. We want to attain a good concentration of specialists on our service. Amongst our specialists, there are also experts in marketing in IT, management in IT, and such, i.e. we can provide consultations on not just technical issues. You can communicate with department heads from major companies, and use their experience for improving the efficiency of your team.
Recently, we’ve launched a more automated, intellectual platform. One of our main tasks for the meantime is to reinforce our expert pool and promote our platform so that people can start profiting from it. Many try to solve their problems via forums, but using BigXP is a lot better: you get answers from an expert, you can see their CV, and the quality of their answers is assured. Forums are good when you’re a student, but when doing business, you can’t risk time. Our service allows to get everything done in a timely manner, and makes the process predictable.
I think that our next step would be to add a feature that will allow clients and experts communicate without having to use Skype - something like a Web meeting place or such, where it will also be possible to post questions, make payments, and solve other issues that can emerge in the process of communication.