ELANCE vs GURU
Until recently, web infomediaries did a better job of globalising the marketplace for goods than for they did for services. But now two strong start-ups are heating up the services sector too.
eLance.com is based in Silicon Valley but has attracted more than 100,000 registered users from 140 countries since its launch last autumn. Its bright, cleanly designed site invites businesses to post projects so that workers from Bombay to Boston can strive to outbid one another (and they do this ruthlessly, since each can see the bids and qualifications of the others). Participants can view pricing in 20 different currencies, so the marketplace always 'speaks their language'. So far, eLance has attracted mostly smaller, one-off projects (under dollars 5,000) that can be outsourced remotely, like web site building, translation or even astrology.
eLance's main competitor is the upscale Guru.com, a site geared towards the care and feeding of the business- and computer-consulting crowds.
There are also regional sites - like the recently launched elancentric.co.uk - which may prove more adept at tapping local markets than the big US incumbents.
In their race to dominate, neither eLance nor Guru charges for its services - an indulgence that cannot last. Even match-making must have a floor price.