The internet is the great equalizer, helping users find love, housing and colleagues. Assembly is one more way for talented people to connect—by collaborating with others to turn ideas they may not have the time, skills or know-how to fully execute into actual products.
San Francisco-based Assembly, which has earned $2.9 million in venture funding, is a clearinghouse for designers, developers, marketers, project managers and other creative professionals in search of project partners. When a team creates a product using Assembly, the site handles revenue distribution and enables transparency in terms of expenses, progress of development and income.
Assembly acts as both production line and bookkeeper. Ideas are posted to a forum at assembly.com, where interested developers, editors, managers and engineers can band together to bring the project to life. Assembly takes care of the business side at the end of each month, collecting revenue, paying the bills and distributing payment to team members.
Everyone who works on a project receives a partial ownership stake; those who stay active on a project retain greater ownership, while those who came in early but eventually move on to other projects will see their stake shrink. When new contributors add value to an existing product—a developer fixes a bug, or a designer puts up a new website—he or she receives a share.
“We have some people making $1,000 recurring each month,” says CEO Matthew Deiters. There are also bounties that pay out when certain benchmarks are met, or to encourage users to complete one particular aspect of an unfinished product.
There are two caveats. Not every product on Assembly makes money, so some collaborators won’t be paid and can use the experience only to better a skill set. There’s also a rule that creators need to participate or interact with a product they built—even in a very small way, like leaving a comment in the workspace—at least once a year.
Deiters and his co-founders, Dave Newman and Chris Lloyd, met in 2012 at Bay Area incubator Y Combinator. The team, which initially intended to build a recruiting platform, instead created a service for pairing developers with collaborators like copywriters or graphic designers—traditionally a word-of-mouth process among friends and colleagues—in a way that casts a wider net and can reach the largest possible talent pool.
“I was an engineer for about a decade, building teams and being part of them,” Deiters explains. When he and his friends wanted to experiment, they discovered that designers and developers didn’t have a streamlined way to find one another for partnering on one-off projects. Why not create a platform for creative types, with project management and bookkeeping features built in?
“The internet has been so great at bringing people together to create what they couldn’t [do] on their own,” he says.