Ivo Verbeek Interview: cutting the middle man in language editing

Ivo Verbeek: cutting the middle man in language editing

Ivo Verbeek is the co-founder of Peerwith. He has a background in software development and has worked for scholarly publishers in the past. He shares his views on what it means to open up access to a wide community of academics with English language editing skills to scientists who do not have these skills. He also talks about how his magazine disrupts existing language editing agencies while cutting out the middle man.

Why did you set up Peerwith? What was the original trigger?

Before co-founding Peerwith in 2015, I co-founded and ran a mid-sized software development Company in Amsterdam for 15 years. My team and I worked for a wider range of clients, but one of our key clients then was a large scientific publisher. That is how I first met my Peerwith co-founder Joris van Rossum, who was in charge of one of the first platforms from a major publisher to offer English language-editing services. As contractor and supplier, Joris and I setup from scratch and led the development of the platform.

Then, as it predominantly still is, the author services market was dominated by traditional agencies acting as middlemen. There was generally no direct contact between the researchers requesting the service and the experts doing the work. As a freelance market, experts were often researchers themselves picking up some extra work, not employees of the agency.

These freelancers in the traditional model are underpaid and invisible, a model that neither Joris nor I thought was sustainable. The internet was already coming up with a solution for this type of business scenario as marketplaces were emerging. So, it seemed timely to us to set up a marketplace where researchers could connect directly with experts in a transparent way. And, that is how Peerwith came about.

Our vision is that every researcher should have the opportunity to select, connect and collaborate with experts who can help them improve the quality of the language in their academic papers.

How is your approach disruptive in comparison to standard practice for this type of business?

Researchers interact with experts, rather than with agencies. They are able to directly select the expert they wish to work with. They are also given the opportunity to build lasting relationships with these academic language editing specialists, who can help them improve the quality of their academic work.

Peerwith is all about connecting experts; fostering collaboration between individuals. That is what makes us different! While we facilitate collaboration we don’t offer services ourselves.

Can you tell us about your business model?

Peerwith is a smart platform for expert-led researcher services. A researcher posts a request, negotiates with experts, and then selects the expert they think can best carry out their request. This selection is what we call a “connection” and includes a financial transaction. Peerwith facilitates the transaction, taking a fair service fee of between 12 and 20%.

The mission for our business model is to be the global, leading platform where researchers can connect with experts and improve the quality of their academic work. Within this, we want to focus on making the researcher services market more collaborative, affordable and transparent; charging fair fees for high-quality services which are tailored to individual requirements.

What feedback have you received on your business so far?

Well, starting with researchers, who are core to our business, the feedback has been excellent! Researchers are asked to rate the expert they work with and our current average rating is 4.95 out of 5, which is really impressive! This positive feedback is directly reflected on the individual experts involved and on us as a platform. On the expert side, experts earn more working with Peerwith than they do with agencies and have the advantage of being self-employed. We have found Peerwith experts to be very supportive of our business and we currently have a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 70+ with an upward moving trend.

Do you think your business is having an impact on the researcher services community?

Yes, it is a new model for both researchers looking for help with their academic work and experts who have the skills and experience to provide that very help. This is demonstrated by some of the comments we have received from experts who are active on our marketplace.

“Cutting out the impersonal, commercial agency and enabling personal contact improves the quality of the end-result. “

“A breath of fresh air in the world of online editing/translating. A very ‘grown up’ […] environment, where meaningful professional relationships can be established.”

“A great initiative. It allows for a direct discussion of projects and flexible arrangements. You are under the impression that you’re meeting someone new.”

What does Peerwith have planned for the future?

I am very excited to announce Peerwith will be launching a crowdfunding campaign specifically aimed at experts active on Peerwith. By investing in Peerwith, experts will be given the opportunity as shareholders to profit from future successes and will also be able to help steer the direction of our business.

It has been our mission to fundamentally improve researcher services by empowering experts and taking out unnecessary middlemen. To-date our focus has been on setting up successful partnerships with global publishers (e.g. Brill, Emerald, Hindawi), and piloting partnerships with universities and research institutions (e.g. Erasmus University Rotterdam), which have greatly enhanced our reach. Crowdfunding is the next logical step for our expert-led, researcher-services platform. And with this new phase, we will be shifting our focus to accelerating the growth of our Institutional Solutions packages and fine-tuning the services we offer to the global academic community.

Featured image credit: Ivo Verbeek

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