Talent Marketplaces: Supply = Mote ; Demand = TAM
All marketplaces must deal with balancing supply and demand. For early-stage marketplaces, getting supply to meet demand is a challenge. How should you think about focusing your limited resources when bootstrapping a talent marketplace and beyond?
Unlike pure software plays, the real product in a talent marketplace is the talent. The demand is coming to you for the talent they are seeking. Making a beautiful, easy to use product can help onboard (and retain) demand more quickly, but your first order of business needs to be wooing and winning the supply battle.
Marketplaces have two super-personas, the demand persona and the supply persona. In each, superset there can be innumerable subset personas. In the early days, you need to be clear which specific subset demand and supply persona's you are going to win first.
Every talent marketplace needs to first look at the problem through the demand lens. What talent does a specific demand persona need badly? Pick your battle wisely here: You want to go after the spot in the market that is most out of whack. Where is supply hardest to come by relative to demand?
After you have conviction there, the game becomes fully supply focused. It is one of those rare moments where if you are right about picking your battle and you have chosen well, being the best stop shop for supply will drive demand with minimal effort.
Supply should remain your focus all the way until maturity. There will be times of substantial investment in the demand side, but it should be oriented in meeting the needs of your supply. What can you do on the demand side that will improve NPS and value delivered to the supply side?
If you find yourself building a large supply of talent but failing to bring on demand, its possible your marketplace will not scale well. Skilled talent, generally, is in very short supply and if you find demand being hard to unlock despite having a large amount of supply you will want to pivot your approach to a more in-demand talent niche.
At some point, you will want to own the entire talent category. There will be more active niches than others, but by the time you are acquiring low-demand supply, you should have already built a large, broad community and marketplace.
Supply will only drive demand when there is an imbalance. Demand (talent teams) are typically skilled with access to quality tools that makes finding more fungible or general talent relatively easy. They will only invest in your tool and marketplace if you can do something they can't: Get access to the hard to find, often niche, talent that their teams desperately need.
Supply is your mote. You can make a lot of product mistakes along the way if you are differentiated with the talent in your community. Once you are scaled and have a material amount of the talent category captured and engaged, then you shift into demand mode and work to monetize access to the community in the most efficient and lucrative ways possible to maximize (and expand) your total addressable market.
Even while mature and focused on growing the top line revenue you will need to trade off some exciting monetization opportunities to keep your talent (supply) side happy. Being overly focused on demand and neglecting supply will erode your mote and open you up to competition that has taken up the flag of talent first.