I used to think that there is a tension between building a successful business and changing the world for the better. Business are backed by investors that want a return and need to create and capture value from their customers. And do it fast.
However, more and more investors realise these days that they need to think about more than just short-term cash flow. Talented people are the most vital resource to a successful startup, and attracting talented people, getting them to leave a comfortable job for a start-up opportunity requires usually more than just a financial reward. People want to actually leave something GOOD behind, and feel good about what they do at work. Facebook Twitter & YouTube are proud to create a more democratic media, Uber is proud of creating 20K jobs, Airbnb boasting about how it is empowering hosts. Smart money is now looking for companies that are improving some basic living conditions for everyone – they make the buyer and seller of the service feel a bit better. I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Copeland briefly here at Web Summit and he quoted “creating value to both sides of the transaction” as the first criteria for investment for Andreessen Horowitz, quoting Airbnb as an example.
Where we fit in
I decided to start Swift Shift when I was working for a company that provided employment services to people that are working or looking to work at entry level jobs, mostly for minimum wage. I had a close daily view into their efforts of getting and keeping a job, often holding it for 3 months or less before their contracts are terminated. Their CV is filled with gaps and short gigs, they don’t manage to create a professional network which is critical in order to get an employer to “take a chance” on giving a job one size bigger. Finding a job in this reality is hard and motivating yourself to do so when you know you might only last for a few months no matter how good you are is tough.
In today’s world the “brains” of companies are managed centrally by managers and engineers. They develop systems and processes that are eventually used by front line workers to operate and deliver the services these companies sell. In almost every service we receive – be it buying fast food, dealing with a bank teller, buying in the supermarket, talking to our insurance company – we receive the service from people that work for minimum wage (and often on a flexible contract) that are looking at a screen that walks them through a pre-designed process that is created, controlled and modified centrally by someone else. The interaction with us, the customer, is recorded, evaluated and the feedback is processed, again, by someone else.
This means that the front line employees jobs becomes more and more a commodity in the eyes of the companies, and they increase and reduce the number employees that are deployed in the front line daily, sometime even hourly. These employees are deployed on an “as needed” basis and are trapped in the part time low skill world of work. An example that hit the news recently is Ms Navarro is in this article about Starbucks and Kronos, describing the crazy shifts and chaos that a scheduling robot creates by changing their shifts in a one sided way to match the needs of the business on very short notice.
I think that we all want to live in a world where people can manage their most valuable resource – their time to work, in a way that enables them to earn a good living. It makes our economy stronger, our streets and home safer, and our lives better. It gives our kids and everyone’s kids a way to climb on the career ladder at the bottom step and end up at the top. It gives people the most valuable resource on earth – hope. hope that tomorrow is going to be (or can be) better than today.
Swift Shift’s vision is to allow these employees to have more control over their lives, enable them to collect their positive feedbacks from their 4-16 hours per week shifts with different stores or even different businesses in one digital medium, belong to a professional network of their company or the companies they work for, manage their availability better and open them to more opportunities.
Come say hi
You must ask yourself – what’s in it for the business? Well, I will write about it in the next blog post. In the mean time – come and visit us at the Web Summit if you are here. We would love to meet you!