What is JobTech?
As trite as a comment about the disruptive power of technology is, in the world of work, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a force that became personal for many of us. In emerging markets, however, there is still a massive untapped potential for tech to transform what it means to make a decent living, and not only for the kind of workers that have become accustomed to online meetings and sending emails from the dining table.
JobTech involves the use of technology to enable, facilitate, or improve the productivity of people to access and deliver quality work. This includes gig- and job-matching platforms, edtech solutions geared towards the world of work, digital tools that help microenterprises to grow, and solutions around professional identity, worker rights and benefits.
We believe that JobTech has the potential to alleviate the continent’s youth unemployment crisis, but only through a coordinated approach. This is why as Kandua.com, we’ve collaborated with various partners to set up the JobTech Alliance; and why we are pulling a metaphor from the tech startup world to describe the approach that we are taking to the problem.
What do we mean with a full stack approach?
There are two different ways to build a well-rounded software engineering team. One way is to leverage specialised capabilities, such as user experience designers for the front-end, customer-facing side of your product, or database experts for the back-end. Another way is to look for generalists: full stack engineers who can work across all layers of the software stack and tie them together.
By definition, full stack engineers are able to code both the front and back-end of a platform and these dual abilities make them the ‘full’ package. When we say full stack, however, we’re referring to multidimensional fullness – someone who is able to see the bigger picture and the purpose of what they’re building – past just the implementation stage.
Kandua.com was created to shorten the distance between having a skill and making a living from it. We are looking to solve a broad problem: the disconnect between small service businesses and their potential customers, and this requires a broad solution.
If we had defined our problem narrowly, say as an issue of marketing, our platform could be pigeonholed as a digital classifieds section. The broad nature of the problem meant that we had to think more expansively about our product set – we had to think ‘full stack’.
This stance has far-reaching implications:
- It means going multi-product early
- It means taking a collaborative mindset
- It means having a strategy and infrastructure that supports the above
It is an approach that not only holds promise in the JobTech space but also for other entrepreneurs who are building solutions to the pressing problems they see around them.
Multi-product puts the user at the centre
In Kandua.com’s context, the home services market automatically requires a full stack approach to problem solving because of its complexity: it is both large and deep. Large, because millions of jobs happen every year as people repair and renovate their living spaces. Deep, because there are many stakeholders in the workflow of a single job – homeowners, service providers, insurers, hardware retailers, financiers and more.
The stakeholders in the workflow interact through a series of communication and buying processes, all with their own nuances depending on the type of job. To keep the process running smoothly, there are multiple products that need to exist on the platform, especially when thinking about smaller providers in emerging markets who have no tools dedicated specifically to their contexts.
This need for multiple products on the platform requires a full stack approach to problem solving, thinking about both infrastructure and user experience. Putting the user at the centre of product development and building accordingly helps to solve this.
Collaboration means defining core capabilities
A multi product strategy requires significant resources.
This is where collaboration plays an important role in the full stack approach to problem solving – not all problems can be solved internally. Sometimes it’s smarter to find a service or financing partner to round out your offering.
To find the right collaborators, you need to know what your core capabilities are, so that you can recognise when they might have complementary expertise.
Practical tips for a full stack approach to problem solving
The strategy and infrastructure that supports a full stack approach:
- Make sure that the products and features you build to support your solution to the complex problem can be monetised. Determine this before you build and prioritise accordingly.
- Blend your financing. The different facets of a platform product in an environment lend themselves to different funding models.
- Hire people who have the founder mindset. People who are invested in the success of the business will be willing to do the ugly work as well as the sexy stuff, and will take responsibility for outcomes with rigour.
- Consistently provide context on why you’re trying to solve the problem. Repeat your mission and objectives at all times.
- Design your internal organisation with the same rigour you design your product. Because it is a product.
- Be ruthlessly mission-driven. Place your user at the centre of your work and bring their voice into decisions as much as possible.
- Embrace the occasional limitation. You can’t focus on everything at once, and it’s better to concentrate on the most important solutions to your problem at first.
- Look for long-term partners. The ideal partner will want to create with you, understand the long-term nature of the journey and allow you the occasional misstep.
- Be useful in the ecosystem. Share your insights, help co-create ecosystem solutions, and find ways to bolster the work of others.
In developed markets, tech has been both a positive and a negative disruptive force in the world of work. In emerging economies like ours, this is only starting to happen. It is up to us what bigger mission we want our tech to serve.