In the fall of 2007, a group of young potential entrepreneurs attending the course on Development Entrepreneurship at MIT struggled with a problem facing over half the developing world. As developing economies grew and provided new jobs, the infrastructure to communicate and broadcast the potential opportunities for employment was unable to keep up. The influx of migrant workers into urbanized centers provided a rich pool of available talent but the mechanisms for disseminating job needs were still rooted in the 19th century. Print advertising and, in extreme cases, roving cars with loudspeakers, were used in a scattershot manner hoping to attract potential candidates to interview for jobs. Online advertising wasn’t an option in most developing countries where internet connectivity was sporadic. The transient nature of most migrant and casual laborers made getting to the target audience even more difficult.
However one of the emerging communication trends in the past decade has been the rapid uptake of mobile communications in developing countries, often far surpassing landline and fixed internet connectivity. For example, in Latin America, mobile penetration is estimated to have reached 86% and is expected to grow to 100%. Access to mobile communications exceeded landline or broadband access by ratios ranging from 10:1 to 85:1.
The team seized on this as a great opportunity to leverage the almost ubiquitous presence of cell phones to provide a communications and matchmaking platform for employment. Most people in urbanized sections of the developing world are not always connected to the internet, but the popularity of the cell phone and lower tariffs have increased utilization of mobile devices. Naming themselves Assured Labor, they crafted a solution that allowed employers to broadcast their job requirements to prospective job candidates using a mobile platform. They entered their idea into the MIT 100K contest where it won the Executive Summary Contest. Later they went on to also win a $5000 award at the MIT IDEAS competition for solutions creating significant global impact. Buoyed by their success and the positive response to their ideas and armed with first hand data from field trips to the favelas of Brazil, Assured Labor began the build out of their technical platform and tested it in Boston.
Over the past two years, the core founding team consisting of David Reich, CEO; Sidd Goyal, CTO; Joseph Bamber, Chief Revenue Officer; and Ximena Fernandez Ordonez, in charge of Business Development; have gone through several iterations of their software while raising ongoing capital from friends and family and early angel investors. Assured Labor finally launched their branded site Empleolisto! in Nicaragua last year where they have established a partnership with Claro, a subsidiary of América Móvil, the leading provider of wireless services in Latin America.
Assured Labor provides employers with a simplified service to reach targeted job candidates. Job candidates sign up on Assured Labor and fill in an online resume. Most candidates register at internet cafés as less than 1/3rd of internet users in Latin America have an internet connection at home. Employers can browse resumes for free using EmpleoListo’s refined search technology then pay to post interview requests to their favorite candidates. Assured Labor’s platform makes contacting candidates easy using SMS. Their data shows 60 to 80 percent of candidates contacted respond positively within 24 hours. Employers can continue tracking their interaction with candidates on Assured Labor’s system and maintain the employees performance information once hired.
By providing an easy to use process connecting jobseekers with job opportunities, Assured Labor is providing a frictionless job placement approach that benefits employers and employees alike. Shorter times to fill jobs and wider, more targeted dissemination of job descriptions allow employers to cut overall costs compared to traditional modes of advertising. Once added to the Assured Labor pool, jobseekers are assured of exposure to the right kinds of job opportunities without having to constantly monitor newspaper ads. Assured Labor is a prime example of the new wave of social entrepreneur bringing a for-profit business model to address some of the challenges facing the poor in developing countries.