Technology is dramatically changing the way we work. One-third of Canadians have worked in the so-called gig economy. These informal, usually one-off jobs, are providing much needed income. But are also leaving workers a lot more vulnerable. That’s because of limited access to things like insurance and benefits.
These seismic changes are reshaping the way we live and work. But we are still underestimating the sheer scale of transformation still to come. Daniel Copeland and Darren Perlman, co-founders of the SPOT staffing app, are trying to change that.
“There is something fundamentally wrong with the gig economy,” Darren says.
The pair of entrepreneurs are out to change the exploitative staffing industry. They provide workers with access to insurance benefits. And they offer skills training and other educational opportunities.
“We want people to improve to the point that they don’t need SPOT,” Daniel says. “It’s an app that’s designed to be deleted.”
Right SPOT, Right Time
For years companies in the shipping and logistics industries have been shifting their workforce. Increasingly they started using staffing companies to be able to bring in workers only when needed. But those staffing agencies are often criticized for being exploitative. The founders of SPOT wanted to do things differently. The app gives employers access to a flexible workforce but ensures workers are paid easily and quickly.
Redefining the Relationship
The gig economy is often criticized for leaving workers far worse off than traditional jobs. As independent contractors, they lack essential employment protections as well as benefits such as healthcare, paid time-off and retirement funding. But workers face real threats if the gig economy is left unchecked. The goal for Darren and Daniel was to create an app that ensures workers aren’t left in the cold.
Benefits for Business
SPOT is here to disrupt traditional staffing agencies. The technology at the core of the app delivers talent on-demand without a long-term commitment. But transparency is the key. Employee profiles provide lots of information about the potential hire. Crucially, offering reviews of the worker from other employers. SPOT also handles administrative functions such as time-tracking, training and payment to make the process extremely easy. But the transparency works both ways. Workers can also rate the the companies using the app.
A Common Cause
Change is always an uphill battle. Copeland was raised in the family business before pursuing a career in law. After working in the Ontario Crown Attorney’s Office he got a first-hand look at the holes in the social safety net. Perlman, meanwhile, owned a small retail business. But it was always a struggle to find qualified staff that he could afford to pay on a regular basis. These two very different backgrounds are what spawned the SPOT concept.
SPOT was designed to help people on both sides of the staffing equation. The predatory nature of staffing agencies was something they wanted to change. Doing that required them to get back to the basics. What does an employer want? What does an employee need? These two questions guided every choice when developing the app. With SPOT, workers are responsible for their performance. And employers are called out for mistreatment or abuse. This model is not necessarily the most profitable. But Darren and Daniel are interested in changing peoples lives for the better. Not just the pursuit of a billion dollar valuation.
Reimagining a Landscape
A glimpse of how SPOT fits into the wider business ecosystem can be seen in their integration with the ambitious DMZ Innisfil project. DMZ Innisfil helps startup businesses to efficiently scale-up. Through DMZ programs, the town has become a hub of development for a diverse range of businesses. The real power of the DMZ, according to Daniel, is being in close proximity to other entrepreneurs. Being surrounded by other smart creators has been a huge boon for SPOT. Now the goal is to get the technology in the hands of as many people as possible.