As the job market becomes more and more of a gig economy one remnant of the old way stubbornly endures – the middleman.
But if Simon Yu has his way that too will become a thing of the past and freelancers will get to keep more of what they earn. Mr. Yu is the co-founder and CEO of StormX, a blockchain-powered ad-tech and gamification platform.
By using the power of the blockchain to reduce inefficiencies, StormX hopes to revolutionize the way freelancers are paid.
Good timing, as there are more and more freelancers every day. According to Freelancing in America: 2017 36 per cent of the American workforce freelanced at some point in the last year. Within the next decade, some predict the majority of the workforce will be freelancing.
This is not the first time Mr. Yu has combined a timely idea and hard work to produce success. Forced to drop out of college for economic reasons at 19, he went to work in a bank but struggled to make ends meet. One day he took his mother’s recipe and began delivering Korean tacos to university students in Seattle. He borrowed $100 from his Dad, exhausted that and by leveraging Facebook data, found the optimal location for his food business – in the middle of Seattle’s tech community.
The business, Bomba Fusion, went viral, with Mr. Yu taking $10,000 and learning day trading so he could make enough to buy a food truck. That worked out, as he soon made the $30,000 required for the truck. The business worked out too, generating more than $1 million in revenue. It’s going strong to this day as it partners with eight third-party vendors to cater daily lunch deliveries to more than 100 Seattle companies including Amazon, Starbucks and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
And Mr. Yu didn’t have to quit his day job as bank underwriter where he saw how much money was wasted on transaction, wire and other fees.
Fast forward to 2015 where Mr. Yu has started StormX (originally known as CakeCodes). For now, they have mostly focused on ad-tech opportunities such as encouraging users to try out different products, with payments sent directly to their account. Through purely organic growth StormX has grown to 1.3 million users in 187 countries. They have paid out 240 bitcoin in increments as small as two cents at a time.
“The opportunity to earn money got people excited,” Mr.Yu said. “With other methods, it cost more to send the payment than the actual payment was worth.”
Mr. Yu knew from his finance experience how archaic most banking technology was, in fact, that was hard to reconcile with an increasingly digital economy where more and more people can work remotely.
“You’re no longer bound to the city where you live, yet payments systems at Upwork and Fiverr have not caught up,” Mr. Yu said.
Microtransaction fees allow workers to keep more of what they earn, and they also make micro tasks feasible, Mr. Yu explained. These are small tasks people can complete on their commute or in other open time blocks of between 5-30 minutes. Some involve compensating for machine learning deficiencies such as image verification or voice patterning. Others help with electronic device quality assurance testing where every scenario cannot be tested in a lab.
Why not crowdsource that across thousands of users and hundreds of different devices?
StormX also employs gamification, a strategy they borrowed from role-playing games.
“We imagined why people play role-playing games,” Mr. Yu said. “They’re given a quest and the go through a journey. They receive a reward such as a sword and they level up.
“That’s why they play these games, to experience the journey and receive the reward.”
What if participants could receive something real, like money, when they showcase their skills? On StormX, people receive points for completing tasks which prove they have upgraded their proven skills.
“We’re changing this entire work system,” Mr. Yu said.
StormX’s crowdsale begins Nov. 7. For more information click here.