Shmulik Fishman has made a career of connecting disparate systems into a single access point and he’s doing it again.
Mr. Fishman is the cofounder and CEO of Argyle, a website fostering access to employment records with user consent. Whether it be a company that rents apartments, needs to hire or is processing credit card applications, Argyle simplifies what amazingly is still a very manual process involved in accessing that information.
His first company was in adtech and provided a single portal for people to book advertising on thousands of sites. That was sold to AOL. Next up was a fleet management portal that provided one access point to access thousands of repair shops.
“I’m very fascinated with connecting up very complex webs and providing a single place to access them,” Mr. Fishman said.
It was at that second company where Mr. Fishman experienced challenges in hiring drivers. Applicants had to fill out long forms and that weakened the conversion rate. That’s when he began to envision a company that allowed interested parties to click on a button and import data from a verified source.
Fast forward three years and companies can access 40 per cent of American workers through Argyle’s portal. The user experience is strong and the service is very scalable, Mr. Fishman said.
If you’ve ever had to apply for a credit card or an apartment you know the pain. They need to verify your income in a compliant, automated and secure fashion.
This occurs at a time when society is moving toward open data and regulators in some jurisdictions like the like European Union are addressing data security and ownership through the General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act. Forward thinking entities are setting the parameters for how data should be governed.
“With open data, from a regulatory and cultural standpoint we are moving to users owning their own data and controlling who has access to their data,” Mr. Fishman said.
For Argyle’s mission there are additional challenges, Mr. Fishman observed. There are no regulations on what needs to be on a pay stub or on how people can access them. Developing those standards is crucial to Argyle’s mission.
Within the tens of thousands of portals Argyle accesses there are many different types of data systems. Some store data on site. Some systems are customized while others are off the shelf. Argyle is continuously revising an automated tool kit it created that can access these different systems. Included is an ever-growing taxonomy of common words and phrases.
I asked Mr. Fishman what changes he has seen in employment since the beginning of 2020 and he said fewer people operate under traditional labels. Your Uber driver may also work at Target. The Starbucks barista who made today’s mocha latte may also deliver for GrubHub. Such workers frequently move in and out of different types of jobs while collecting wages from different employers.
“The fairy tale idea of a worker at a desk is what has gone away,” Mr. Fishman said. “The trend we’re seeing is less people is work at desks, more people do shift-, task-, and hourly-based work that doesn’t have a desk.”
I often ask entrepreneurs to look to the future and suggest what their sector might look like in the ensuing years. For some it’s more of a visionary exercise as there are plenty of directions for, say, blockchain or AI, to head in. For Mr. Fishman, there are so many clear ways to improve services that he has plenty to work on in the immediate.
Applying for an apartment or loan is a highly manual process on both ends, he explained. At some point, your application likely ends up at a large phone bank where people shuffle paper, scan PDFs and wait for faxes.
“That’s the space where we’re playing,” Mr. Fishman said. “We’re trying to automate what happens after the website.”
Does blockchain technology have a role to play? Possibly, Mr. Fishman said. If it can help the industry move away from having any single entity control information and instead allow the individual to control their own data, it should be part of a solution.
“What’s important is we’re shifting the power dynamic away from single corporations and back to the individual,” Mr. Fishman said.
North Americans are at the early stages of becoming aware of both the importance and value of their data, with more expecting to have a say in its use. How much people value their data depends on what it is.
“People look at different parts of their data differently,” Mr. Fishman said. “There’s a different connotation people have towards their data at their bank, the data on their social media platforms, and the data at their employer.
“Over time we are going to as a company show how vital employment information is in all the different places you interact in our economy. Renting an apartment and getting a credit card are both places where employment information is used. I think it’s a lot more vital than social media information.”