Our tagline:A technology platform for informal workers; a LinkedIn for the LinkedOut.
Our pitch:The informal sector accounts for 80% of Africa's labor force. Access to these jobs, by their very definition, is built on informal structures - only a fraction of plumbers, housekeepers, or other informal workers use CVs or formal applications. The vast majority of work is granted through ad hoc connections; leading to low wages (as employers don't know what they're getting), irregular work, and few opportunities to build a career. Lynk is a Kenyan social enterprise which builds technology to overcome this gap. We aim to provide the entrepreneurship infrastructure which informal workers are commonly lacking - from access to market to customer service and payment management.
Over 1,000 workers to-date (and thousands to come) have been vetted for technical and soft skills, and then given their own profiles with details on skills, qualifications, and previous experience. Lynk has 3 customer-facing products to connect workers on the platform - we call them Pros - to jobs: Lynk Request allows Pros to bid on jobs which they receive by SMS; Lynk Shop enables Pros to list ready-to-buy products and services on a browseable e-commerce site; and Lynk Projects gives access to jobs on large Lynk-managed construction or interior design projects. Ratings and comments for these jobs grow Pros' profiles, encouraging more work for good work and career growth. In the future, we aim to build more of the entrepreneurship infrastructure which will enable Pros to thrive, from integrated e-learning within our Pro App, to loans or tools on credit.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Nairobi, Kenya
The dimensions of the Challenge our solution addresses:
What makes our solution innovative:What makes Lynk stand out is that most of these apps do not create value for workers on their platforms, but just seek to reduce costs through a shared economy. Platforms like Juakali do at most a couple of jobs per month and others like SafiSafi have just 40 workers on the platform. While several websites or Apps exist, they have limited functionality, both from tech and operational perspectives - we have never, for example, been able to get MyKazi or Fundislink to work.
How technology is integral to our solution:Lynk has an in-house engineering team developing our products and processes. Our technology improves the customer and Pro experience, and drastically increases our scalability through our level of automation. Over the past year, we've built the functionality which automates over 80% of the job match process (with humans involvedonly in oversight of the system). Over the next year, we aim to increasingly automate the job management process (enabling Pros and customers to communicate directly through App, and notifications guiding Pros through the process) and Shop listing. We'll improve as we grow, fed by data and insights to iterate our functionalities.
Our solution goals over the next 12 months:Our goals for the next year are to:
(a) Launch the Lynk Pro App which will significantly improve internal operations, our offering to Pros, and automate the manual processing of SMS messages or phone calls.
(b) Grow the Lynk Shop, which soft-launched in June 2018. We will work with Pros to list new products and increase demand for Pros' services.
(c) Begin marketing: Lynk has grown to delivering over 1,000 jobs per month almost entirely by word of mouth. We will begin actively marketing over the next year to increase demand for all of Lynk's products.
Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our solution to affect the lives of more people:Lynk aims to become the defacto platform for blue collar professionals in Africa to build their careers. Most employment technology solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa target highly technical sectors, or entry- and mid-level hires in office environments. Lynk targets informal workers who currently have little or no engagement with the digital economy. We believe that the digital innovations taking place in the employment sector are even more powerful and important for informal sector workers who are constantly looking for jobs or gigs and lack government and social protections.
Our promotional video:
The regions where we will be operating in the next 12 months:
How we will reach and retain our customers or beneficiaries:Lynk's beneficiaries are informal workers operating in the gig economy--including plumbers, nannies, and manicurists--who have little engagement with the digital economy beyond phone ownership and registration with MPesa mobile money. Sixty percent of the 700+ Pros on Lynk's platform are youth, and over 40% are female. Lynk seeks to harness the opportunity that the digital economy provides to widen access to jobs for these beneficiaries. While our technology has historically been built SMS-first for Pros, increasing smartphone penetration has enabled us to start working on our native Android Pro App.
How many people we are currently serving with our solution:Lynk has facilitated 14,127 jobs for 1,047 Pros on the platform to-date, in addition to jobs for thousands of helpers and assistants who we are currently unable to count. This has involved the transfer of over Ksh100m (roughly US$1m) from customers to Pros. Nearly 44% are women, and over 60% are youth. The average Pro who has completed a job on Lynk has completed 22 jobs, earning Ksh113,070 (over US$1,000).
How our solution team is organized:For-Profit
Explaining our organization:
Lynk was founded in Nairobi in late 2015. We operate in Nairobi and its environs. Lynk currently has 44 staff members, with roughly a third in the coding team, a third between customer service and Pro Relations (which recruits, vets and onboards Pros), and a third working on different products, particularly Lynk Projects. We expect to expand to other countries in Africa and beyond, but not before 2020.
How many people work on our solution team:20+
How many years we have been working on our solution:3-4 years
The skills our solution team has that will enable us to attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:Building on 5 years at Google, Adam Grunewald founded Lynk with his oldtime friend, CTO Johannes Degn, a full stack engineer with a background in data science. The Executive Team has since grown to 5 people, including Head of Projects Mem Maina, with 10 years in Kenya's tech scene, Head of Growth Chris Maclay with 8 years' in youth employment programming and business development, and Head of E-Commerce, Danielle Callaway, with a background in real estate.
Our revenue model:The foundation of Lynk's offering are its Profiles; living pages with job history and ratings enabling quality Pros to get more work and earn more. We then have a series of customer-facing products to connect Pros to jobs:
- Lynk Request: Lynk's core product currently facilitates 1,000 jobs/month.
- Lynk Shop: Our new product enables Pros to offer ready-to-buy products and services from a browseable site.
- Lynk Projects: Our project management team win medium-sized construction and interior design projects, and engages Pros from the platform to deliver the composite parts of the project.
Lynk operates as a sustainable business, charging a standard 10% commission to the customer (not the Pros). Our business model is based on scale, with an objective is to reach over 2,000 jobs/day by 2021. As we grow, our work gets easier as the more jobs we facilitate, the more we are able to extract insights about our Pros, customers, and the informal ecosystem as a whole to help us further automate and improve our processes further reducing costs.
Why we are applying to Solve:With Solve's support, Lynk would invest in two areas:
(1) Marketing. Lynk has grown entirely by word-of-mouth to-date, but we are now ready to begin marketing. We would engage a Marketing Manager to help grow demand smartly, including digital marketing, traditional marketing, and new customer-facing sales lines such as Lynk for Business (which packages Lynk's existing products as a B2B offering).
(2) R&D on automation. As discussed above, we have significantly increased our automation in jobmatching, and will seek to invest into the technology and processes which can automate job management, Pro recruitment, and Shop listing.
The key barriers for our solution:External risks:
- Regulatory authorities insist that digital marketplaces are 'employers', resulting in significantly higher costs and bureaucracy.
- New and existing entrants compete with Lynk in the informal jobmatching space.
- Key team members leave: Lynk's founding team and senior leadership are all long-term committed to Lynk, and incentivised to do so with equity packages.
- Lynk' business model recognizes a percentage of cut out. We seek to reduce this through offering services in 70+ categories; making it convenient to work through Lynk through easy booking and job management through App; and incentivising Pros to want to use Lynk.
The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Solvers: