For over a decade now since starting the company in my living room, STORM has been at the forefront of benefits evolution, improving the way companies have been rewarding their employees using technology as a powerful enabler.
Like any entrepreneurial journey, we have gone through a lot of ups and downs. With 120,000 employee users across nearly 50 client companies, I am immensely proud of the progress we have been able to achieve. Our progress has also been rewarded in other ways: in a few weeks, STORM Sales Head Cindy Burdette and I will be flying to San Francisco to represent the country in this year’s Startup World Cup finals. We have also been recently accepted into the prestigious Endeavor network.
There’s just been one nagging, growing problem we have been constantly seeing though. It’s been attracting a lot of our attention since last year.
What we first began to observe was that for a lot of companies, there is actually more than one type of worker. As a benefits company, we usually would work with EMPLOYEES. But we began noticing that not all people who work for a company would consist of employees. There are contractuals. There are workers who were assigned to a company but actually work for a different company or cooperative. In industries like insurance or real estate, there could be sales agents who work individually and are paid solely by commission.
What we noticed was that most of these sets of workers WON’T have benefits.
We looked further.
We saw that one specific worker group, the freelancer, was also growing by leaps and bounds. Fuelled by the rise of job platforms such as Grab, Uber, AirBnB, ELance, and Upwork, there are a lot of former employees who would take the leap into freelancing. A lot of marketing-oriented people have also been leveraging social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, in building (and profiting from) their audiences.
According to research the freelancer economy is now at $1.6 TRILLION and growing rapidly. I agree with a lot of the sentiment (here, here, here, and a lot of other places) that the gig economy will be the future of work. Pretty soon, MOST jobs will be outsourced to individuals.
Translation: more people are taking the leap from employment into the Gig Economy — and consequently losing their benefit status.
Most of these people are paid SOLELY just by wiring cash.
What’s the problem? A vast amount of research (here’s a very recent one) confirms that the absolute best way to compensate workers is by offering BOTH a cash component and a benefits component.
Don’t believe the research? Think of the ALL the best employers in the world. ALL of these organizations develop compensation strategies that utilize both.
ONLY COMPANIES HAVE GREAT BENEFITS
What companies can do for their constituents is use their size, volume, and influence to gain access to much cheaper benefits.
For example, an 80,000-man company can reduce the price of a given individual health insurance plan by half.
This is a big part of the reason why companies, especially BIG companies, can offer a great list of benefits for their constituents: they get them a whole lot cheaper.
Freelancers, contractuals, cooperatives, job platform entrepreneurs, workers who work for SME’s and family businesses, so many different other types of workers DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO GREAT BENEFITS.
BENEFITS ON BLOCKCHAIN
In STORM’s current set-up, we’re basically a Business to Business to Consumer company, a B2B2C company. We (first “B”) work with the employer (second “B”), particularly HR, and through them, we gain access to every employee (our “C”).
For this new problem set, it becomes a bit different, as it deals with the consumer directly without the layer of the employer.
We then saw the problem in a new light. Could we create a platform where the worker could go straight to the benefit provider and vice versa?
In 2017, we discovered and started researching on an evolving new technology which excited us: the blockchain.
We saw the dizzying possibilities: through the blockchain, we could create a decentralized network where the worker and the provider can be provided a “safe” and trusted place to execute transactions. (creating trusted environments was actually the main reason which spurred the development of blockchain) The ability of the blockchain to facilitate transaction immutability and transparency allows both parties to evaluate and “vet” one another at a much higher level. This is extremely crucial for benefits like insurance or healthcare, but also crucial for the buying consumer.
We quickly saw how elegant the application was of blockchain technology in solving this access problem we were seeing.
STORM LAUNCHES ALLCARE
Today, I am proud to announce the launching of a new STORM company: ALLCARE.
ALLCARE’s raison d’etre is as simple as it is powerful: BENEFITS FOR ALL.
Remember all those worker groups I mentioned earlier? We want to give ALL OF THEM access to the best possible benefits.
As an entrepreneur, I’m giddy.
I think this is a new, significant problem that we, given our benefits technology background and track record, really have the right chops and background to sink our teeth into.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION!
We are at GROUND ZERO of ALLCARE’s development. Everything is being built and planned. We’re now busy building up both sides of the platform. We’re also happy to have solicited the help of an initial group of advisors — all of whom bring with them deep expertise in very relevant domains. I’m so excited to begin the work.
What we want to do now is to gather more information and conscript as many people as we can to help us tackle this problem.
Freelancer? Benefit provider? Gig economy worker? HR executive who wants to learn more? Insurance firm owner? Blockchain enthusiast? Let’s talk! Do register your email at the ALLCARE site and join the revolution.