The fact that 70% of the world makes less than $10 a day is a shocking fact. It should bother people. It bothers me, deeply. What it says to me is that human potential is being wasted, even in an age of technological progress. We founded Invisible to help people reach their full potential.
If the promise of technology is to be, in Steve Jobs’ words, a “bicycle for the mind,” why does it seem to have become a hamster wheel for the mind: with knowledge workers wasting nearly half their time doing repetitive tasks? If labor marketplaces like Upwork already exist, why isn’t the market clearing?
There’s never been more demand for labor in all of history, there’s never been more supply, and a giant marketplace exists to bridge the two: so why isn’t the global workforce rapidly developing its talent at scale? Pointing out that labor costs are even cheaper than in the time of slavery was my way of making the point that this is a crisis! A way bigger crisis than most people realize. But the 21st century Abolition Movement isn’t going to be like the 19th century. Because this isn’t a directly imposed injustice: it’s a complex market failure. So it is not only a crisis, but also a riddle. Why? Why isn’t the labor market clearing? That’s the riddle I’ve dedicated the last four years to unravelling.
Silicon Valley has traditionally focused exclusively on software; venture capitalists have avoided investing in software-enabled services with humans-in-the-loop. The attitude has been that tools are what we need because if we just keep making better and better tools for people to use, we’ll unlock human potential! But that hasn’t worked. I wrote about this in VentureBeat: “There’s an app for everything… so why isn’t everything perfect yet?”
The answer is that all of these software tools have usage costs: to take full advantage of them within a company, you have to develop a bunch of custom instruction-based processes, and pay overqualified in-house employees to waste half their time and potential just to run these systems — Invisible is the only outsourcing / RPA alternative that helps SMBs get the custom operations support they need to scale, at an unheard of price point.
For Agents, Upwork is a terrible working environment but infinitely better than nothing. On Upwork, they don’t have income predictability, they don’t have an upward income path, they don’t have a team, they don’t receive management, coaching and training, they aren’t given clear delegations broken-down into step-by-step instructions, they don’t have a structured work platform, their advancements in skill don’t get accurately priced in the marketplace, and they have to deal with clients directly in a mercenary marketplace where there are no incentives to build a long-term relationship.
But on Invisible, Agents have all of these things:
— Income predictability (with pay starting at the same $3/hr minimum rate as Upwork)
— Upward career path
— Global team
— Direct management and coaching
— A training platform
— Processes and a structured work platform
— All the client and delegation context they need to succeed
— The ability to specialize and receive rewards for advancements in skill as they climb a performance ladder to make up to $10/hr, in countries where this is far above the average.
When we reached 100 agents in 16 countries this spring, I gave a speech to the agents: www.inv.tech/therealdeck. If after watching this you still have any doubts about whether the Capitalist Worker’s Revolution is real, read these messages from Agents:
We call this a “Capitalist Worker’s Revolution” because it is clear to us that the way to improve the lives of the 70% of the world currently making less than $10 a day is to empower them to contribute to the global economy with relevant skills: so we’ve designed our system and its incentives to do exactly that.
We’re building not only the future of work, but the future of the worker. Not only the ultimate factory, but the ultimate upward career path. The world’s best automation company needs to be the world’s best training company: containing economic cycles of disruption within itself. Unlocking human potential not just for clients, but also for agents.
The cause of freedom is not complete. The greatest Justice movement of all is not more social welfare in developed countries, but more efficient labor markets. Help us build that by delegating to, investing in, or applying to work at Invisible.
COMPARING 19th CENTURY SLAVERY TO 21st CENTURY LABOR MARKETS
19th century slavery, labor market analysis:
— Average per capita income was only $83 per person per month worldwide
— Directly imposed injustice
— Imposed by physical violence
— Slaves had limited to no general literacy, english fluency, information access and freedom of speech
— Labor was full time
— Cost of labor included paying high-cost recruiters (slavers who were kidnapping slaves from Africa, or brokers selling excess slaves from other slave holders), policing, room, board, management
21st century slavery, labor market analysis:
— 70% of the world makes less than $10 a day
— Indirectly imposed injustice
— Imposed by complex market failure
— General literacy, english fluency, information access and freedom of speech are becoming universal
— Labor is sold in fractional units (per hour), sold on a freelance basis
— Cost of labor has collapsed because of globalization + the internet + labor marketplaces + fractional units…
And the biggest labor marketplace in the history of mankind — Upwork — exists. But it is growing VERY SLOWLY. And it is not perceived as a great business (low market cap).
So why isn’t the market clearing? They don’t have a supply side problem. They don’t have a demand side problem. They have a FRICTION problem. They cannot bridge supply and demand.
Coasian frictions that separate supply and demand in this market:
— Labor coordination costs
— Delegation costs (I don’t know what I want, or I know what I want but I don’t have time to document it, or I know what I want and I’ve documented it, but I don’t have time to train you)
— Hiring and training costs
— Management costs
— Discovery costs (I don’t have time to find out how to do this efficiently)
— Specialization costs (I don’t have the scale to hire all the specialists I need to solve this problem)
The supply side (workers) want:
— To enter the digital class.
— To have income predictability and stability.
— To have time predictability (to decide their shifts, when they work).
— To have location freedom (remote work means they can work from home,
commuting is a tax).
— To have a team both to not be lonely, but also to learn from and build a
— To have a manager invested in coaching them.
— To have an income trajectory based on skill improvements.
— To have a training platform that both gives them the right materials to learn the skills, shows them how to apply them to make money, and tests their ability to give them a badge.
— To have a process and workflow management platform that breaks down the work for them into doable chunks.
— To have a performance management platform that tests and pays them on speed, quality and other indicators so that they feel fairly judged and compensated based on merit.
— To have a purpose and mission that motivates them. To feel like their work matters and gives them dignity.
The demand side (clients) does NOT want:
— To deal with agents directly, but with trained customer service professionals and solution engineers.
— To have to hire, train or manage workers.
— To have to design processes.
— To QA check the work for speed and quality.
— To worry about security.
— To worry about scale.
What they DO want is:
— A custom, dynamically scalable (can do as small as you want, or as big as you want), and price/quality efficient outsourcing and automation partner.
— An easy delegation experience.
— An easy to use and powerful dashboard for managing their budgets, delegations and preferences.
— Fast, high-quality results with results based pricing.
Invisible is the 21st Century Abolition Movement.