How This Founder Is Building the Workday for Underserved Worker Populations
I spoke with Wil Eyi, founder of MyToolbox and a member of the Harvard Business School Class of 2019, to learn more about choosing the founder journey, finding co-founders, identifying problems, and the entrepreneur experience. MyToolbox is using technology-enabled solutions to reduce frictions in the job search process for underserved worker populations, specifically in the skilled blue-collar market.
Wil found that even in this digital age, 78% of skilled construction workers still find their jobs through word of mouth, and 91% of these workers would love to use an app to technologically power their job search process. Moreover, 67% of them face extended periods of unwanted downtime. Further research and customer interviews revealed that these trends are not specific to construction, but affect the vast majority of skilled blue-collar (or trade) workers.
Thus, MyToolbox is creating a mobile-enabled solution for the skilled blue-collar worker, a massive market occupying the underserved space in between white- and blue-collar workers. MyToolbox is a marketplace providing symbiotic benefits for both employers and employees and eventually others in the value chain. Through reducing frictions in the job search process and generating valuable financial data, skilled blue-collar workers can more effectively find the next opportunity and use the app to be financially and professionally empowered. Moreover, employers see fewer projects delays and lower turnover in their teams. Ultimately, MyToolbox aims to be a complete community and end to end solution, much like the Workday for project-based skilled workers.
Here are the main pieces of advice and takeaways for aspiring student founders from Wil’s experiences building MyToolbox:
Finding the problem. Ideas are latent — the first time you see a problem may not be the first time you think of the solution. For Wil, he had worked a blue-collar job himself many years ago, at a time where mobile and technology-enabled solutions for talent were not readily available. 10 years afterward, he was working in investment banking and later, private equity, when he passed by a construction site where he saw 2 workers on their smartphones but still looking for work in person. He was surprised that technology had not yet disrupted and transformed the construction job search process to empower workers with scalable solutions. Inspired by this experience, Wil spoke with over 50 construction workers and others involved in the field to better understand their challenges and validate his initial hypothesis. Through this iterative approach, involving multiple periods of brainstorming (following the initial exposure to the problem) as well as dozens of conversations with different people, Wil created what later became MyToolbox to solve this identified problem in the skilled blue-collar talent ecosystem.
Finding co-founders and building your leadership. People have specific narratives about themselves. Usually, founders seeking co-founders will pitch their own narrative and thus, intentionally or unintentionally, find only people with very similar narratives, thereby creating a very homogenous founding and leadership team. However, diversity of experiences and skills are core to building a well-rounded team able to adapt to ever-evolving future challenges, and thus it is critical to find the best fit, rather than most similar co-founder. To this end, founders should aim to understand the narratives of others and pitch these narratives to attract diverse and dedicated team members bringing unique strengths but a common interest in the vision.
Becoming a founder. Wil took the Founders’ Journey course at Harvard, where participants discussed the process behind decisions like becoming a full-time founder. Ultimately, Wil found that there is no rational framework for becoming a founder. From a very objective standpoint, to optimize for short-term prestige or monetary outcomes, it is difficult to argue against more traditional career paths over the entrepreneurship experience. Even for those interested in startups, joining a later stage startup or venture capital are always less risky options. To truly decide whether being an entrepreneur is the right choice, you must ask yourself whether you would regret not being a founder and not creating the solution, business, and impact you envision. And if so, you should go all in.
Living through founder challenges. Founders face immense, diverse, and unexpected challenges each day, but it is incredibly important to live through these moments. These lows are what make the highs of the entrepreneur experience even greater and more palpable. Moreover, these obstacles are what make founders realize how much they truly care about the problem they are solving and the change they are creating. In these moments, it is essential to distinguish between entrepreneur failures and company failures: statistically, the majority of startups fail, but ultimately, as Wil eloquently put it, the founders who fail in the right way almost never fail.