Just until a few years ago it was rare to see a local IT company in Macedonia developing their own product for a foreign market, let alone a company that gives equity to employees besides their monthly salary. However, things are slowly changing in the Balkans. We are getting to the point where we see a change in the model of working for the IT sector. Kinetiq Solutions from Skopje is a good example of this change. Once a typical software outsourcing company, today — evolved into a new company having its own product — UpShift; on top of that, offering each team member the ability to have equity in the product. They are a small team; they have lunch together, watch ‘Friends’ together, but soon things will start to change. The company plans to expand the team as the platform is growing beyond their wildest dreams.
Table of contents:
- ‘The one about the ever-changing economy’ —About the rise of the gig economy and its impact on the job market.
- ‘The one with the office’ — About the team, the atmosphere in the office and new position opening.
- ‘The one with the background’ — About coming up with the idea for the product.
- ‘The one with the future’ — About things that lay ahead.
1. ‘The one about the ever-changing economy’
The whole world is changing. The way we communicate, the way we travel, the way we work. There is a growing number of freelancers around the World. For some of them, the 9-to-5 job in an office seems unappealing, for others, it is just a temporary solution until they find a permanent job.
The temp or gig economy is on the rise. Somewhere it disrupts entire business models, somewhere it emerges as a result of the disruption. But one thing is certain: we live in a time where the old world is slowly becoming part of history and the new one is being born in front of our eyes. The rise of AI and robots in the past few years made a lot of tasks automated and jobs obsolete. Companies find it harder and harder to justify the cost of keeping their labor force on a permanent payroll and they are slowly turning towards temporary contracts as a solution. It is predicted that in the next few decades some 800 million jobs will be lost due to this trend, which makes job security even more uncertain for a growing number of people.
In the past decade, the Internet has been the only place for highly skilled workers to find freelancing gigs. They turned to platforms like Upwork, Glassdoor and LinkedIn to find temporary work in between regular jobs, or even one or several long-term clients. But not all of us are programmers, designers, marketers or writers. There are those whose skill set is limited, or just different, and who had to rely on temp agencies in the past in order to find a job. But things are changing there as well.
At first glance, UpShift may look like any other app that helps people find work, but for hundreds of thousands of Americans, this app is a way of helping them make ends meet. The app makes it as easy to find temporary work nearby, as for Uber drivers to find their next ride. One thing is undeniable, though: the entire concept behind the app has a real measurable impact and it all started in Macedonia.
2. ‘The one with the office’
As the majority of Upshifters clock out from their late-night shifts around the USA and get ready to go home, a team of young developers from Skopje, Macedonia, are just starting their day.
During their morning coffee, they discuss the latest NFL scores or the new shows they discovered on Netflix. Morning coffee is followed by the daily stand-up meeting, where backend, frontend, iOS, and Android developers all take part. All team members are encouraged to brainstorm and give ideas because sometimes the best inspiration for a solution comes from an idea of a colleague that is not directly involved in a certain feature.
The office where UpShift is being developed radiates optimism, the one you would expect from a startup with a clear vision and knowledge that things are taking off in the right direction.
In the background, sometimes instead of music, you can hear episodes of Friends being streamed on a wall screen. That show, even though it was popular during the time when some of them were just born, is their white noise and their favorite pastime.
Their office is in Debar Maalo, Skopje’s hip district and the heart of the country’s startup scene. It is conveniently located within a short walking distance from cool bistros and restaurants, which sometimes makes deciding on Slack what to have for lunch a more complicated task than writing a report in Jira. Every day the whole team has lunch together because they believe that if you can eat together, you can do great things together.
You can feel that unpretentious team spirit and closeness the moment you walk into the office. The team may be small at the moment but that is going to change significantly in the following period. UpShift has plans to expand rapidly because the company is growing fast and the projections, though cautiously optimistic, are showing that it will continue in that direction in the following years.
One can find out more about the opportunities at UpShift on WeAreLaika.com. Currently, they are looking for a Senior or Intermediate PHP software engineer. Someone who ‘is fluent’ in Laravel and RESTful APIs, willing to constantly learn and grow as a developer. Apart from the standard benefits like training and learning opportunities, traveling and career advancement they offer equity in the company which is still rare among software companies in the region. Being a US-based company with predictions for stellar success, this equity will be more than a good bonus in the future.
3. ‘The one with the background’
Before UpShift came to be, there was Kinetiq Solutions, one of many outsourcing IT companies that were founded in Macedonia in the past decade. For a while, talent outsourcing was (and to some extent still is) a very lucrative business model in the broader region. The concept behind it is simple: the company finds clients from abroad and then outsources its developers or entire teams for an hourly rate. But as the IT sector’s salaries in the region grew, the competitiveness of this model started to show its first flaws. On top of that, the fact that a large number of intermediate and senior developers started looking for better, more challenging, job opportunities in other countries didn’t help the situation.
When Kinetiq’s team started working on UpShift, the company’s CTO Nikola Jordanovski noticed that the developers showed much greater interest and dedication to their tasks than when they worked on outsourced projects. “It was unusual to start seeing people writing emails at 11 pm pitching some new ideas, working from home on some bug that has been bothering them for the whole day. They felt like they were part of something that matters, and they wanted to put extra effort into it.”
And why shouldn’t they be? They work on a product that has an impact on the everyday lives of a lot of people.
“When you hear stories from upshifters where they say how finding gigs on the platform helped them pay rent, earn some extra cash or even turn a gig into a full-time job, it really puts a lot of things into perspective. You feel like you are working on something big that has a really positive effect on local communities.” says Ivan Jordanovski, Product Designer at UpShift.
And it all started just three years ago, in 2016, when one of Kinetiq’s clients, Steve Anevski, who is now CEO of UpShift, approached co-founders Alex Pantich and Nikola Jordanovski with a challenge that would change their lives forever. He wanted to find a solution that will make the process of finding and hiring temp workers more efficient but also to make it as easy as possible for the temp workers to find a local gig. When they created a business model and a concept for the app, they started working on something that would forever change the temp worker market in the States.
4. ‘The one with the future’
The gig economy contributes to the US economy with some $1.4 trillion annually and predictions are that by 2027 half of the workforce in the States will do some form of freelance or gig work. UpShift currently operates in 14 offices — 12 cities — 7 states in the USA but their plan is to cover the entire country. The numbers show that the concept indeed works. For example, the success rate of temp agencies is around 40% while UpShift manages to keep their success rate north of 94%. It is the process of signing up to the platform that makes the difference. In order to be able to use the platform, the potential Upshifter needs to visit the local office to get them. The local offices are usually located in suburban areas, which means that the person who wishes to find work through UpShift needs to put an effort in order to sign up. This guarantees that the person will likely show up to the job they signed up for.
The UpShift app at the moment is at version 2.0, meaning that it already passed its baby steps and it is now stable and ready for use. As more features are added into the pipeline, new members are needed to join the team. You can find out more about the open positions on WeAreLaika.com and about the company on their LinkedIn profile.
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