Having worked and studied in both the US and China, Eloise Yuanyuan Fu had seen a variety of popular e-commerce methods run their course.
First, there was group buying, a method popularized in China in the pre-web days when people would gather together to seek a bulk deal from a merchant. This concept later spread to the US in the form of Groupon. Then came subscription commerce, another age-old method re-popularized by beauty boxes and food samplers on both sides of the Pacific. Seeing deficiencies in both models, Eloise wanted to bring the two concepts together in some way. But she was still seeking the right business vertical to do so.
At this point, while holding down a full-time job at Deloitte’s New York headquarters, she reached out to her friends and former classmates in Silicon Valley and Beijing. Partnering with a former classmate who worked in the gig economy, Eloise settled with the concept of “group employment.”
As employment moves away from the idea of career-long employment in a single firm or even the idea of full-time employment altogether—workers will demand a new model of stability amid a sea of contracts or one-off gigs. At the same time, for the innovation economy of the future to truly take flight, a highly-qualified labour force would need to become more accessible to start-ups, non-profits and even individuals.
JobGrouper, as they call their group employment marketplace, meets all of the above, Eloise said. The platform allows workers to obtain job security by selling their labour on a monthly subscription basis while giving employers access to better deals if they group together with other employers. Workers can also set a minimum level of employment that would be sustainable for them and their families.
“Based on our initial research, while sharing the idea with both white-collar and blue-collar workers in both the US and China, we saw a lot of potential in this market since such a solution had not yet been deployed in the labour markets of either country,” said Eloise.
Eloise hopes that her marketplace will help workers in terms of job security, but will the lower prices of this business model enables encourage more companies to ditch full-time employees altogether? She said that she doesn’t have all the answers quite yet but she believes that the global labour market is already heading that direction anyway.
“Employers are already increasingly moving toward contract and as-needed labour, so rather than worrying about whether we will further encourage this trend, we decided that this trend is inevitable,” she said.
The start-up is officially launching its global site in English and a Chinese-language demo site aimed at showcasing its planned entry into mainland China. The site is currently live in beta but the team has not yet engaged in any outreach due to “several critical features still in the works” like the site’s Chinese expansion for instance, Eloise said.
Their payment gateway, Stripe, can accept buyers from China through AliPay and other methods, but the system does not yet allow remittance of funds into China. They plan to launch there as soon as they find a payment provider to partner with.