Semih Korkmaz and Hantz Févry launched Stoovo in 2019 as a way to help gig workers make the best use of their time.
Févry, who immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti, knew firsthand the struggles that come with part-time work from his days as a student at Stonybrook University. While there bouncing from job to job, Févry would feel the sting associated with hidden fees, unkept promises and variability of part-time labor.
The time at Stonybrook was also when Févry got his first taste of entrepreneurship. In 2010 and 2011, Févry said the dean of the University’s business school let the budding business owner cut back on his hours so he could start iTrade International, an import-export business selling earthquake detection equipment in Haiti.
That first taste of tech and business development eventually landed Févry a job at Google in Hong Kong and offered him the chance to travel around the world. After a stint in Europe, Févry moved back to the U.S. where he set to work building Stoovo.
The question on his mind was this: How can we leverage technology to help gig workers or people taking short-term assignments?
Févry and his co-founder Korkmaz envisioned Stoovo as a way to level the playing field by providing gig workers with information about the highest paying jobs available on the gig platforms at any one time. “What the platforms are doing is they are optimizing to make sure that they’re responding to demand,” Févry said. “What we do is use the same approach to predict what will be the demand, where will be the demand, what will be the competition and what’s the payout.”
The company’s software advises gig workers on the optimum time for using each service based on their earning criteria and hours, Févry said.
“We tell you when to start working, where you need to start working and when you need to go when you need to take your break,” he said.
But the company’s service isn’t only about optimization. There’s also a banking component and a suite of products to ensure that gig workers are also getting the most out of their gigs financially. The company offers a checking account, a tax management service and lending services as well, through services like BellBizzer, a Seattle-based company that offers a short-term rental service for consumer goods.
Both Korkmaz and Févry spent time working as delivery drivers or freelancing to get a feel for the challenges gig workers faced, Févry said. During lunch breaks at Google, Févry would do food deliveries to see what he could do so that he could understand how to make the gig economy work better.
Ultimately, the best solution would be to pay gig workers a fair wage for the time they spend doing their work, but barring that, technologically developed band-aids to help heal technologically enabled wounds seem like the only option.
Gig companies like Uber have a history of using their algorithms to wring more money from drivers — sometimes unbeknownst to the workers.
Back in August, a developer named Armin Samii created an app called UberCheats that monitored the UberEats application for a software bug to inform drivers if they were underpaid by the company for the distance they’d traveled to make a delivery. Last week, the app was taken down, but only because of a copyright infringement claim from Uber.
Stoovo and UberCheats seem to come from the same place. The idea is to equip workers with tools that can work for workers instead of for big platforms.
It’s this vision that attracted investors like Derek Norton from Watertower Ventures to invest in the company. To date, Stoovo has raised $2.4 million from investors, including Watertower, 500 Startups, Plug and Play Ventures and TSEF, Févry said.
With the money, the company hopes to build out more products that can enable things like low-cost money transfers. Ultimately, the company just wants to give these gig workers a chance, Févry said.
“The gig economy is rife with frustrations,” Févry said, and Stoovo is making a pitch to smooth over the obstacles. “We really understand your life. We are also immigrants,” he said. “We know that of that $200… we know you have to send $40 overseas… We are building a product with [gig workers], we are not building for them.”
*By Jonathan Shieber, TechCrunch*