Emad Mousavi is a data scientist by trade. His academic and professional research primarily focuses on data-driven decision making in complex systems, which led him to leverage cutting-edge data analysis techniques to provide insights to users of a new gig economy platform, QuiGig. The Houston blockchain site provides a decentralized platform for employers and freelancers to succeed in the gig economy.
Mousavi is the former CFO/COO at Delivery Fleet and Senior Engineer at Aker Solutions. He talked with Block Tribune about the ways blockchain can help the gig economy move forward.
BLOCK TRIBUNE How will the gig economy be affected by technology?
EMAD MOUSAVI: Big time. Well, you know there is two different aspects. There’s one part is the globalization, which makes people possible to hire or find work with remote clients. So basically gig economy is definitely becoming more and more global because of technology but that’s one side of the game. The other side is a lot of jobs, a lot of old jobs are no longer needed, and some other jobs are created because of technology. So there are things that people would do manually in the past but now technology is basically replacing those jobs. Then there are some other jobs that like, SEO marketing or SEO optimization, it didn’t exist in the past but now you can hire a lot of service providers remotely on the gig economy platforms because those opportunities now exist.
BLOCK TRIBUNE Well, we’ve had this for a while now so people are fairly familiar with what it is. What I would like to know is going forward, things like artificial intelligence, blockchain, cryptocurrency, how will that have an impact on it?
EMAD MOUSAVI: I would like to differentiate A.I. versus blockchain and cryptocurrency. When you look at A.I., A.I. is basically data-driven decision making so what A.I. does, it makes decisions based on data, and the different ways that A.I. can help gig economy, whether it’s the workforce, or it’s employers. A.I. number one, it can make the matching much more effective. Before, people would be just matched based on some very simple filters. Now, A.I. can help them connect based on much more sophisticated algorithms and criteria. A.I. can also help them not just connect but also manage the relationship. There are even some gig economy platforms that allow workforce communicate with employers using A.I. enabled, like chat, so they don’t have to be there sitting and communicating but there’s a system, they have some preset defaults, and it takes care of everything else for them.
But I would say that all of that is really just data being utilized to make their relationship more efficient but what blockchain and cryptocurrency brings in is a whole different world. When we talk about blockchain, the concept of blockchain is decentralizing the process, decentralizing the entire ecosystem and what does that mean? That means that you’re not going to have the middle man. You’re not going to have a powerful central authority who is sitting in between the parties and at a lot of points, they’re making decisions on behalf of people, they’re deciding about the dispute, they’re deciding about who to allow stay in the platform versus who not, you know, who needs to be removed. A lot of those decisions right now are being made by the platforms themselves, not the users but what blockchain can bring in is decentralizing the platform, operation wise not just technology wise but operation wise, so making the marketing, making the development and all these different aspects and then that’s where cryptocurrency can …
Remember, we don’t want to be creating a problem and then trying to solve it. Cryptocurrency is not by itself a matter of interest for gig economy if it’s not solving any problem for gig economy but what cryptocurrency can do for gig economy is that when we have the smart contracts, when we have a decentralized platform where smart contracts govern any disputes, then if cryptocurrency is an automated payment model that will allow basically automating the completion of a project or dispute management of the project, then everything is automated with minimal fees, minimal … if you’re hiring someone from India, then if you’re paying in U.S. dollars and exchange rate to convert U.S. dollars to Indian rupees and then of course the transfer fee from here to abroad, all of those fees are going to be minimized if you’re all using one same cryptocurrency to do the sales and if that’s tied to a smart contract, you also have confidence that when the project is done, then the payment will be made and that it is also manageable if there’s any dispute without having to have any third party authority overseeing the process.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Now you spent time in a company called Delivery Fleet, which I take it would have been something that was part of the gig economy, is that correct?
EMAD MOUSAVI: Yes, that’s true. Yes. It was almost an Uber rush, and we did have operation in Texas and North Carolina.
BLOCK TRIBUNE What lessons can you draw from your time there that you can apply going forward about using technology?
EMAD MOUSAVI: Absolutely, very good question. So, for over two years … Let me explain. When I started Delivery Fleet, I actually co-founded Delivery Fleet. My friend, who was the founder, started and asked me to join and run the company for him as a CFO COO so the company started right when the old prices dropped to almost like 50% and Houston, TX, is the capital of oil and gas in the U.S. so a lot of companies were just laying off employees and then there was like workforce available everywhere and there was no company offering any jobs so the market was so overly saturated with workforce. So I was interviewing with a lot of these people to onboard them as delivery drivers for the platform, as I was also … It was a B-2-B business so I was basically talking to employers, small business owners who needed to hire these people. So, there was a clear gap. This is what I’ve definitely been exposed to.
There was a clear gap between people who wanted to hire versus those who needed work and what I do believe technology can bring, it can empower people to connect, and to get their day to day business done without having to go through the hassle of okay now let’s look up and see who is on Google Map or on Craigslist or all these other… even on Yelp, if you want to hire someone, like those I would say pretty old fashioned sitting down trying to make phone calls, making a list of potential candidates or potential service providers, this is not the way we will be doing business in the long run. This definitely has to change at some point and that’s what we’re trying to do here.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: How will your company make money? This new company that you’re doing?
EMAD MOUSAVI: Right, so we are, we have a low fee transaction, basically per transaction monetizing, so people who get engaged and in fact, we are, incentivizing quickness. The way it works is people who post a gig or post a bid on others’ gig would have to pay the platform a small fee, like $1, $1.50 but then the incentivized quickness, if people quickly bid on others’ gig, they get a refund. The first three people who bid, they get a refund, so we are basically incentivizing quickness but at the same time, for volume users who need to post a lot of gigs or want to be engaged into a lot of gigs by posting a lot of bids, they can subscribe on monthly subscription plans, and they can basically save some money on there. We are really heavily using SCO, and we are seeing a lot of traffic come into the website for… Also, we have a lot of customers now come into the website, and we are trying to make sure we catch up with awarding service providers who will offer [inaudible 00:09:35]
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay, how will you pay your service providers? Are you going to be paying them in cryptocurrency or fiat` currency?
EMAD MOUSAVI: No, yeah, we don’t expect a plumber to want to receive money in cryptocurrency but what we’re building, that’s on our roadmap, to allow people to pay in cryptocurrencies. At this point, they can choose to get paid in cash in that case, if they want to transfer money in their wallets, like keep their wallets, they can do that as well, but we don’t get involved in that transaction but if they do want to get paid or make the payment using credit card or like a direct deposit type of payment, then we do have that option as well, so they can do business with the fiat currency.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Are you planning on doing an ICO?
EMAD MOUSAVI: Yes, we are actually we have an ICO launching on start [inaudible 00:10:33] November the 8th so it is upcoming and we’re looking forward to see how people will support us to empower them to get gigs on done quick.
BLOCK TRIBUNE Okay. If you’re successful in your new company, how will that effect the market? Will you be taking a bite out of Uber and other companies in small increments?
EMAD MOUSAVI: Yeah, so if you look at the market right now, Google Search volume is a very good index. And if you look at the platforms traffic, you can see what is going on really.
For month over month, you will see that on the main platforms, gig economy platforms, the branded traffic, is somewhere below 10%, it’s like 5%, 6%, 7% of traffic is branded, which means people are searching for the brand. The remaining is when they’re searching for the actual services, on Google. And that just means that those solutions are not established, especially when that happens month over month, with a stead proportion.
So, what we are doing, we are definitely helping the customers who don’t see the solution they want in the current models. One key difference is the cost. And the 2nd difference is utilizing A.I. for the matching.
So, on the cost, I really want to highlight this, what is happening right now is that the workforce is paying a major part of their commission. Like on Uber they are paying over 30%, I’ve personally talked to drivers. On some of the other platforms it all depends, sometimes it’s just paying for connecting to a client to post a bid, it’s not even guaranteed work. And they’re paying, sometimes, over $30, $40, $50, just to send a code to a client.
So what we are building is much more cost effective. We’re talking about dollars, a $1.50, so less than $2 payments.
And if you think about it, a consequence of the way people are being charged so much with the current platforms, is that a lot of the service providers lose interest, and they don’t get engaged. Because there is one client posting their project, 10 people respond, only one of them is possibly going to be hired, everybody else is just burned out. And then that happens over and over, a lot of people just lose interest. So the next client, when they post a gig, and nobody responds. And then that disappoints the client. So, that’s part of the reason.
So user loyalty problem is, I would say, what you’re trying to fix with our project. And if we fix that problem, the result will be that we’re going to have steady users who are interested and loyal to the platform, and not just they will stay with the platform, they will even bring their clients to the platform, because what we are building is a relationship management platform, for freelancers who do not have a system to operate their business base on. But we’re building a system that helps them manage their relationship with their current clients and their future clients, and build up their business to grow successfully.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Those are my questions. Do you have anything else you want to tell me about that I didn’t ask you about?
EMAD MOUSAVI: Well, the one thing I would like to add is that, we’re living at the time, you mentioned A.I. You know, A.I., and data science, is basically a big deal, and that’s something that is really empowering some of the large companies who are really running everything based on data. Data proven decision making is what they’re doing, and they don’t take any risk, because they can clearly see, with data, what is going on the market. And then freelancers don’t have that, freelancers are just individually trying to figure out how to do, with minimal resources.
Now what we are building is now just about giving them random leads, or is not even just incentivizing their engagement by giving them some token rewards. What we are building is a tool for them to see what is going on, in the market. Our data insight dashboard is very similar to dashboard you would see on stock market, when companies stock values are going up and down. So, we’re looking at different service lines. And we’re looking at the supply and the demand, and the pay rates. And even they can filter it based on location. So what they can see on the dashboard is that they can see what is going on the market, market trend, what services they should be jumping on, what services they should consider that it’s on a decline, and they should stay away from, if they are doing investment and spending so much of time to train on them.
So what we are building is a system that helps them not just make some quick cash, but also be successful in the long run. And that is, very much, in line with the concept of blockchain. We’re empowering people, we’re giving them the tool to be able to be successful without the support of government or powerful entities that serve as a middle man.
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