Wellingtonian web-whiz Elyssa Pallai found the inspiration for the community-minded platform Pocketjobs from the famously snobby “gated communities” of the US.
Pallai’s father was on a fixed income, yet was so devoted to community spirit that he often did the rounds as the neighbourhood handyman.
“He’s a baby boomer and they have such a reputation as loyal, ethical and hard-working,” she says.
“I thought an app like this could harness that reputation and give people like him some additional income.”
The result of Pallai’s admiration for her father’s neighbourly service is quickly gaining a Kiwi following as her business idea Pocketjobs takes off.
Its website and app lists all manner of small jobs and uses social media and local sourcing to build communities.
Users, for a small fee, list a job online – be it building a webpage or handing out 2000 flyers – then other members (or 'Pocketers') bid for the gig.
Then the potential employer can review the offers and view the profiles of those who've made offers before choosing who they want to fill the role – all, if you like, from the palm of your hand.
“Pocketjobs proves there are people in your neighbourhood who can do these small jobs and the money supports that community," says Pallai, founder and CEO of Pocketjobs.
“Often jobs will be listed in the morning, filled by lunchtime and the job all done and paid for by the afternoon – it’s just so simple.”
Its connectivity to Facebook and the ability to build, use and rate employee profiles separates it from other sites, she says.
“Where other apps, like TaskRabbit [a US-based microtasking site], send jobs out to people they have recruited, we send it out to our community,” she says.
“Potential employers can see any bidder's friend-to-friend Facebook information, whether they live locally information and their peer ratings.”
Although initially targeted at odd jobs like furniture removal and hedge trimming around Wellington, the team at Pocketjobs has been astounded how quickly the app has been pounced on by small businesses.
“They just love it. They say ‘Oh my god I can get someone to do my Google ad work, or get me 1000 FB likes’ – things they know are important but don’t understand yet.”
Pallai says often after using it at work, entrepreneurs and managers will use it again to find somebody to help paint a fence or babysit the kids, at home.
Developed with the help of R&D funding from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Science and Innovation Group, Pocketjobs' appeal to students – themselves uber-connected and plugged into social media – helped the app to seed and spread quickly, she says.
“The student population completely get it and they share it like wildfire. Their connectedness helped our success.”
The app, which is available on all platforms to users in Wellington and Auckland, doesn’t show bids to other bidders and allows users to negotiate prices and terms when making an offer, so a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ effect is avoided.
“We have had several cases where negotiations for skilled work have resulted in job performed for up to 30 percent higher than the original posted rate,” says the American-born founder.
“We never wanted to create a bidding war creating low-paid jobs. This is about employing people and leveraging skills across the community.”