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AV Hero Brings the Gig Economy to AV Integration Market



John Day doesn’t start or end his workday wearing colorful tights, a cape and a giant letter on his chest, but this mild-mannered veteran of about a dozen years of selling AV integration could soon be recognized for his role in transforming the industry into a gig economy, if he has his way.

Day launched AV Hero March 21, calling it an on-demand online service for both commercial and residential AV needs. While Day envisioned his new initiative as primarily for end users, he’s already heard from AV integrators and manufacturers asking if they can become his customers too.

“We’re really introducing the gig economy to the AV industry,” says Day. “I feel like it needs a bit of a refresh. We want to emphasize the value of the talented technicians within the industry. Oftentimes, they’re viewed as a commodity. We want to flip that.

“We want the technicians to be empowered. They can build their own business and create a six-figure income for themselves. I don’t think we’re going to replace integrators by any means, do think we’re going to help to build better lives for people and attract a lot more talent,” he says.

Day’s goal for AV Hero is simple: make it easy to get AV help quickly. That vision has proven true so far, as Day recently conducted test runs in five cities across the U.S. for AV Hero assignments and the jobs were all scooped up within 15 minutes.

“We thought about whether it was the right time to start [in late March because of the coronavirus pandemic],” he says. “It’s proven to be a great time because there are so many people looking for work, unfortunately.

“We’ve been able to get people’s attention more effectively and given people some hope. I think we’ve empowered people to go out and create business for themselves rather than hoping someone calls them,” says Day.

How AV Hero Empowers Technicians

Day was inspired to start AV Hero about two years ago when he was sitting in a bar and he wondered how that local restaurant’s staff would handle it if the TVs suddenly stopped working, considering how important they were to the business’ viability.

“The answer I came up with is: I don’t think they would know what to do,” says Day. “I don’t think they would know who to call and it would be more expensive and more complicated than they expected.”

As you might imagine, not everyone can be an AV Hero. First, they have to pass a rigorous custom assessment developed by a 28-year AV veteran as well as a background check.

The assessment, which about 500 of the 1,800 AV Hero applicants have passed so far, includes questions about standard AV and control troubleshooting and break/fix practices and customer service. Applicants are also asked what superpowers they would want.

“[The assessment is] doing a good job vetting the right people,” says Day. “We want to make sure they have some general competencies If we have 25-30 percent pass rate, that’s about what we want it to be.”

Day plans to keep AV Hero in the U.S. for now, although he’s had requests to deploy in South America and Australia. He’s proud of the early success of the platform, which is says is intended to “empower AV technicians.” Eventually, Day expects to add a remote support component, he says.

Day notes the majority of the $75 hourly fee goes to the technicians. Each AV Hero gets their own code and customers can ask for specific technicians by using that code on the site.

“That allows the heroes to build up a referral business,” says Day. “One of the big thing AV industry has struggled with is the talent pool. One of the big dreams I have is AV Hero being a vehicle for students coming out of high school rather than working at Starbucks to pay their way through college.

“It’s a great opportunity for existing technicians and people coming into the workforce,” he says.

From Idea to Reality

Day and his wife risked quite a bit to achieve his vision with AV Hero, including drawing money from his 401(k) and downsizing their living quarters. AV Hero also faced trouble before it started when the app developer Day had worked with for six months wasn’t available when he was getting ready to launch.

A friend introduced him to another developer, who transformed AV Hero to a web application that can be accessed both on mobile devices and desktop computers.

“It’s been a big step of faith, but everything now is going better than we expected,” says Day. “This is my first time starting a company and there’s a lot of unknowns. The biggest challenge we have is awareness. It’s such a new concept to the AV industry.

“As soon as we get people trying the service, I think they’re going to recognize it’s a valuable service,” he says.

Day understands “there’s going to be some pushback” on the AV Hero model, but he’s proud to defend it.

“A lot of AV companies are banking on managed services contracts as the future of profitability in AV, we’re kind of infringing on that to a degree, but generally the feedback we’ve had from the industry has been a lot of excitement,” he says, noting some longtime road warriors applaud the AV Hero concept.

“It’s not just about business. It’s about people having a great life. I think that’s part of why this thing is going to explode,” says Day.

This article originally appeared on our sister publication Commercial Integrator‘s website.

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Oxygen chooss CPI for gig economy debit cards




CPI Card Group Inc. (OTCQX: PMTS, TSX: PMTS) (“CPI” or the “Company”), a payment technology company and leading provider of credit, debit and prepaid solutions, today announced a collaboration with Oxygen, the first digital banking platform tailored to meet the unique needs of the freelance economy.

Oxygen selected CPI to develop its first personal and business debit cards – tapping the Company’s card manufacturing experience and advanced print design services to create a payment product that embodies Oxygen’s unique financial market positioning.

Oxygen provides flexible banking to the millions of U.S. professionals who thrive on multiple income streams, contract work and freelance gigs. The company’s solutions are available through a mobile app that enables a fast, frictionless user experience. Oxygen takes a holistic approach to meeting the financial services needs of independent professionals. In CPI, Oxygen found a card manufacturer that could create a payment solution from end to end. CPI and Oxygen collaborated to develop two packages with clean and crisply-designed vertical cards that arrive nested in interactive packaging. Back-of-card personalization completes the high-end look and feel.

“At Oxygen, we understand that the physical brand experience, – including everything from the card design to the packaging appearance – matters for our creative, tech-savvy clientele. With CPI’s cost-effective scale and design strengths, we were able to deliver a sleek card to customers in a unique, memorable fashion,” said Hussein Ahmed, founder and CEO at Oxygen. “We are pleased to have such a reliable secure card provider and are thrilled to offer customers an eye-catching debit card that echoes their drive, ambition and lifestyle.”

Through CPI’s advanced personalization capabilities and packaging options, financial institutions can develop differentiated card programs that deliver a premium cardholder experience. The Company provides end-to-end support and customizability that allow businesses to create tailored products that bridge the digital and physical worlds for their brands. Additionally, CPI’s innovative manufacturing approach empowers companies to introduce exciting card designs and technology features, which can offer a competitive edge in the pursuit of top-of-wallet status.

“CPI and Oxygen share in being deeply customer-centric in everything we do. We are excited to leverage our manufacturing strengths and high-quality print and design services to achieve debit cards that match the modern, sophisticated aesthetic of Oxygen’s brand and its clients,” said Guy DiMaggio, SVP and General Manager, Secure Card Solutions, CPI Card Group. “We look forward to supporting more fintech innovators and pioneers in creating payment cards that expand the physical aspect of their brands.”  

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How Covid-19 has affected the gig economy in South Africa




/ MEDIA STATEMENT / This content is not written by Creamer Media, but is a supplied media statement.

A report by The Fairwork Project – a collaboration between various South African and foreign university research units – has found that the non-standard employment status of gig workers during Covid-19 has made them particularly vulnerable during an economic shutdown. However, some gig networking platforms have stepped up to ease the pain.

Fairwork, which draws on the expertise of staff from the universities of Oxford, Cape Town, Western Cape, Manchester, Institute of Information Technology Bangalore in India and the Technical University of Berlin, wrote a report titled Gig Workers, Platforms and Government During Covid-19, which was released in May 2020.

The report looked at gig economy platforms active in South Africa, government responses  regarding informal, freelance or gig economy workers, and actual worker experience surveys. While most platforms regarded workers as independent contracts rather than employees, to their detriment, the report found that gig technology company, M4Jam and SweepSouth actively worked to offset looses of income for contracted giggers.

The report compiled a scorecard which covered principles of fair pay, fair working conditions, fair contracts, fair management and fair representation. The scorecard specifically highlighted pay-related policies, given their importance to gig workers.

The scorecard found that three of the top-ranking platforms – M4Jam, SweepSouth and getTOD – had come up with innovative solutions to the problems their workers faced during Covid-19 and lockdown. M4Jam and SweepSouth were the only platforms to attempt to compensate for gig worker pay loss during lockdown.

“Our survey suggests the majority of gig workers have lost their jobs entirely, while those able to work during lockdown have, on average, lost four-fifths of their income. As a result, many reported that just getting food to eat was their top priority,” the researchers note.

“While [gig economy] platforms have long marketed themselves as facilitators of supplementary income streams, all of this exposes the complete dependency of most workers on their platforms as the basis for their livelihood,” they wrote.

The report stated that gig economy platforms, which operate by connecting jobbers with potential temporary work at corporate entities, should and could do more to help, by such measures as reducing commissions, deferring loans, offering healthcare assistance and sick pay, improving communication and engaging with workers and their representatives more effectively.

Georgie Midgley, CEO of M4Jam, said the report’s finding that inaction on behalf of gig platforms was the norm gave credence to common criticism of the gig economy. “Unfortunately most gig economy platforms live up to negative perceptions about jobber vulnerability. In a country like South Africa where the gig economy can play a vital role in supplementing income and providing much-needed temporary employment, the down side is potential exploitation of workers who do not have the safety net permanent employees have.”

Gig workers have tended to fall between the cracks of government financial relief measures, according to the report, principally because they fall outside the UIF net. “Gig workers have fallen between two stools: able to access neither the [government] support offered to formal employees, nor the support offered to those registered as small businesses. If gig workers are to avoid destitution, government must take further action,” the researchers said.

At the same time, the report said, the value of gig workers to the economy has been underlined by Covid-19 and lockdown. “Delivery services, for example, have been essential to society during lockdown. In the longer term, a legal resolution must be found to rescue gig workers from the employment-status limbo that the pandemic has brought into sharp relief.”

The report found, for example, that both Uber and Bolt ride-hailing services had closed down their local contact centres, “making it harder for drivers to interact with the platforms”. A constant criticism of gig economy platforms is that they simply cannot provide protection of workers’ rights in the same way that the formal economy’s employers do.

With lockdown preventing physical movement of jobbers completing micro-tasks for corporate employers, the report commended M4Jam’s approach of collaborating with one of its clients, Cell C, in rolling out a three-week training initiative that provided payment to workers for completing up to 48 short lessons undertaking via their mobile phones.

This provided further upskilling of contracted jobbers during the down time, and provided an average of R310 per week for those undergoing the training. M4Jam works with corporate clients such as Morecorp, i-People, Twizza, Sereti and more.

The research found that the trends in South Africa broadly reflected gig economy trends around the world, with roughly half of gig workers losing their “jobs” during lockdown. 

“We agree with the report’s findings that if gig economy platforms direct and exercise control over the work given to contracted jobbers, they should go to greater lengths to be responsible for assisting workers in dealing with the effects of Covid-19. This will not only maintain goodwill with contracted workers and ensure livelihoods are not lost – it will also show that the gig economy is a viable long-term alternative for job seekers who cannot get a foothold in the formal economy,” said Midgley.

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Gig economy battle spans unemployment benefits (NYSE:UBER)




The $2.2T coronavirus relief law enacted in March extended unemployment benefits to previously ineligible groups, like the self-employed and independent contractors.

However, some Uber (NYSE:UBER) and Lyft (NASDAQ:LYFT) drivers are nervous about tapping the program out of fear it would certify them as independent contractors, and undermine their fight to be classified as employees.

While some labor attorneys believe their concern is valid, others think the threat is overblown.

California passed a law last year requiring gig companies to treat independent contractors as employees, and other states, like New York, are attempting to follow suit. California’s AB5 law took effect in January, but is being challenged in court.

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