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Former head of Mint raises $4.5M for Lean to give gig workers access to financial products – TechCrunch

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Gig and independent workers have different needs than salaried employees when it comes to financial products.

It’s a challenge that Tilak Joshi, founder of Lean, became acutely aware of during his tenure as head of Mint and years as a product exec at American Express and PayPal.

While the U.S. has seen a major shift in more independent workers in recent years, traditional financial institutions have “failed to keep up,” in his view.

“Seventy percent of independent workers live paycheck to paycheck and 30% are inadequately insured,” he said. “Independent workers will soon become the majority of the U.S. workforce, and the existing conversation, platforms and institutions need to rapidly evolve to support them.”

Upon leaving Mint in 2020, Joshi teamed up with Eden Kfir and Ramki Venkatachalam to start Lean in an effort to support gig workers with a platform that offers access to financial products that he says are “custom built” for their needs. And today, the startup is announcing it has raised $4.5 million in a seed round led by Inspired Capital that included participation from Atelier Ventures, Oceans Ventures and Acequia Capital.

Notably, a slew of marketplace industry operators also put money in the round, including DoorDash exec Gokul Rajaram; Instacart co-founder Max Mullen; Manik Gupta, ex-CPO Uber; Vivek Patel, ex-COO of Postmates; Bird CPO Ryan Fujiu; and others. The latest financing brings Lean’s total raised to nearly $6 million to date. Other high-profile angels who have backed the company include Charlie Songhurst, Lightspeed Venture Partners (and former Stripe exec) partner Justin Overdorff, Coinbase’s Marc Bhargava, and executives from ANGI Homeservices, Coinbase and Plaid. 

“Independent workers see some of the most restrictive financial scenarios of anywhere in the U.S.,” Joshi told TechCrunch. “What workers do to patch up their financial problems is work across various gig marketplaces and when marketplaces try to keep them and pay them incentives, they just figure out how to game the system. It just turns into inefficiency on both sides where marketplaces don’t really have the stability of having a strong workforce they can rely on and workers are also just in a tight spot.”

Image Credits: Lean

Lean aims to help independent workers by partnering directly with marketplaces to offer financial products and benefits. The goal is to help marketplaces with worker acquisition and retention by giving gig workers access to “no-cost capital, instant payouts and financial products such as mortgages, “low-to-no-cost borrowing,” HSAs and insurance. 

Lean works with marketplaces of all sizes that employ either 1099 or W2 workers that work in industries such as ride-hailing, courier, healthcare and construction. Joshi said that in addition to boosting worker acquisition and retention, Lean has the potential to “unlock” revenue for marketplaces via financial products and infrastructure rather than through fees to workers. 

Its platform, Joshi said, is designed to be integrated with any marketplace in less than two weeks. Through its marketplace partnerships, Lean expects to be rolling out to “hundreds of thousands” of gig workers across the country over the coming months, according to Joshi.

There’s no cost for marketplaces and no cost for workers. Lean expects to earn revenue through the fees associated with the movement of money via its platform, Joshi said. So far, the startup has inked deals with half a dozen marketplaces, and has another half a dozen in the works.

The company plans to use its new capital to expand its offering and continue to scale across marketplaces.

Mark Batsiyan, partner at Inspired Capital, says he was attracted to Lean because of the team, market timing and approach. 

“There are huge market tailwinds to better serving gig workers, and marketplaces are increasingly searching for better ways to attract and retain their workers,” he wrote via email. “Also, Tilak [Joshi] came to a similar conclusion to us at Inspired: that marketplaces would not build these solutions themselves. They need an intermediary — like Lean — to make financial benefits a turnkey solution.”

Batsiyan also believes that Lean’s B2B2C approach is unique. 

“As a platform, Lean can then leverage its partnerships to achieve much more efficient distribution to the end workers,” he said. 

Earlier this year, Mint’s first product manager raised $4.8 million in seed funding for Monarch, a subscription-based platform that aims to help consumers “plan and manage” their financial lives.

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Workers

Gig Jobs: Lyfts To Wages Make It Tougher For Platforms To Deliveroo

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Gig economy companies say they excel in moving goods or people around. Critics say their core business is selling the labour of insecure workers at rock-bottom rates. Rising wage rates and falling unemployment will test the truth of both propositions if trends persist.

The UK labour market is at its tightest in more than four decades according to figures from National Statistics last week. US hourly wage rate increases beat forecasts in the US in September, though employment there is lagging expectations.

US ride-hailing app Lyft had to nearly double driver incentives in the second quarter, and expects to go on paying high sign-on bonuses. UK-based food delivery platform Deliveroo reports no problem recruiting riders, despite rising vacancies elsewhere. It claims to already pay well, with average rates above the minimum wage for the time between accepting and completing an order. On a broader definition of a shift, though, riders can reportedly earn as little as £2 an hour.

If companies do have to pay workers more, they will struggle — without efficiency gains — to absorb the extra costs. Platforms make an average contribution margin of just 3 per cent, or roughly $1.20 on the average food delivery order, says McKinsey.

They will not easily pass the costs on to customers either. Resistance will vary by market. Continental Europeans tend to be more cost conscious than Londoners, says JET boss Jitse Groen. Push up charges too much and customers will delete the app.

Rising labour costs were never part of the plan. Platforms have willingly subsidised workers to win a leading market position. The hope was those could then be phased out, as a platform’s increasing market power allowed it to “lock in” workers and prevent them moving to competing platforms.

Market pressure for higher pay will ensure labour relations remain fractious at gig economy businesses. Globally, so-called “platform workers” staged more than 10 protests a week on average in the 30 months to June 2020.

Grievances prompting labour unrest% (N = 525G1785_21X

Industry consolidation is under way in Europe, with half of gig earnings stemming from the five biggest platforms, according to the Centre for European Reform. Wage inflation could accelerate the process by forcing weaker competitors out. If so, expect more protests from gig workers. The pressure for politicians to intervene will rise.

The Lex team is interested in hearing more from readers. How dependent are gig economy companies on low wage rates? Please tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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Need for Greater Clarity in the Labour Codes to Accommodate Gig Workers – Industry

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There is a need for clarity and constant consultation between the government and the private sector New Delhi, Delhi, India – Business Wire India While the pandemic and onset of technology has created new opportunities of employment such as work from home, part time employment, contract workers, and gig workers, it has also provided opportunities to women and students to reap the benefits of the digital wave. However, as we find new job opportunities on the rise, the traditional avenues have been severely affected by the pandemic. In this regard, it will be critical to have a coherent and well thought out Labour Code. The new Labour Codes have a unique opportunity to foster recovery. It is imperative to find balance and provide accommodative support to the new forms of employment. The labour codes need to recognize small contract labourers and businesses and make provisions for them.

Lack of uniformity and varied regulations at the state level have had an impact on other aspects of employment as well. These variations are disruptive to businesses with operations across various states and may result in workload disparity and deterioration in quality of the production. The rules skirt over the realities of the digital economy and seek to transpose legacy regulation and limitation on growth. In line with this, Mr. Kazim Rizvi, Founding Director, The Dialogue, was of the opinion that, “Businesses, especially small organisations and startups, are still coming out of the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The labour laws, if implemented in the current form, will not only increase the pressure and compliance burden on the companies but also affect their financial output. The role of gig workers is vital in this new economy, and provisions must be made towards giving them adequate compensation and recognition.” The Panelists highlighted some key focus areas such as flexibility in work hours, need for clarity in the definition of core activity, social security for the gig workers and taking into account emerging job models that need consideration to help guide the discourse towards an enabling framework. Centre, state and other stakeholders have to work together in order to ensure that maximum benefits are accrued to the gig workers while being mindful that businesses are not overburdened. Given the subject matter these codes regulate, there is a constant need of dialogue among the stakeholders to improve the legislation while securing the workforce.

Speaking on this, Mr. Ram Rastogi, Digital Payments Strategist, stressed that, “The e-commerce platforms have revenue-sharing arrangements with the people on their platforms. Thus, there needs to be a differentiation for people working full-time and people working in flexible models. Labour codes shouldn’t deter industries that are performing well and consider a performance-based pay model.” He further stated, “Gig workers do the most hard work and make only a small fraction of what permanent workers make. Policymakers should think about them before coming out with the codes and should encourage state governments to work on policies for them.” Suchita Dutta, Executive Director, India Staffing Federation, “Formal Contract work and employment is growing in India. It is helping people pick up new skills and become more industry relevant. While Formal contract labour is well protected for social security and all applicable labour laws including wages, the Gig workers still find the similar format of protection. To realise the full potential of the labour codes, there needs to be continuous dialogue across the sectors to tap the maximum impact for the benefit of gig workers.” Avik Biswas, Partner, Indus Law, “The gig economy workers, for the first time, has been statutorily recognized in India. While the objective of the Codes vis-à-vis the gig economy can be predicted given the way several international regulations on this subject has been structured, we are however still at a stage where a lot more clarity is required on the operative parts of the regulations and how they would substantively affect both companies and workers alike. The obvious way forward appears to be the necessity of a constant dialogue and consultation between the government, employers and other relevant stakeholders.” There is a need for the government to acknowledge the various types of workforces across different sectors. The one-size-fits-all approach may not work since the codes haven’t taken into account rising digital industries such as e-commerce. Additionally, this code might be exclusionary in nature to the small businesses and gig workers in the country especially in states like Maharashtra where people receive work on contractual basis. Hence, it is essential to examine the grey areas in the codes and rework the same.

PWR PWR

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Instacart Gig Workers Are Going On Strike Nationwide

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Image for article titled Instacart's Embattled Gig Workers Are Going On a Nationwide Strike

Photo: Michael Loccisano / Staff (Getty Images)

Protesting what they characterize as low wages and a lack of consistent communication from corporate, gig workers on the grocery delivery app Instacart are poised to begin a nationwide work stoppage on Saturday.

The strike, which is being organized by members of the grassroots labor organization the Gig Workers Collective, has long been threatened by Instacart workers sounding the alarm about subpar working conditions at the company, and follows a September campaign beseeching customers to #DeleteInstacart until the company took steps to address workers’ concerns.

Both campaigns have called for Instacart’s corporate honchos to address a five-pronged list of concerns laid out by workers, which includes establishing a base pay for each order completed, a return to a commission-based pay model, reinstatement of the 10 percent default tip (the current default tip is 5 percent), the establishment of occupational death benefits for workers who die on the job and a customers rating system that doesn’t allow workers to be penalized for factors that fall outside of their control.

“We know that in order for us to see change, we need to hit Instacart where it hurts,” Willy Solis, a member of the Gig Workers Collective, told Vice. “We’re organizing the walk-off because the company continues to ignore us. Our goal is to get Instacart to engage with us.”

In addition to changes to their salary and benefit structures, workers have also campaigned in recent months for better safety precautions to be brought into practice at the company, particularly in light of ongoing concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19.

For many, frustrations about inadequate working conditions have been compounded by Instacart’s $39 billion valuation while gig workers have struggled to deliver groceries throughout the pandemic at great risk to their own physical and mental well-being, the company has made it increasingly difficult to earn a reasonable hourly rate on the platform without relying on tips from customers.

It’s worth noting that once they go on strike on October 16, gig workers at Instacart will be in good company. In addition to the more than 10,000 John Deere workers who went on strike earlier this week after rejecting the terms of a proposed six-year collective bargaining agreement, workers from Kellogg’s and nurses and other union members from the health care firm Kaiser Permanente have also been on the picket line during what has been unofficially dubbed “Striketober.”

Johnnie Kallas, a Ph.D. student at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, told NBC News that the recent strike actions are the combined result of two major forces currently shaping the labor market: “Workers have more labor-market leverage with employers needing and struggling to hire, and then a lot of these workers have been on the front line of a global pandemic for the past 19 months and were touted as heroes, which has given them lots of leverage,” he said.

For its part, Instacart has been vocal in the past about the fact that worker-led strikes have ‘absolutely no impact’ on the company’s bottom line—meaning that if anybody’s going to hit the corporate fat cats where it hurts, it will likely be the customers rather than the shoppers themselves.

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