Shmulik Fishman is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Argyle – an infrastructure-as-a-service company that makes workforce data (everything from UBER to Fiverr) accessible through a single API. Argyle helps insurance providers, credit card issuers, and applicant tracking systems unlock the power of workforce data.
Shmulik Fishman has spent much of the past decade as an actively engaged entrepreneur responding to and serving the gig economy. In the gig economy, which now boasts more than one-third of all U.S. workers, companies like Ebay, AirBnB, Uber, Etsy, Fiverr are dramatically disrupting traditional retail models with new sales, marketing, and technology innovations.
In response to several of our editor’s questions, Shmulik Fishman enthusiastically shared his thoughts and observations about the rapidly changing nature of work in the new gig economy and how these changes will impact the lives of workers and employers in the next decade.
What do gig workers expect in the future?
It’s a phenomenal question. Gig workers expect that they’re still going to be doing this kind of work for a long time. That’s a very hard concept for even me to understand because I like going to a desk. I really enjoy that myself. But they think they’re going to do this for the next 50 or 60 years. They think it and believe it.
We poll it all the time. We’re voracious pollsters of the agent pool that we have, and they think this is going to be their life’s work, that they’re going to do all these different gigs, that they’re going to collect money from all these varied sources. They’re going to go on trips and vacations, and they’re going to be artists. But this is how they’re going to make a living.
They think it’s a good living, too. When you poll gig workers, they’re not negative on compensation and lifestyle. They think it’s really cool that they can work for five or six different companies, they all give them money, and they can choose when they want to work. They’re relatively positive on this trend. It’s hard to conceptualize, though.
With regards to technology that’s out there, like driverless cars, do you think gig employees, like Uber drivers, worry that innovation will disrupt their current workplace?
I think that Uber would love to get rid of all the humans.
I’ve been fortunate enough to listen to Travis [Kalanick] talk. He wants to get rid of the humans as quickly as possible. But I think that the mistake that we make is somehow Uber is the only gig economy company that’s out there. There’s a couple hundred of them actually. I think it’s going to be really hard to go full automation for the next hundred years.
Let’s take an example that we study a bunch. Have you been to Starbucks recently? I think the ability to automate the work that’s going on behind that counter is relatively hard. A robot ain’t coming there soon. I think that that’s going to be difficult, but what will happen is that the person that’s doing the latte is also delivering boxes, because that work is relatively similar.
What you’re going to see is a lot of people moving around from job to job to job. But I don’t think that an autonomous car somehow shuts this economy down. It’s one small bit of it. There’s 160,000 Uber drivers in California. That gives you a little size and weight.
What will be the impact of AI on the gig economy?
Artificial intelligence is growing at a rapid pace. However, I think that there’s a separation between artificial intelligence and what I would call manual work or repetitive tasks. If you go look at some of the other big companies with an interest in big data and AI it’s already having an impact. Google is spending a ton of money on AI. They’re really spending money on intellectual problems. How do I cure diseases faster? How do I solve a very complicated math equation faster? They’re not actually that interested in figuring out how to automate latte sales.
The Watson computer system can analyze every single paper done on any given disease and deliver that information. I think that Watson is, hopefully, very good at figuring out cures to things. Will AI enable us to fly? Will we travel by robot?
I think we’re further away from it than we think. There is a really good venture capitalist in the Valley that said, ‘We watched the Jetsons when we were young, and I was promised a flying car. Instead, I got 120 characters on Twitter.’
One of the benefits of W2 employment is benefits, how does this fit into the gig economy?
There is a place for benefits in the gig economy. There’s a great company called Stride that’s doing some of this, where they can offer some basic benefits. It’s not as robust as it needs to be, in my opinion, but there are some basic benefits.
The other way to work on this is I think the core underpinning of W2 work is that there is workers comp insurance for on-the-job injuries. I mean we have a solution for that called occupational accident insurance, which has been around for a very long time for truckers. This is also a great first probe into solving that equation. I mean you can offer that on a metered rate. That’s one of the things we’re doing. I’ll say two things really quickly. One, all these people think they’re invisible and that they can’t get hurt, which is more of a mental problem than anything else. The second is that they’re actually willing to pay for things themselves. They’re actually interested in paying for their own way.
The trick is solving the first part. What we have to convince all of these … I guess I’m old enough now to say kids. What we have to convince all these people is that they need these types of products. They’re willing to pay for them themselves. They’re not interested in handouts as much as we think. But that’s a longer conversation for another time.