By Annie Njanja | Techcrunch
The gig economy has been on an upward trajectory, more so since 2020, when it experienced a huge spurt accelerated by the pandemic. And it is not showing signs of a slowdown the world over, with the sector’s growth now expected to reach $455 billion in 2023, double the value in 2018 and a 17% CAGR. Meanwhile, as gig opportunities increase, so do the platforms linking workers with remote opportunities.
Meaningful Gigs is one such platform, fashioning itself as the go-to marketplace for freelance designers in Africa looking to eke a living by taking on assignments from multinationals in the U.S. like Coca-Cola, Audi, Vans and IDEO.
The D.C.-based startup is set to accelerate its growth by signing up more designers on its platform after raising $6 million in seed funding.
“We are thinking about how we can let more dimensional traders all over the continent know that we exist, so that we can help them make five to seven times more what they are making locally. We are creating more referral programs through our platform to help scale throughout the continent,” Meaningful Gigs co-founder and CEO Ronnie Kwesi Coleman told TechCrunch.
The company is planning an aggressive marketing campaign to get at least 100 corporates on board over the next year, from the current 40 (17 being major enterprises) currently using its platform.
“The other side of it is just letting more brands like the top-tier ones know that we exist because there’s a need for creatives in every company and every company right now is struggling to hire talent, and they just don’t even know that there’s a world full of talent waiting,” said Coleman.
The seed round was led by Stage 2 Capital with participation from Rethink Education, Authentic Ventures, Reach Capital, Marla Blow, Zvi Band, and Michele Perry.
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Stage 2 Capital partner, Mandy Cole said, “With the shortage of highly skilled talent and the increasing need for diverse thinking, especially in creative, marketing and product, Meaningful Gigs is solving a huge problem by connecting talented African designers with companies to deliver best-in-class design.
“We’ve been impressed with the Meaningful Gigs team’s focus in providing the best design experience for their clients while providing amazing tools for their designers; we’re excited to support their journey to become the destination for diverse design talent.”
Coleman co-founded the startup in 2018 with Stephanie Nachemja-Bunton (COO) and Max Farago (CTO), inspired by the need to create a platform that would offer more gigs that pay well for individuals looking for nontraditional work opportunities and new labor market entrants in Africa. This is in addition to helping companies source talent outside the usual pools.
“The three of us have been friends for the last 10 years and we are part of the same creative community. One day, we came across this startling statistic that said by 2050 the number of young people that will be entering the workforce in Africa would be more than all the young people entering the workforce in the rest of the world. And we thought this was crazy. It hit us that we could build a business around this. And personally, it resonated with me because I grew up in Ghana,” said Coleman.
Coleman has been in the creative and tech industry for the last decade. Prior to establishing Meaningful Gigs, he, together with Nachemja-Bunton, co-founded another entity that helped creatives earn “a sustainable living.” He had also previously worked as the director of business development at StayNTouch, a hotel management platform.
Nachemja-Bunton, on the other hand, has had a long career in education, having previously held a number of positions including director of teaching and learning at One World Education. The third co-founder, Farago, is an experienced data engineer, having switched from law to tech a few years back. Before joining Coleman and Nachemja-Bunton to launch Meaningful Gigs, he was the VP of engineering at Deep Root Analytics.
While matching the right gig workers with the right company is the startup’s main business, Meaningful Gigs also plans to offer continuous training to designers signed up on its platform to ensure that they are up to speed with the latest knowledge, trends and technologies in the fast-evolving digital world.
“What we have seen is that in order for anybody to succeed in this ever-evolving digital landscape, going into a job is not enough — you need to be able to learn skills on the job. And so, we want to build the number one remote jobs and skills marketplace for creatives, where we will be teaching people new skills as they go. We are blending jobs with education,” said Nachemja-Bunton.
To sign up on the platform, designers go through a vetting process that includes test projects. Meaningful Gigs has already matched “thousands” of these designers from “over a dozen” countries in Africa with clients.
The startup is tapping the potential of the fast-growing gig economy that has disrupted the traditional work setup. The internet and new technologies have allowed people to earn a living remotely and for companies to work with untapped talent.
“We want to become the number one remote jobs marketplace in the world. We want to create 100,000 jobs by 2028. And to achieve that, we are focusing on customer empathy and really understanding what they need. A lot of the [seed round] money is going to be spent on creating the best experience for them. We want to make working with African designers 10 times better than would be working with anybody else. We want to invest in that relationship building so that they don’t want to go anywhere else,” said Coleman.