Kenya’s Lynk aiming to fix informal economies

By Tom Jackson

The informal economy in Kenya represents nearly 80 per cent of national employment and more than one-third of national GDP. Yet it faces serious challenges, which Nairobi-based startup Lynk is looking to fix.

“Currently, we are focused on the broken relationship between households and informal workers,” Adam Grunewald, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Lynk, told Disrupt Africa.

“We envision a world in which workers can enjoy job security, fair wages, a safe work environment, and the opportunity for career growth. Additionally, for a household, hiring someone for a job should be safe, convenient, and fair.”

Lynk is offers a network of professionals, allowing customers to book services from over 60 categories, ranging from plumbers to nannies to tutors. The platform works via mobile app, the web and SMS, and automatically identifies qualified workers based on subskills and other signals such as location, price, range, language and experience.

It provides the customer with multiple options of professionals, including prices for completing the job.

“In addition to job fulfillment, our platform also creates in depth profiles for all of our workers – the LinkedIn for the LinkedOut – where they can store details about their work experience, customer feedback, certificates, pictures of their work and more,” said developer Erick Obiero.

“These profiles are leveraged to achieve higher earning potential and full-time jobs. As our platform continues to grow and we recruit more workers and complete more jobs, we are collecting incredibly useful data that we expect can assist a number of supplementary projects related to financial inclusion, bulk orders of materials, and more.”

Formed in August of last year, Lynk became operational in October and was crowned winner of the third Safaricom Appwiz Challenge in December. Grunewald said the startup addresses problem finding skilled professionals in a quick, convenient, and reliable manner.

“Currently most worker sourcing is done via word of mouth, which can be highly time consuming and may not pay off,” he said.

“Customers are not experts at assessing a worker’s trustworthiness or credibility, nor should they be. Thats where we’re trying to step in. In the market today there are a number of bureaus that also focus on informal workers but we believe we can offer a superior service, at a larger scale, for a fraction of the price.”

Currently bootstrapped, Lynk is now in the process of raising US$600,000 in seed funding, half of which is committed. With this, it plans to expand to other cities in Kenya next year, after which it will grow throughout East Africa.

“Currently we only operate in Nairobi. However, our tech and operations are built to scale and we have already devised go to market plans for expansion. We intend to operate Lynk in any area with a large informal sector that could be made more efficient with technology,” Grunewald said.

Lynk charges a commission of 10 per cent to the quoted job value – so if a plumber does a job for US$10, the total cost for the customer is US$11. It does not currently take any money from workers in the system. Revenues so far stand at around US$40,000.

Obiero said the startup has built a two-sided marketplace of service providers and customers, and therefore needs to keep the two evenly calibrated.

“This is an ongoing challenge and requires rigorous measurement,” he said. “Additionally we work hard to keep ourselves focused as we have a number of exciting plans on the pipeline but are still a bit too small to do all the things we want to. For that reason we have not begun overtly marketing Lynk yet but still work with a smaller group of invite only customers.”

Grunewald said as a service marketplace Lynk was focused on acquiring verified workers, completing jobs, and doing so with very high customer satisfaction.

“Though we are less than a year old we have had strong traction on all fronts,” he said. Lynk has recruited and verified around 400 workers across 64 service categories, and completed more than 800 jobs from paying customers. It has also signed a number of key partnerships with large-scale vocational training institutions for large-scale worker recruitment.

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