MyGigsters founder Benjemen Elengovan knows better than most about the vulnerability and solitude experienced by those working in the gig economy - after all, he used to be a gig worker himself.
It is a segment of society that faces an uphill battle between a lack of vital knowledge about tracking expenses and other financial requirements like setting up superannuation or calculating profits; all challenges that Elengovan believed could be demystified.
So when the opportunity arose to solve the problem of keeping gig workers safe as part of a competition run by WorkSafe Victoria, the founder jumped - not only to help others who had experienced the precariousness of gig work, but to build a community around often vulnerable workers.
“I came to Melbourne in 2015, and for the first year the only job I could get was as a gig economy worker - so I worked for a number of different platforms, including delivery, ride share, Airtasker,” said Elengovan, who was born in India but moved to Australia to complete a Master of Business Administration and Master of Health Administration at La Trobe University.
“So I’ve been there, and I have experienced the life of being a gig worker - the good, the bad and the ugly, especially as a new immigrant/student.”
“We currently can’t cover them through legislative instruments, so how can we keep them safe? We participated in the challenge and were among the 68 startups that participated, and fortunately we won!”
That was the beginning of MyGigsters in 2020, a financial wellbeing and community platform that assists those who work for contractors like Uber, Airtasker, Didi, fiverr, Ola, Menulog, Deliveroo and more to manage gig expenses and auto-track mileage calculations so workers can save more money.
In the two years since, Elengovan has continued to build his business, which was recently announced as one of the startups to secure a coveted spot in Startmate’s Summer 22 accelerator program.
As part of nailing a spot in the group, MyGigsters received a $120,000 investment, giving the founder a bit of runway to take off from.
This builds on previous investments including $150,000 from WorkSafe, $35,000 from LaunchVic, and another $300,000 from one of the company’s lead investors - the identity of which cannot be disclosed.
Now based in Adelaide after the South Australian Department of Innovation and Skills invited MyGigsters to set up shop in state’s capital, Elengovan said he hoped to build a financial services platform taking advantage of complex data and new technologies like the blockchain to facilitate access to services for gig workers.
“These gig workers are working for platforms that over the last two years have formed a major part of ‘essential services’,” Elengovan said.
“There are some stats saying that 40 per cent of the global workforce will become part of the gig workforce in the next five years, and such a rapidly growing space has a small problem: these workers are self employed - they don’t have access to financial services in the way that traditional employees do.
“That’s where we thought we would want to come and solve that problem, and build a community of gig workers and a platform which will provide them financial security and awareness to be safer at work.”
While financial services are at the core of MyGigsters, it is the community element of the platform that is closest to Elengovan’s heart.
“If you actually look at the demography of this workforce, you’ve got students and international students, young workers, previously unemployed, immigrants - and they come from very culturally, linguistically diverse backgrounds,” Elengovan said.
“You don’t see Uber drivers working together right - they’re always alone, and they have very little interaction with other Uber drivers. So they lose one of the things that traditional workers have, which is that sense of belonging with other workers or other professional groups where they can connect, share and learn from each other.
“That’s what this community does; it empowers them to be more aware, to be safer, and it allows them to share with each other.”
As such, Elengovan says he’s already seen more experienced gig workers coming in to share tips on how to maximise earnings, taxes and the like, which he believes adds more value.
As a serial entrepreneur, having previously run businesses in India when he was younger, Elengovan knows this point in time is pivotal, and hopes the support from Startmate will let MyGigsters really take off.
“We are starting to go from walking to running - and this is a very important stage for a startup’s journey,” said Elengovan, who also founded non-for-profit MyBloodHero and IoT platform MySafetyBot which he sold to focus on MyGigsters.
“One of the biggest things I’ve got from the program so far is access to amazing mentorships - they’ve got the brightest minds in the ecosystem mentoring us, coaching us, helping us navigate through decisions and the journey of a startup.
“It adds us to the Startmate family, which is almost a decade worth of family members including other founders all the way from San Francisco to Sydney, and that global connection allows us to then tap into information, support, access, introductions.”
This connectivity is vital, according to Elengovan, if the platform is to better integrate with players in the finance and legislative space.
“We can’t solve this problem alone - we’ve got to have a relationship with leading service platforms like superannuation providers and investors, and Startmate gives us space to make those introductions and do networking and access partnerships.
“We are also working closely with regulators to understand how we can help them in policymaking, in setting up standards as part of our relationship with WorkSafe. So this year is all about relationship networking and growth so that we can solve this problem more efficiently.”
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