3 Things: Tock for Freelancers, AI Miro, ChatGPT for Teachers
Happy New Year and a very warm welcome to all the new subscribers! I’m thrilled and honored to have you as readers and truly appreciate your thoughts and feedback 🙏. Each edition of 3 Things will contain a dive into 3 rabbit holes I’ve found myself going down recently and associated business opportunities. Subscribe to get each week’s edition straight to your inbox and if you enjoy it, please share (I suck at self-promotion so can use your help)! This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about:
Tock for Freelancers
ChatGPT for Teachers
1. Tock for Freelancers
The last many years have seen a flight from fully employed by a single employer to gig work and freelancing. It’s not just the Uber/Lyft/Doordash/Instacart drivers; it’s knowledge workers as well. 90% of corporate execs say that they currently leverage freelance resources and plan to increase usage. With hiring freezes and layoffs, there will be more white collar workers in the market looking for contractor opportunities and teams who lack headcount will leverage these part-time resources to fill the gaps. With the prevalence of hybrid and fully-remote work, it’s easier than ever before to incorporate freelancers at the project team level. There have been a bunch of companies that help freelancers manage their business from a legal and financial perspective like Collective, or invoice products like Invoice2Go, but most freelancers I know still end up spending a lot of time doing business development and trying to fill and schedule their time since right when a client project ends, they’re often scrambling to then lock in a next gig. They also collect payment after the project has been completed. Other companies like A.Team aggregate freelancers and try to find them opportunities and handle scheduling and payments but end up taking a cut.
In the restaurant world, the traditional way of running a business for nicer restaurants was taking reservations and just hoping that the party would show up. Eventually some restaurants starting taking a small deposit per person or holding a credit card n file at the time of booking to make it less likely that people would fail to show. In 2011, Nick Kokonas and Grant Achatz of Alinea (one of the top restaurants in the world) opened up a new concept called Next and decided to sell tickets instead of the traditional reservation process. It was such a success that they applied the model to Alinea and the other restaurants in their group and eventually turned it into a standalone ticketing software called Tock. By 2020 the company was processing over $2m a day in pre-paid tickets to culinary experiences. Tock gives restaurants the ability to plan, budget, and staff appropriately and also a way to get working capital as everything is prepaid upfront. In the freelance world, there is a similar opportunity to provide software for these workers to have clients pre-schedule and prepay for the work. This means freelancers can similarly plan their time and also be able to anticipate revenue. It would be part Calendly, allowing individuals to customize their availability, rates, etc, part booking software, and part payments processor. You could also customize things like payments to be automatically split into weekly or monthly increments.
2. AI Miro
In 2011, two companies were founded to build modern cloud-based visual collaboration platforms. What are now known as Miro and Mural have each raised hundreds of millions in VC funding and have grown to become large companies that help teams and consulting firms with brainstorming, diagramming, planning, design thinking, and more. While the concept of design thinking traces its roots to the 1950s, the 2000s and 2010s saw an uptick in interest as companies like IDEO popularized the concept as a way to get companies to design better products and gain a competitive advantage. As more companies began bringing multi-disciplinary teams together in the ideation, design, and strategy processes, they needed ways to collaborate and visualize these conversations and sessions. In a hybrid or remote world, it became even more necessary to have a digital collaborate tool to facilitate this type of work.
Miro and Mural have expanded their footprint and set of use cases, and have built out numerous templates for things like flowcharts, kanban boards, campaign planning diagrams, meeting templates, user interview mapping, and much more. While the use cases are broad, the tools still involve a ton of manual work by the human, even when starting with a template. With the new AI models, a person should be able to connect their company data and simply type in a natural language prompt such as “generate a flow chart for a marketing drip campaign targeted at leads that read X case study”. It would then leverage best practices to created an optimized cadence, suggested email subjects, if/then trees based off of user action, etc. As you build out integrations to enterprise systems, a marketer could then push a button to send the output to Hubspot and execute the campaign. Another example; if you were doing a mind mapping exercise, when you added an item to the map, it could auto-generate imagery and other suggestions to build on that idea using AI. The possibilities are endless here but you could start with the areas of Miro/Mural that get the most usage and add proactive AI elements and continue building out functionality.
3. ChatGPT for Teachers
While the pandemic turned so many things completely upside down, one of the institutions that was most dramatically affected was our education system. Schools have historically provided education in a 100% in-person setting, relying on kids being in a physical classroom with a live teacher. Prolonged school closures forced districts and teachers to reimagine how to educate our youth in a remote and digital setting but it took its toll on educators, families, and children alike. While certain aspects of learning have moved online and there are digital tools to help with lesson plans, assignments, etc, there is a lot of room for improvement. While we are seeing an acceleration of tech adoption, we are also experiencing massive labor shortages for teachers. Even in 2019 before the pandemic, educators and states were sounding the alarm about the growing supply and demand mismatch, slowdown in enrollment in education programs, and overall lack of experience or educational background in the subject they are teaching.
With the insane strain put on teachers trying to shift to remote/digital learning and the fact that teacher salaries remain horrifically low, many teachers are leaving the workforce and finding different professions. As of 2022, there was an estimated gap of over 300,000 teachers with the most dramatic lack among rural and low-income neighborhoods. Unless something dramatically changes in the way teachers are compensated and supported, the few who remain will have to figure out how to do more with less. ChatGPT introduces a huge opportunity to give teachers superpowers. As opposed to coming up with new lesson plans every week, ChatGPT could assist in coming up with the content, documentation, activities, and assignments. In addition, teachers spend so much time manually grading assignments and providing individualized feedback. What if they could feed the responses into an AI bot that assessed correctness, checked for plagiarism, provided constructive feedback, and offered personalized ways to improve. The trouble with edtech is that budgets are limited, but schools are struggling right now and will need to continue adopting tech to support their students and teachers, and government subsidies have increased dramatically.
That’s all for today! If you have thoughts, comments, or want to get in touch, find me on Twitter at @ezelby and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe and share with a friend or two!
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