Архив метки: HR

Gig workers need health & benefits — Catch is their safety net

One of the hottest Y Combinator startups just raised a big seed round to clean up the mess created by Uber, Postmates and the gig economy. Catch sells health insurance, retirement savings plans and tax withholding directly to freelancers, contractors, or anyone uncovered. By building and curating simplified benefits services, Catch can offer a safety net for the future of work.
“In order to stay competitive as a society, we need to address inequality and volatility. We think Catch is the first step to offering alternatives to the mandate that benefits can only come from an employer or the government,” writes Catch co-founder and COO Kristen Tyrrell. Her co-founder and CEO Andrew Ambrosino, a former Kleiner Perkins design fellow, stumbled onto the problem as he struggled to juggle all the paperwork and programs companies typically hire an HR manager to handle. “Setting up a benefits plan was a pain. You had to become an expert in the space, and even once you were, executing and getting the stuff you needed was pretty difficult.” Catch does all this annoying but essential work for you.
Now Catch is getting its first press after piloting its product with tens of thousands of users. TechCrunch caught wind of its highly competitive seed round closing, and Catch confirms it has raised $5.1 million at a $20.5 million post-money valuation co-led by Khosla Ventures, Kindred Ventures, and NYCA Partners. This follow-up to its $1 million pre-seed will fuel its expansion into full heath insurance enrollment, life insurance and more. Catch is part of a growing trend that sees the best Y Combinator startup fully funded before Demo Day even arrives.

“Benefits, as a system built and provided by employers, created the mid-century middle class. In the post-war economic boom, companies offering benefits in the form of health insurance and pensions enabled familial stability that led to expansive growth and prosperity,” recalls Tyrrell, who was formerly the director of product at student debt repayment benefits startup FutureFuel.io. “Emboldened by private-sector growth (and apparent self-sufficiency), the 1970s and 80s saw a massive shift in financial risk management from the government to employers. The public safety net contracted in favor of privatized solutions. As technological advances progressed, employers and employees continued to redefine what work looked like. The bureaucratic and inflexible benefits system was unable to keep up. The private safety net crumbled.”
That problem has ballooned in recent years with the advent of the on-demand economy, where millions become Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers, DoorDash deliverers and TaskRabbits. Meanwhile, the destigmatization of remote work and digital nomadism has turned more people into permanent freelancers and contractors, or full-time employees without benefits. “A new class of worker emerged: one with volatile, complex income streams and limited access to second-order financial products like automated savings, individual retirement plans, and independent health insurance. We entered the new millennium with rot under the surface of new opportunity from the proliferation of the internet,” Tyrrell declares. “The last 15 years are borrowed time for the unconventional proletariat. It is time to come to terms and design a safety net that is personal, portable, modern and flexible. That’s why we built Catch.”
Catch co-founders Andrew Ambrosino and Kristen Tyrrell
Currently Catch offers the following services, each with their own way of earning the startup revenue:
Health Explorer lets users compare plans from insurers and calculate subsidies, while Catch serves as a broker collecting a fee from insurance providers
Retirement Savings gives users a Catch robo-advisor compatible with IRA and Roth IRA, while Catch earns the industry standard 1 basis point on saved assets
Tax Withholding provides an FDIC-insured Catch account that automatically saves what you’ll need to pay taxes later, while Catch earns interest on the funds
Time Off Savings similarly lets you automatically squirrel away money to finance “paid” time off, while Catch earns interest
These and the rest of Catch’s services are curated through its Guide. You answer a few questions about which benefits you have and need, connect your bank account, choose which programs you want and get push notifications whenever Catch needs your decisions or approvals. It’s designed to minimize busy work so if you have a child, you can add them to all your programs with a click instead of slogging through reconfiguring them all one at a time. That simplicity has ignited explosive growth for Catch, with the balances it holds for tax withholding, time off and retirement balances up 300 percent in each of the last three months.
In 2019 it plans to add Catch-branded student loan refinancing, vision and dental enrollment plus payments via existing providers, life insurance through a partner such as Ladder or Ethos and full health insurance enrollment plus subsidies and premium payments via existing insurance companies like Blue Shield and Oscar. And in 2020 it’s hoping to build out its own blended retirement savings solution and income-smoothing tools.
If any of this sounds boring, that’s kind of the point. Instead of sorting through this mind-numbing stuff unassisted, Catch holds your hand. Its benefits Guide is available on the web today and it’s beta testing iOS and Android apps that will launch soon. Catch is focused on direct-to-consumer sales because “We’ve seen too many startups waste time on channels/partnerships before they know people truly want their product and get lost along the way,” Tyrrell writes. Eventually it wants to set up integrations directly into where users get paid.
Catch’s biggest competition is people haphazardly managing benefits with Excel spreadsheets and a mishmash of healthcare.gov and solutions for specific programs. Twenty-one percent of Americans have saved $0 for retirement, which you could see as either a challenge to scaling Catch or a massive greenfield opportunity. Track.tax, one of its direct competitors, charges a subscription price that has driven users to Catch. And automated advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront accounts don’t work so well for gig workers with lots of income volatility.
So do the founders think the gig economy, with its suppression of benefits, helps or hinders our species? “We believe the story is complex, but overall, the existing state of the gig economy is hurting society. Without better systems to provide support for freelance/contract workers, we are making people more precarious and less likely to succeed financially.”

When I ask what keeps the founders up at night, Tyrrell admits “The safety net is not built for individuals. It’s built to be distributed through HR departments and employers. We are very worried that the products we offer aren’t on equal footing with group/company products.” For example, there’s a $6,000/year IRA limit for individuals while the corporate equivalent 401k limit is $19,000, and health insurance is much cheaper for groups than individuals.
To surmount those humps, Catch assembled a huge list of angel investors who’ve built a range of financial services, including NerdWallet founder Jake Gibson, Earnest founders Louis Beryl and Ben Hutchinson, ANDCO (acquired by Fiverr) founder Leif Abraham, Totem founder Neal Khosla, Commuter Club founder Petko Plachkov, Playable (acquired by Stripe) founder Tad Milbourn and Synapse founder Bruno Faviero. It also brought on a wide range of venture funds to open doors for it. Those include Urban Innovation Fund, Kleiner Perkins, Y Combinator, Tempo Ventures, Prehype, Loup Ventures, Indicator Ventures, Ground Up Ventures and Graduate Fund.
Hopefully the fact that there are three lead investors and so many more in the round won’t mean that none feel truly accountable to oversee the company. With 80 million Americans lacking employer-sponsored benefits and 27 million without health insurance and median job tenure down to 2.8 years for people ages 25 to 34 leading to more gaps between jobs, our workforce is vulnerable. Catch can’t operate like a traditional software startup with leniency for screw-ups. If it can move cautiously and fix things, it could earn labor’s trust and become a fundamental piece of the welfare stack.

To fund Y Combinator’s top startups, VCs scoop them before Demo Day

Gig workers need health & benefits — Catch is their safety net

ZTE replaces its CEO and other top execs

A number of top executives are out at ZTE as the phone maker works to fulfill the requirements of U.S.-imposed restrictions. Among the big changes up top is new CEO Xu Ziyang, who formerly headed up the company’s operations in Germany. A new CFO, CTO and head of HR have been named, as well, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The move comes a few days after company slowly began to resume some business operations on a one-month waver, following a seemingly D.O.A. seven-year export ban. The ban was announced back in April, after the company failed to appropriately punish top employees over Iran/North Korean trade violations.
Trump, however, was quick to toss the company a lifeline, citing potential job loss in China. The President’s willingness to bail out ZTE has been met with staunch criticism by many, including members of his own party. A bipartisan push in Congress to reinstitute the ban began in Congress last month. Many of the issues appear to stem from ties to the Chinese government that also put Huawei in hot water with U.S. security orgs.
For now, however, the company appears to be springing back to life, as it rushes to comply with the most recent laundry list of restrictions. The moves come in the wake of a $1 billion fine and the effective freeze on operations as the company mulled a way forward without relying on products from U.S. businesses like Google and Qualcomm.
In that time, ZTE has lost billions, and grappled with other…inconveniences. Of course, even with these changes, the company isn’t out of the woods just yet. In addition to on-going financial issues, security and other concerns could be enough to put consumers in the U.S. and other countries off the company altogether.

ZTE replaces its CEO and other top execs

ChoicePass Launches Android App: Think Yelp App For Corporate Perks

androidAPP-1

ChoicePass is bringing its corporate perk management platform to smartphones starting today, with the launch of its Android app.

CEO Kyle Lui says his goal is to “make HR sexy again.” Specifically that means helping small companies participate in perks programs that they couldn’t afford on their own, while moving larger companies’ perks into the cloud, freeing them from corporate intranet pages that no one knows about or uses. It’s a similar in a lot of ways to what BetterWorks is trying to accomplish, but Lui says that since BetterWorks doesn’t have mobile apps (yet), this is a big differentiator.

With the new app, employees can now open up a map showing nearby perks, divided into categories like “eat”, “shop”, “entertainment”, and “fitness”. So instead of whipping out Yelp’s mobile app every time you want to find someplace to eat or shop nearby, you could start with the ChoicePass app and find locations where you’ll actually get a deal or reward.

Lui says there are plans to release iPhone and iPad apps too, and also to incorporate geofencing, where users get push notifications when someone approaches a location offering discounts or other deals.

ChoicePass’ investors include Yammer CEO David Sacks, Badoo COO Ben Ling, ShopCo CEO Ben Smith, and PowerSet founder Lorenzo Thione. Lui says the company has more than 250 customers.


ChoicePass Launches Android App: Think Yelp App For Corporate Perks

МТС — победитель премии HR-бренд 2011

МТС объявляет о победе в номинации "Федерация" премии "HR-бренд года" в области управления персоналом, которая вручается лучшим компаниям-работодателям России по итогам года.
МТС — победитель премии HR-бренд 2011

Smartphone-Powered EEG Makes For Creepy Meetings

nokia

The Technical University of Denmark has put together a portable EEG system consisting of a low-cost scalp monitor and a smartphone app. It’s not the biggest technical breakthrough, but I find it comforting to see these pocket computers, more powerful than our PCs were a few years ago, being used for something other than social media and finding the nearest Starbucks.

The team at milab, part of the Cognitive Systems Section at DTU, is focused on “mobile context awareness, media modeling, and user experiences.” So it’s natural that they’d want to put together something like a handheld EEG unit. It’s really a fairly straightforward system: a commercially available Emotiv headset is connected to a wireless USB receiver, which is in turn attached to a Nokia N900.

The data from the EEG (live gross activity data from the regions around the contacts) is instantly decrypted by the phone and converted into an 3D OpenGL-based animation. Total time from reading to display is around 150ms. This allows for quick, on-site monitoring without the need to wheel around a station or set up a laptop. Easy deployment and natural settings are very important for psychological experiments, and I know for a fact that having one of the full-on, gel-enhanced, wires-everywhere EEG caps on kind of interferes with your normal thought processes.

It can decode brain states enough, it seems, to perform some rudimentary actions like scrolling through galleries or opening and closing apps. The greatest thing, though, is the new style of meeting they seem to have invented:

It reminds me of the meetings conducted by the big blue guys in Fantastic Planet. Will we be required to wear these in the future at AOL? Will we be shocked into submission if we don’t maintain proper alpha frequencies during HR lectures? Mercy!

[via Reddit]


Smartphone-Powered EEG Makes For Creepy Meetings