Who is Joseph Black?
I was born in the U.K before relocating with my family to Mallorca, Spain at the age of 4. Growing up I went to an international school, where I learned to speak fluent Spanish. Growing up on an island was great, whilst most children spent their childhood weekends in the park I spent mine on the beach fishing. At the age of 13 I moved back to the U.K to attend boarding school, this is where Oli and I met. Having completed my GCSE’s and A-Levels at Aldenham School, it was time to move onto the next chapter. Whilst the majority of my friends were heading straight off to university I decided to stray from the herd and travel Africa, where I later trained and worked as a Safari ranger and conservationist. After an incredible year abroad I decided to go to university and applied for a course in animal behavior. In my first year and Olis second year, having truly experienced student living we decided to take on the student financial crisis and UniTaskr was born. My day to day roles within UniTaskr primarily involve heading up our sales and partnership division, alongside day to day operational management.
Who is Oliver Jacobs?
Hi! I’m also a co-founder and Head of Product. My background is in Architecture, which has been instrumental in my role now, designing both the app and website.
As Joseph said, we’ve been friends since we were kids and always had an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s pretty surreal that we’ve gone from selling sweets at school together and now managing a startup with a remarkable community of 170,000 students and counting.
What’s the story behind UniTaskr?
When we founded the company, as students ourselves, we recognised the growing crisis of insurmountable student debt and the difficulty in managing a part-time job whilst studying.
Joseph and I were both experiencing this first-hand and also saw our University friends around us endure the same struggle. It was systemic and we wanted to find a tech solution to help solve this student financial crisis.
Exactly! So, we started to explore how students could monetise their skills and gain invaluable experience. UniTaskr, a digital student marketplace, was created with a student-centred focus, to earn money flexibly by completing freelance jobs.
It started as a student-only platform, whereby students could exchange their services with each other. You could be hired for countless jobs, including cleaning someone’s house, DJing for a party or mowing your neighbour’s lawn.
The company didn’t stop there and since then we now have a three-pronged approach for students to earn money. This includes; Tasks, for students to exchange quick and easy services, SHOUT, for students to act as nano-influencers for companies, and the Marketplace, for businesses to post jobs for students.
What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?
Early on we saw a supply and demand problem; the marketplace needed to be opened up to create more opportunities for students. This is when we opened the app up for businesses to post jobs for students too.
From this innovation we had to implement very early on, it actually propelled us to change further down the line in the business. SHOUT, a more recent development was a game changer and led to nano-influencer jobs being posted.
SHOUT coincided with the growth of the influencer economy and we saw that if we could harness our student community to post Instagrams or TikToks for large companies, this power of thousands of nano-influencers was enormous. It’s an easy win-win for the student and the company.
We adapted quickly and we may not have had SHOUT if we didn’t face these early challenges!
Technical difficulties were also a barrier at the start of our company. Just as we were at the beginning of reshaping our company and implementing new strategies, we were hit by technical delays.
We persisted and although we lost some users, we always rebuilt quickly, and our growth has been astronomical in the last year.
What are you most proud of regarding your business?
In terms of our achievements within the startup world, we have won a vast array of awards and competitions that have been vital for our early growth.
These include; The Tab’s Founders 30 Campaign, partnered with EY, Accelerate Places Northern pitch night and 150 Foundation. We’ve also been ranked as the #1 Top Free App on Apple’s App Store under both Lifestyle and Business Categories
As well as this, we’re immensely proud of the charitable work we’ve done. We always adapt quickly through the ups and downs, and during the Covid-19 crisis we wanted to harness our student community for good.
We mobilised a network of 20,000 students to provide Covid aid for the vulnerable, which was a great feat that we feel hugely proud of. Being able to use our army of students as a force for good during testing times was a great feeling.
What is your vision for the future of UniTaskr?
Graduate recruitment is one of our really exciting upcoming projects! Our students trust our service and we want to extend that relationship to support them after they graduate. We have their CVs; the tasks they have previously completed, what they’ve studied and work skills they’ve learnt through the App. It would be a seamless transition!
We are also launching our own brands! This is particularly exciting as it’s being formulated by the students themselves. By posting tasks on the app for graphic design, brand names and colour choices, our brands will be made by the UniTaskr community itself. Every student can play their part in this huge project!
We are also planning on launching in the US and Australia, so the big vision is to have every University student internationally on our app and making money!
What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?
It’s so important to recognise shortcomings quickly to know when and in what direction you need to pivot your business.
It’s all about adapting, staying relevant and not getting attached to your initial business idea. I think some startups get emotionally attached to their original blueprint, and in doing so fail to change fast enough.
I also think having a co-founder and team that you can rely on has been instrumental in adapting the business.
For the first 5 years it was just Joe and I and through all the ebbs and flows of the company, remaining strong business partners has strengthened the company. In recent years, it’s also been important to have a team which is aligned with our vision and values for the company.
Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.
Our own curated CRM has had the largest impact on our business for sure. It manages all of our students and companies, which our campaign and account managers use daily.
Our latest update on this software, the chat feature, has also been a game changer in improving communication between the UniTaskr team and our Taskrs.
With every update, the company improves enormously.
For managing the team, Asana and Trello have been great for project and campaign management in curating a seamless and efficient process.
They’re also great for myself and Oliver in overseeing projects and improving team communication.
What books do you have on your nightstand?
I’m currently reading The Platform Revolution and on my to-read list is Sapiens.
I’m reading the Lean Startup and I would definitely recommend it!
Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.