How Crowdworks is changing Japan’s employment market
Via Tech in Asia : Koichiro Yoshida is no stranger to the challenges of the global job market. A serial entrepreneur, he founded and managed thirteen different businesses before building the work crowdsourcing startup Crowdworks – after first getting rid of his car and liquidating all his assets. Four years later, he took the company public, and now Crowdworks stands in the middle of a tectonic shift in Japan’s employment landscape.
On stage at Tech in Asia Tokyo 2015 with Nikkei Business Publications’ Takashi Hara, Koichiro shares insights on his company and the impact it has had so far. He mentions how the combination of his previous failures and Crowdworks’ current growth changed his outlook on entrepreneurship today. He has also become more conscious of the difference his company can make in people’s lives.
The IPO was both a blessing and a burden. A major consequence of an IPO is credibility, he tells Tech in Asia. “Big companies don’t tend to trust startups as much as listed companies,” he says. “So it’s a very effective way of scaling.”
On the other hand, the pressure was on. “I used to have a face-to-face relationship with all of our investors,” Koichiro says. With thousands of shareholders on board, that’s obviously no longer possible, so transparency and accountability are more important than ever for Crowdworks.
The company has grown quickly. In the past year, it’s gone from employing 29 people to 110. Much like employment in Japan, Crowdworks is evolving to meet the challenges ahead. The company is aiming at an operating income of JPY 1 trillion (US$8.4 billion) in the coming years, Koichiro shares.
In a country that used to value lifetime employment and now has to face shifting attitudes and harsh economic realities, Crowdworks is positioned to deliver effective solutions in the Japanese job market. The government is currently making a big deal out of trying to bridge the gap between part-time and full-time work, but in practice, even big companies can no longer afford to employ large numbers of people.
“Japan is a developed country with a developed economy,” Koichiro adds. Even behemoths like Sony and Panasonic are struggling, hiring fewer full-time employees. Therefore, as these companies restructure, core people are going to continue to be employed, but outsiders and newbies are inevitably going to be let go, or put on a more flexible, part-time basis.
That’s not even taking into account how robots and AI are about to shake up the status quo, Koichiro says on stage. According to him, white collar workers are now facing the same disruption blue collar workers faced during the industrial revolution. Because everything is becoming automated these days, technology will likely make it even more important for humans to focus on white collar jobs robots can’t do yet – mostly in the creative space, a big part of which Crowdworks serves right now.
At the moment, Crowdworks serves creative professionals such as content creators, designers, and developers. Other industries, such as construction and architecture, don’t attract these kinds of freelance professionals right now. But the market for freelance work in Japan is getting bigger, Koichiro says.
Through Crowdworks, a freelance translator was recently able to earn JPY 20 million (US$168,000) in a year, and Koichiro wants more professionals to follow. That particular discipline, once a province of specialized agencies only, is now becoming one of those sectors served more and more by freelancers.
Crowdworks hopes to continue innovating in the Japanese job market by offering further services, such as objective validation of jobseekers’ resumes – taking a page from author Daniel Pink to make a resume a more effective tool in a worker’s arsenal. Plus, by sitting on the board of a crowdsourcing association with more than 800 registered companies, Koichiro hopes to establish Crowdworks as a leader in the Japanese freelance work space.
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