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Planting the SEID

Sloan Entrepreneurs for International Development help Assured Labor grow.
SEID participants assisted the alumni-founded company Assured Labor.
SEID participants assisted the alumni-founded company Assured Labor.

Tiago Wright, MBA ’12, was excited about the idea of joining the Sloan Entrepreneurs for International Development Club (SEID) back when he was applying to MIT Sloan. At AdMIT weekend, Tiago learned more about SEID’s work with startups in emerging markets around the globe as part of their action-based learning projects.

Like Tiago, Rachel Chung, MBA ’12, actively sought out opportunities to work with other students on an international project when she arrived on campus. “I have always wanted to be involved in international development, ever since I volunteered to work as a teaching assistant in Ghana. I thought SEID would be an excellent project — incorporating both my international development spirit and my business background as a strategy consultant.”

Tiago and Rachel wasted little time pursuing their interests with SEID. This past fall, they — along with Reka Horvath, MBA ’12; Kira Intrator, a Course 4 student; and Pallavi Chaube, significant other of Anand Dass, MBA ’12; put their mutual passions for international development and technology to work for a SEID project with the alumni-founded-company Assured Labor.

Tiago noted, “The Assured Labor project had the perfect combination of technology, social impact and international exposure.” In the end, the project provided great value to both the students and the leaders of Assured Labor.

How Assured Labor works

Assured Labor was founded by David Reich and Joe Bamber (both MBA ’08); Siddhartha Goyal, SB ’99, MEng ’00, MEng ’03, and Ximena Fernandez Ordonez, a graduate of Harvard'S Kennedy School of Government. The company enables job seekers in emerging markets to find jobs using their cell phones. People looking for jobs who do not own a computer can register at any Internet café and then can be found by hundreds of employers. Once registered, candidates never need to see a computer again as they can communicate purely through text message. Assured Labor specializes in recruiting for mid-to-low wage positions from cashiers to sales people to security officers.

On the employer side, companies receive resumes and information through this dynamic interface that can then be filtered using different criteria. They get a list of people who fit the criteria for the job, and then they can send messages to applicants via text messaging on their phones. Companies save time and money by not having to run classified ads. The students working on the project discovered that classified ads take an average of 35 days to hire someone. In contrast, using Assured Labor’s technology, the time to hire someone is reduced to just seven days.

The entrepreneurial environment

As with Tiago and Rachel, David Reich was inspired by MIT Sloan’s world-famous entrepreneurial environment. Prior to MIT Sloan, David spent several years as an equity analyst covering the wireless and media sectors. From that vantage point he was able to come up with ideas for the next “killer app” in mobile. Through his travels he encountered countless motivated people struggling to find work and just as many employers complaining they could not find good employees. Connecting the dots he formed the company, which leverages mobile technology to create a more efficient marketplace for jobs.

Assured Labor already has had success in Nicaragua and Mexico and asked the SEID students to look into expanding into other countries. “In carrying out in-depth analysis on new developing markets for Assured Labor, I found it most important to understand the current industry dynamics and how the competitors are positioned,” Rachel said. “This allowed us to better capture the key success factors in this market and better identify the needs of the customers. Building upon this analysis, we were able to recommend an entry strategy by pointing out an untapped market for Assured Labor.”

Said Tiago, “Part of the challenge is that every country is different, so we had to look at each potential market differently and then find out what the competition was doing there. We looked at the economics and high-level demographic information, and tried to put together a landscape and roadmap for Assured Labor.”

Tiago also said that his Introduction to Marketing class (15.810) helped immensely with the market entrance strategy part of the project, as well as all the pieces that needed to be analyzed. This helped to quantify things such as how much money the company can make, pricing, and what kind of value the company brings to the customer.

A job well done

The students presented their findings to David at the end of the fall semester. He commented, “Our SEID team was great. It was invigorating working with five highly driven people. Given the demands of the Core, I was impressed with the quality work they produced and their enthusiasm for our business. Our team will absolutely implement some of their ideas. The team’s work provided a great perspective on what we’re in for and how we should approach these new markets.”

SEID project member Kira said, “I came to the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT with a passion for serving economically marginalized urban young adults through workforce development. Thus, I had a keen interest in examining ways in which to increase access to employment and stimulate economic development. The SEID team and Assured Labor offered the perfect opportunity to apply these interests in an extremely innovative, hands-on, and immediate manner. SEID also provided a unique opportunity to meet and work with my great colleagues at MIT Sloan, and allowed for increased learning and an enriched exchange of ideas.”

Tiago sees the SEID project as the perfect transition to his future goal — developing his own technology-based company that has a social purpose. “This project was such a great experience, and I enjoyed it so much, that I applied to be on the SEID leadership team next year,” he said.

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