Inside UniTaskr: the "Uber" for student labour

205,000 students use the app serving 15,000 businesses. But how does UniTaskr really work?
BizAge Interview Team
Joseph Black and Oliver Jacobs, the founder of UniTaskr
Joseph Black and Oliver Jacobs (right)

Hi Joseph! So what is UniTaskr?

UniTaskr was launched on the basis of two opportunities. Firstly, students increasingly need to support themselves through their studies. And, secondly, the growing variety and flexibility of the gig economy had become a natural fit for the student market.

With the bank of mum and dad unavailable for so many students, work of some sort of another is unavoidable. However, while there’s nothing wrong with the traditional options of, say, retail or hospitality work, these industries alone don’t necessarily reflect the breadth and variety of students’ skills, expertise, and wide-ranging enthusiasms.

On top of this, our own experiences seeing many of our classmates simply drop out of university because of financial hardship really galvanised us into creating something that would help students support themselves on their own terms.

By launching UniTaskr, we’ve been able to provide students with a new means of paying their way through their courses: by offering gig-based opportunities, we offer students a means of easily finding work that suits their schedules and their interests – all while being their own boss, which is an attractive proposition for capable individuals who want to take the reins of their early careers. UniTaskr is, in short, an “Uber”-isation of the student market.

From the perspective of our business clients, meanwhile, student workers are a great choice – they’re not only driven, brainy, and ambitious, but they’re also affordable workers who are nonetheless firmly in touch with the latest digital trends and skills – valuable traits for any forward-thinking organisation. 

How has the cost-of-living crisis affected the company?

The cost-of-living crisis impacts people on both sides of the table, with students even less able to access financial help from their families and businesses needing access to students’ nuanced skills and intuitive outlooks without costly onboarding processes.

As such, the volume of users on our platform has – as you can imagine – shot through the roof, far exceeding our expectations.

In response to this surging interest in our service, we’ve been pouring a great deal of time, money, and effort into expanding our capabilities to cope with demand. This has meant a robust and exciting mixture of new team members and an ongoing process of integrating new and relevant features into our technology, ensuring that we can not only cope with these new levels of demand, but go above and beyond to support the people who need us. 

Tell us about your funding

It has been incredibly important in driving our success.

Funding has allowed us to scale the business and explore new areas without the pressure to drive revenue – which is, of course, especially valuable at launch.

In fact, robust funding was crucial to the creation and success of our marketing agency, “Shout” – an exciting and lucrative arm of the business that was only made possible by early access to the necessary funds.

The key takeaway here – which anyone starting out in business should bear in mind – is that money comes over time. Shazam, for example, took nine years to become profitable. That’s why funding is so essential: it allows you to focus on that journey towards profitability while keeping one eye firmly fixed on the bigger picture.

You are entering the US market. Are you worried it's going to be a tough market to crack?

To be honest, we’re not overly concerned about the process – if only because the very nature of what we do makes it easy for UniTaskr to scale.

For one thing, a remote workforce is invaluable for quickly establishing ourselves over a larger space, and – as a digital platform – we don’t need to launch town by town or city by city.

On top of that, our customers are primed and ready – there are a huge number of businesses in the USA that can use student workers, after all, while the high cost of tuition and similar pressures mean that there’s a wealth of talented student workers to reach.

Similarly, we don’t anticipate any issues when it comes to attracting those student workers. We have a tried-and-tested user acquisition model in the form of the students who “Shout” us out, so we’re already confident in our growth funnel.

In short: our current investments and recent experiences have left us ready to quickly and expertly adapt to a new market with a minimum of fuss – and, though there may be challenges ahead, we can’t wait to meet them head on.

Would you say to others who are thinking about entering foreign markets?

I think the fundamental question any business leader should ask themselves in this scenario is: “Do the same problems exist in other countries, and is our solution applicable?”

In our case, the answer is a very straightforward “yes.”

After all, American university fees are largely unregulated – which generally translates to far higher tuition fees in the US, combined with a prevalence of four-year courses rather than the three that most UK students need to contend with.

On top of that, the student finance system is drastically different in the US, with American students feeling the weight of repayments far sooner and to a greater extent than their UK counterparts.

In short: the problem of needing an income still very much exists, probably to a greater degree than in this country. Combine this with the popularity of the gig economy in the US – something like 16 per cent of Americans have earned money from an online gig platform, I think, according to Pew Research Centre – and it’s clear that UniTaskr is able to solve a problem faced by US students in a way they’re receptive to. 

What can we expect from UniTaskr over the next five years ?

It’s not over-ambitious to anticipate serious and rapid levels of growth over the coming years.

Not only is our overseas expansion already underway, but our services and influence are now snowballing thanks to our ‘lifetime users.’

We’ve found that people will join us as students – between the ages of, say, 16-25 – and then graduate, entering the workforce. However, the story doesn’t end there: ex-taskrs are frequently returning to our services on the other side of the table, since they recognise (from personal experience!) the talent and value on display among our users.

Marketing executives, for example, often turn to us as a reliable supply of raw talent capable of supporting their businesses.

By inspiring the next generation of workers and leaders to realise the value of student talent (not to mention the services that connect talent to gigs) we’re confident that UniTaskr’s current growth is only the beginning.

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
June 22, 2022