South African startup Mintor is looking to disrupt the model adopted by freelancing platforms in order to make it accessible to students and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
In many ways a freelancing platform much like Elance or Freelancer, Mintor is specifically tailored towards students on the supply side and SMEs on the demand side, and looks to marry the talent pool with businesses with needs in a mutually beneficial manner.
Co-founder Leanne Viviers told Disrupt Africa said the concept for Mintor was established in September of last year after she had returned from a number of years abroad working with SMEs to find South Africa suffering from the effects of unemployment.
“Coming back to South Africa the one thing that hit me was how vast youth unemployment was and that helped me marry my expertise with this idea to help graduates find the right matches for where they could develop their lives,” she said.
Unemployment has broken the 26 per cent mark in South Africa, with more than 20 million employable South Africans out of work. Statistics compiled by Good Governance Africa (GGA) say South Africa has the highest levels of youth unemployment on the continent. This is something Mintor is trying to address by assisting students and recent graduates in obtaining solid on-the-job work experience.
“We essentially supply a service where students can place their skills, and gives them the ability to quickly portray their skills. It hands businesses a very quick and easy way to find the specific skills they need,” Viviers said.
Mintor – self-funded thus far, but which is looking for US$250,000 in funding at present – goes a few steps further than other freelancing platforms, however.
“We get involved to some extent with the delivery of the project or task,” Viviers said. “The whole issue is that students are inexperienced, so we provide them with best practice templates to guide them with independent application knowledge that they might apply. That way businesses aren’t burdened and don’t have to handhold the student.”
The startup also provides access to a network of mentors, both individual and corporate, to provide feedback to jobbers.
“We realise that small businesses lack time to mentor and guide, or they lack the skills, so we enlist external people who do have the imperative and the expertise,” Viviers said.
“We feel there’s a very big opportunity in the freelancing space in South Africa and that other platforms don’t fulfill the needs we’re trying to address. We provide a low-cost solution for small businesses using local resources.”
Mintor takes 20 per cent of the total job fee, with students receiving the other 80 per cent. Viviers said the startup will expand into other revenue streams once it has scaled sufficiently.
“Going forward there are a large number of other revenue opportunities we can tap into once we reach mass market,” she said.
“Mass market” is certainly something Mintor is aiming for. Currently in pilot stage, it has over 300 students already listed on the platform, while over 100 companies have registered an interest. It has undertaken no marketing so far, but has already made revenues and is partnering with academic institutions in and around Cape Town to roll its services out to students.
“We’re confident we’ve validated our product concept and that there is a solid demand,” Viviers said.
National expansion is first on the agenda, but Mintor has global ambitions, Viviers said.
“We’ve already started exploring in the United States (US) and building relationships there. And we have a few contacts in Eastern Europe, South America, and a few in Africa as well. We definitely see this as a global solution. A lot of the jobs can be delivered online, so we aren’t bound to geography.”