Zachary is again joined by Olivia Weinstock, CEO and Co-Founder of Tandem, Inc., the only free marketplace for care services that is revolutionizing the way that providers get paid.
Olivia launched Tandem in 2019, as a free platform that connects families with caregivers based on the core values of communication, respect, and performance. As with most businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted Tandem. With children learning remotely, the need for childcare skyrocketed, while Tandem faced a shortage of workers to fill the jobs. Since its launch, Tandem has remained agile, adjusting to the needs of their users (both parents and sitters).
Highlights of their discussion include:
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Yeah. Now when we, when we talk about the earlier years of Tandem and as Tandem has kind of gotten started, what challenges have you seen in the first few years of Tandem’s existence as you guys have kind of launched your services?
Yeah. So Tandem is still only accessible here in Columbus. So we have yet to expand. We’re really still looking to add additional functionality to the product so that we really feel like it’s going to be successful and useful for everyone, not just in Columbus but in other similar cities. So essentially, we started in September of 2019. We spent the first six or so months building out our MVP product, which was a mobile app for our care providers and a web app for our families and then COVID hit like a month later. And so, we’ve been kind of navigating. I mean, we don’t have a good sense of comparison. There weren’t users on the platform prior officially who gave us data to kind of compare to or try to get back to. , so we’ve been moving with kind of the ups and downs of family demand, going to zero at the very beginning , and then last fall with kids at home and learning at home, family demand skyrocketing. , and we’ve just kind of been adjusting along the way which we’ve been lucky to be able to do our roadmap as a mainly tech based company has been able to adjust with what families and providers are looking for in the current climate.
Now is, I don’t want, I hate to predict as to what’s going to happen with the pandemic, which direction we’re going in because I feel like if there’s one thing that we’ve learned over the last year, year and a half, it’s that this is relatively unpredictable. But is hopefully, we start to see the pandemic you know, wane and we stop seeing these kinds of continual surges on and off; do you see opportunities, you know, both to expand maybe to different markets or in different services or, where do you see the future of Tandem I guess is what I’m getting at?
Yeah. That’s a really good question. So to answer your prior question a little bit better as well, our biggest issue right now is on the supply side. So there are so many families who need care and that comes in all different forms; whether it is a full time nanny, or a one-off date night now that people are getting back out a bit more. , and so in looking for those pockets of people who want to work on an hourly paid basis, we found that a lot of people who are interested in
Tandem are actually available for shorter periods of time. And so we’re actually launching our pet care side of the market, or functionality within our product over the next few weeks and so the goal is to continue to like I kind of mentioned before, watch what people are truly looking for and you know, want to use Tandem for and adjust accordingly. So we’ve had people post jobs of all different nature, whether it’s help with an event or housekeeping, or household management, or pet care, but officially launching pet care we hope will open up our supply so that people are actually using the app who are signing up and not coming onto the app and not finding the jobs that they are actually available before because maybe they’re a full time student or have another full time job and are just looking for that extra work on the side.
One of the things I want you, it sounds like that you’re, that Tandem is suffering from one of the things that I think a lot of companies and businesses are, is just a shortage of workers.
, and I’m not, I mean I know it’s a very complex, it’s a complex situation. Frankly, while I think I’ve got a good grasp on a lot of things I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to answer why, or what’s driving the shortage, but I know that a lot of businesses are suffering and that, from a shortage of workers and are, struggling with it. Do you have, I mean has Tandem seen anything that sticks out to them as maybe why, you know, you’re struggling so much with it. I mean I know you eluded to the fact that people are signing up but not finding the jobs they are available for, which is, I mean obviously just not hitting that match but is there anything else that you guys see that might be affecting this?
Yeah. That’s a really good question. And, I mean I think its like the million dollar question right now that we’re trying to answer as well. I think mainly what we are seeing is that because the demand is so high, I think people in the childcare industry are kind of realizing their worth in terms of pay. We’ve seen people you know, leave daycare settings and leave preschools and things like that where they’re getting paid $12 an hour and there are higher paid jobs on our platform which is good for us but there are also a lot of families on our platform who are looking for affordable childcare and it’s really tough for I think a care provider currently to justify taking those jobs, , which is why I think a lot of the shortage exists is because they, they are no longer willing to accept those jobs that are below what they know they could make for other jobs. And so I think that’s a lot of our issue and then like you kind of mentioned, the other part of that is now for college students who want to work they are also, you know, know they can get that higher paying job but for us it’s about findings jobs that are flexible for them. , and a lot of the demand right now from families is for that consistent weekly long-term full-time care that they can’t find at daycares right now. , the daycares and the preschools are full and so they’re coming to Tandem to try to find a care provider and a lot of the people looking on our platform need something that’s flexible or one-off.
Now one of the things you know, that Kenton and I have been discussing as of lately through this series deals with that level of flexibility that I think that you’re getting at , and it drives, that need, or request for flexibility drives, has been driving, the expand in what Kenton and I refer to as the gig economy. , now I know that Tandem matches workers with parents and that when those one-off services that you kind of describe for some of the services that Tandem provides, not for all of them but for at least a certain portion of them, would probably be categorized as gig economy work. Do you, how do you see kind of the role of the gig economy worker playing out within your company and then maybe the second or bigger question is how do you see the role of the gig economy worker playing out in the larger you know, part, more across society as a whole, at least in the United States.
Yeah. That’s a really good question. I think for us, you know, right now we’re marketing ourselves as a childcare company because that is largely our expertise but to answer your question I think we would like to move into, to any gig economy industry that the demand is driving and right now for us that’s pet care and odd jobs and housekeeping, later it may be elderly care. , it may be you know, any of those hourly paid jobs or services that the average family is kind of looking for, , and what we found with our, with our users is that someone who babysits is also interested in caring for a pet. Is also interested in working a birthday party, , things like that and so I think that accessibility is something that our platform will aim to provide, , to both sides. It should be that one-stop shop, not just for childcare but for your family’s needs , beyond that, whether it’s for the pets or you know, to clean your house or whatever it may be and so I think our platform will definitely look to move in that direction. , I think due to what we’ve seen from our users in terms of that need for flexibility and one-off work and high paid jobs is that our country is also moving in that direction where more and more people are able to make a lot of money by doing jobs like this. They’re able to make 20 to 25 dollars an hour being a part-time nanny and so, moving in that direction of hourly paid work is something that seems accessible and also in high demand for a lot of users.
Do you see , and I know this probably eludes to, and you probably eluded to some of this, , and I know it’s kind of confusing because we’re in like this odd economic time especially with the labor market where we’re struggling to find workers in one sense but yet, Kenton and I recently did an episode on the podcast talking about how there’s been a tremendous rise in gig economy workers especially over the last four to five years. And I think it’s, I think one of the things that I mean is a little bit at least confusing and when we try to describe what the gig economy worker really is, is that people often times think of, they kind of pigeon hole it or pigeon toe it where they want to say that it’s, you know, the Uber driver or the Lyft driver not necessarily thinking about the fact that there’s a lot of people who blur the lines between a traditional independent contractor and gig economy worker where they may be doing a series of one-off jobs or maybe they have like a longer project but they’re not actually employed by those people. And the lines frankly just become a little bit blurred but one of the things that we’ve seen is a lot of people, especially over the last you know, decade plus have moved more away from the traditional employee employer relationship and more into these blurred lines. And it can be, it can be in the, you know, the professional capacity where people are leaving a company and becoming an outside consultant where they’re, they’re not necessarily a true employee, they may be working with you know, a handful of companies providing consulting services , to you know, people who are providing you know, they’re weeding flowerbeds or you know, or doing odd jobs as you would say. As we see this kind of shift in society away and we see the number of workers who are entering in these non-traditional employee employer relationships do you see, is there anything that’s kind of sticking out to you or , that, that you’re observing about the society as a whole as to what’s maybe driving the supply in workers who are desiring that type of relationship rather than the traditional employee employer relationship?
Yeah. , that’s a good question. I think what we’ve seen, and again, I mean we are kind of, we’ve pigeon-toed ourselves a little bit right now because we’re only offering childcare officially. , and I think more and more exposure to this will be really helpful as we add additional markets. , but I think that kind of as we’ve touched on a bit, the, the need, or the want of more and more gig workers to have multiple jobs and have that, have that like working relationship with multiple people, it’s, it’s really accessible is what I’ve found. We see so many of our care providers, you know, when they’re available and they want to work they’re messaging their you know, list of families who they have connections with on Tandem saying do you need someone to work? Do you need someone this weekend? You know, things like that. We’ve seen people come into the Tandem app and find so many jobs and form those various relationships with, like you said, different employers, and then quit their part-time job at you know, a coffee shop or whatever it is. , because it’s just easy. I think, and you know, that’s, that ease is something that exists now on apps like Tandem, like the ability to easily get connected with jobs that are flexible and that are you know, it’s a casual relationship in a way. , and so I think a lot of those factors are what drives people to our site. , and now our job is to add more options for them so that they are not just shown full-time nannying jobs but also you know, those pet care jobs, these one-off relationships to match the ease that they’re looking for.
You know it’s funny because as you were describing, as you’re describing this whole platform I’m thinking back to a situation years ago where we had a wonderful nanny. She was, I would say she was a nanny, she was more of a babysitter. She was fresh out of college. She was getting married to an individual who was in the military and she was moving across the country. She was in between jobs and she was , she was doing a bunch of kind of odd jobs or gig work like you were describing and she started watching our kids at first and then I had a situation where, I mean I remember we needed some additional services to this young woman cleaned our house, , she watched our dogs for a period of time, she took our dogs, she walked our dogs, , there was a period where I wasn’t, I was injured and I wasn’t able to take our dogs for walks so she would come by the house and walk our dogs, , I even think she weeded a couple of our flowerbeds for us and I’m thinking about kind of as you’re talking about building these relationships because sometimes these people can do multiple tasks or are willing to and want to. So as you’re describing this platform, the situations, I’m thinking well this is, I mean, natural because once you build a relationship with someone you trust, they can often times and are willing to do multiple things.
Right. And I think just the ability to so easily find those jobs through apps like DoorDash and Uber, and things like that, it’s become so accessible to people that they’re kind of making that decision consciously where it’s like, why would I work for, in an employer employee relationship when I could do something like that where you describe, you know, someone is gaining so many work opportunities and ability to make money , by just having that one kind of organic, natural connection with one family. , and we’ve seen a lot of that through Tandem, people kind of forming that web of people or web of jobs through one family and the growth in terms of these apps that, like Tandem, that offer that ability to find those jobs really drives people to understand how easy it can be to quickly form those relationships and make a lot of money and create their own schedule too.
We’ve also talked a lot about on this podcast as of recently about some of the challenges that the gig economy workers and companies that utilize gig economy workers face because they’re sometimes, not always, but sometimes they’re not employees but they’re not always necessarily clearly 100% independent contractors. And I’m not, not necessarily speaking directly towards Tandem or any other platform, but is, do you, is this something, I mean being in the space a lot, is this something, and we’ve even talked about the third classification, a third classification of workers that we know that the CEO of Uber presented back to Donald Trp in 2020 when they were trying to pass the expanded unemployment compensation benefits, , and we’ve see issues come up in California with Proposition 22, being in this space, is this something that you’re kind of thinking about or seeing on the horizon, that you, that, I mean whether it’s specific to Tandem or just the fact that you’re operating in this space?
For sure. I think there is definitely still a level of confusion even in the people who are working, around what their title is, kind of what their, what they do when tax season comes around, things like that, it’s, for a lot of people still unknown. I think what I’ve seen is a lot of people almost become gig economy workers without knowing it. It’s like they start picking up these jobs, they start working, they’re not exactly sure, you know, they’re not looking for a career yet or maybe they are and this has come about organically and they’re not exactly sure like, am I the family’s employee, am I your employee, and those are all things that you know, Tandem is thinking about as we expand. Being in Ohio right now it’s easier. We’re not in 50 states where we have to kind of determine, you know, what the rules are in each state or what is on the horizon. , but, right now I think, you know, us being able to try to educate people around you know, what you should do in terms of filing taxes, what your employee classification is while working through Tandem is helpful, , but I think there is a level of people aren’t really sure.
I mean, I have situations that have come up just through practicing law and encountering different situations, especially, and I have vivid recollection of a case really didn’t involve childcare related issues but one of the individuals who was involved was providing childcare to multiple families out of their home and low and behold they weren’t actually independent contractors, they weren’t actually employees, and there was a really blurred line and nobody who employed this person knew whose employee or independent contractor and what the tax status was and this relationship, these relationships have been ongoing for years, , but nobody had stopped to say oh, who is supposed to be paying the taxes on this? , who is supposed to be withholding, who was, you know, who’s covering the workers’ compensation or who’s, is there workers’ compensation requirement. All of these questions that you know us lawyers love to opine on and frankly get paid to you know, examine, because at least in this situation that I’m describing neither party to the transaction was overly sophisticated. And I’m not, I’m not finding fault for people, it’s a confusing even for lawyers and so, but the people had never thought or stopped to think maybe we need to look at this.
And I think a lot of that confusion comes from what I talked about at the beginning that formed Tandem is the nature of this industry is so natural if the family is, you know, doing what’s intuitive which is asking their neighbors, asking their family, posting on social media, finding those people to watch their kids, , really organically and I think because of that there’s no, there’s typically not a job posting or an offer letter. A lot of those things have, you know, I think, increased a lot now that there are platforms like Tandem where you’re finding people. It becomes a little bit more official. But, when you’re finding someone through word of mouth I think a lot of those questions go unanswered because things just you know, those relationship are formed organically and it’s not really a question you ask because it’s not a job where payroll is traditionally set up every time. And so I think over the next few years as more and more apps exist in the gig economy or sites to make those connections exist, these questions will need to be answered in a more clear way and people will kind of have to have that understanding , depending on you know, how each company handles it.
Yeah. That’s great. Olivia we really appreciate you taking the time to come in to speak with us today. Thank you for joining us here on the Reminger Report Podcast on Emerging Technologies.