COVID-19 is an unprecedented shock for the European economy. Even when the worse of the crisis will be over, demand for some services and non-durable consumption goods will only very gradually recover. In this context self-employed professionals are struggling to keep their activity going and they will be among the ones most affected by the Covid emergency on the long run. Just in Europe we are talking about 32 million people whose world has suddenly been turned upside down: their professions which up to now have been conceived only in their "physical" dimension, should be alt or exercised digitally.
Although 20% of self-employed regularly work from home, many of them are still convinced that they cannot take advantage of smart working and have come to accept the idea they won't be able to work for a while.
Even those professionals who might have considered the smartization of their job, don't have the experience, the tools or the confidence to follow that stream.
We could not stop thinking about all this. For us it was not just a matter of statistics or newspaper headlines, we personally knew many people dramatically affected by it.
Take our friend Anna, this year she had finally realized her dream of opening up a physiotherapy studio. Now is’t been 6 weeks since she had to close it and stop seeing her patients. We know her enough to be sure how hard it is for her not only from an economic perspective but also because she loves her job and the thought of staying home doing nothing is unbearable for her. For three young consultants like us, working from home has been weird, sure, but it has been easy and sometimes even comfortable. On the other hand Anna used to meet her patients everyday and would have never dreamt of having to deal with “smart working”. The idea of switching a webcam on and reinventing herself was just unthinkable. We tried to think of a way to help her overcome this emergency and lay out the foundations for a brighter future.
That’s how we came up with e-you, a European web portal providing technical and strategic coaching to those professionals like Anna who never thought their profession could go “smart”. Why e-you? The “e” stands for all that is digital and belongs to the “smart” category. The “You” represents the whole community that we are trying to reach. When pronounced together their sound recalls the name of the union of nations that embodies at most these value of innovation and community, the EU! The idea is structured around three main functionalities:
- Guidance and tips, a collection of blog posts about success stories from other self-employed workers that managed to go smart or advice on how to get ready to work in a digital way in terms of best practices and equipment.
- Tailored coaching, when the general tips are not enough we will work with users to set up their own “digitalization” journey through a series of one-to-one calls. In each of this meeting we will discuss how their job could be reinvented leveraging new tools and services.
- Networking, by registering to the platform users will access a network of self-employed workers willing to share their experience, pair up to offer innovative combined services and help others overcome this difficult moment.
THE BUSINESS MODEL
We designed the service keeping into considerations the dire economic conditions of many of our potential users. Both the guidance and the networking section will be completely free to use. Self-employed workers will immediately be able to join the portal and start taking advantage of suggestions, advices and user generated contents. The main revenue stream will come from the tailored coaching. In the short run the pricing system will be designed with solidarity in mind. It will be aimed at sustaining operations and quickly expanding our user base rather than turning an immediate profit. The first tailored coaching session will be provided based on a single payment by the user. For those professionals interested in follow-up meetings we will set up the right formula to access their “digitalization” journey. We are convinced that the value of learning to “go smart” will remain high even in a post-covid world and our offering will stay relevant among professionals.
Therefore as we enter the recovery phase with a large user base we will refine the pricing system to match the market standard and add new revenue channels (partnerships with high-tech equipment providers, webinars, sponsorships, etc.) thus moving our project toward profitability.
The cost structure is devised to reflect the need for an immediate, affordable and easy to implement solution The keyword of this venture will be “flexibility”. As our user base begins growing we will expand the consulting and the website moderators team, however in the initial stages of development many of these tasks will be performed directly by the founders. The main items to be accounted for are the development costs for the web portal and those related to content creation and platform management.
Through e-you Anna and many other professionals will transform their way of working and access new channels to keep their business going even during lock-down periods. In the immediate future this could be a breath of fresh hair for many europeans that are facing the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in the long run e-you could become a valuable ally in the effort to digitize european workforce. As the community of self-employed grows the portal will improve with user-generated content and it could become the hub for new, exciting business opportunities.
EUvsVirus A WELL SPENT WEEKEND
We took on the challenge posed by the EUvsVirus Hackathon with enthusiasm. As soon as we heard about this opportunity we started thinking how we might give a valuable and original contribution. By Friday the idea for e-you had gradually taken shape and the real fun begun! We started by researching some key facts and numbers about the Covid emergency and the self-employed category and talking with some of our friends who have been affected by the emergency. In this way we developed a deeper understanding of the issue and we created one personas around which we built the solution. By saturday we had a lot of ideas on our mind and we needed to rationalize everything, therefore we decided to fill out the “lean canvas” to better frame our initiative. Once we finalized the concept we could almost see it in front of us! It was time to bring it to life! We split the tasks: one of us was going to work on the video, another one on the website and the third one on the project documentation. Hours went by and we arrived on Sunday afternoon with a working website prototype, a video-pitch of our initiative and the idea properly laid out in this document! Well, this was really a well spent weekend! Wrapping it up the deliverable post-hackathon are:
- Website prototype
- Video Pitch
- Text Pitch & Documentation
- Lean canvas
- Offering map
- Logo and color palette for the brand strategy
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
As the Hackathon deadline approaches we can’t stop thinking about how all this could evolve tomorrow. We are not far from having a working website. Through a careful content-creation strategy in less than a month self-employed workers could have at their disposal a valuable source of relevant tips and guidance.
However, to move on from there and implement the networking and coaching features we will need to initially narrow down the scope of the initiative. We will focus on a specific geographical area (e.g. Northern Italy) and professionals segment (e.g. healthcare practitioners) to quickly test and improve the concept. During this pilot phase we would need access to some form of public funding to cover the website development and maintenance costs. Then, the flexibility of the platform will allow us to rapidly broaden its scope to include more countries and workers’ segments. As mentioned in the revenue model section our efforts would be centered around expanding as much as possible the user base in order to reach self sufficiency in phase two of the project.
Now, let’s get back to the present. This is our tool for Anna, this is our idea for Europe. Go Smart, go e-you!
solidarity The initiative was born as a mean to support European professionals during a period of crisis.
networking The platform includes a community of professionals, who can share experiences and build partnerships.
quality We help small businesses to go digital without losing any quality of the provided services.
growth e-you enables professionals to keep working and get ready for a more digitalized world.