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What washing dishes, driving a truck and working in a cemetery taught me about the power of 'blue-collar' software

What washing dishes, driving a truck and working in a cemetery taught me about the power of 'blue-collar' software
From TechCrunch - October 19, 2017

I work as a venture capitalist in a glass-walled office and wear dress shirts to work. But it wasnt so long ago that I wore an orange neon vest instead. That was when I stocked shelves at a big-box, home-improvement chain. I also drove a truckwhere I was once nearly arrested for incorrectly filling out my vehicular paperwork on the jobwashed dishes, waited tables, was a telemarketer and even hauled dirt at a cemetery.

I dont think this is the usual route to a job in tech and venture capital. But my former work life has opened my eyes to a corner of the technology world I think has the chance to create the next Salesforce, Oracle or LinkedIn: software targeted at workers, often blue-collar, who do their jobs outside corporate offices.

The forgotten workers

For those of us sitting at our desks and working behind laptops on programs like Microsoft Office,it can be easy to overlook the large, sometimes forgotten, workforce out there in construction, manufacturing, transportation, hospitality, retail and many other multi-billion-dollar industries. Indeed, more than 60 percent of U.S. workersand even more globallyfall into these blue-collar industries.

By and large, these workers have not benefited much from recent technology improvements available to office-based workersthink new email and workplace-collaboration technologies, or advanced sales and HR systems. Never mind the long-term opportunities from technologies like artificial intelligence, drones and virtual or augmented reality for companies in these sectors; hourly and field workers are dealing with much more basic on-the-job challenges, like finding work, getting their jobs done on time and getting paid.

These more basic needs can be solved with seemingly simple technologiessoftware for billing, scheduling, navigation and many other business workflows. These kinds of technologies, unlike AI, dont automate away workers. Instead, they empower them to be more efficient and productive.

Today, these technologies for hourly and blue-collar workers are finally proliferating and coming into their own. This is mainly because of two broad technological shifts: the rise of the smartphone and the advent of cheaper and easy-to-deploy, customizable cloud software.

In venture capital, being too early is the same as being wrong

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