Growing your business with student taskers

January 26, 2023

In this episode, Legislate meets Jake Fox, founder of Paperound. We discuss how Paperound helps match students with businesses seeking help with digital tasks and how contracts should be interactive.

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Charles Brecque: Welcome to the Legislate podcast, a place learn about the latest insights and trends in property technology, business, building, and contract drafting. Today, we have a wonderful guest, Jake Fox, founder of paper round Jake. Welcome to the show. Would you like to introduce yourself? Tell us what you're doing at Paperound.

The story behind Paperound

Jake Fox: Yeah, sure thing, so I'm Jake. I set up Paperound at the start of this year. Paperound is a digital marketplace to connect students and businesses together to complete ad hoc bits of work. All paid for, and is there for those busy UK founders that have a giant to do list. I'm sure we've all got Trello boards that have a million cards on, and you're trying to prioritize your time. Paper round is there where you can delegate some of those to qualified UK students. So it's our way of helping UK small businesses get more done and helping students in the UK pickup relevant experience towards a skilled graduate job.

Charles Brecque: That’s great. And Paperound is present in how many universities or how would it work if I was a student at one of those universities looking for it?

Jake Fox: Yeah. So we currently have students from about 20 different universities around the UK. We actually recruit our students directly rather than the university through the universities at the moment.

Mainly just finding them online. All students, regardless of University, are crying out for that experience. When we get in front of them digitally, a lot of the Taskers are up for signing up. They have a simple onboarding process to set up their profile. They set their own availability and they set their own price.

And most of our students are booked out at at least the national living wage, which is really good to see. And then from there, that kind of profile is there to be their sort of beacon to the world about what makes them great. I'm not only talking about that degree, but talking about interests. Some people are really into mental health, sustainability or into fashion and they can get picked to do jobs based on these kinds of great interests and also practical skills as well.

We find a lot of students put the time in to do a bit of a side project and set up websites and their own events and campaigns and stuff. And it's these kind of proactive projects that make them great Taskers to complete business projects.

Charles Brecque: That's great. And how many projects have you enabled via Paperound so far?

Jake Fox: So I think we did our 250th just recently because it'd be great to see, and all this work is paid as well. We don't do any free labor through Paperound so it means students have received multiple thousands of pounds now. And we can really just start to ramp up and expand the services that we're offering.

We started with desk-based skill tasks where founders probably don't want to spend time doing it, but they do appreciate it when it's done. But that's kind of stuff like graphic design and social media content or it's things like market research and data analysis.

What's been your favourite moment so far?

Charles Brecque: And so what's been your favourite moment, so far?

Jake Fox: Favourite moment so far. It's a good question. I think it was the first time we had a business where we'd just passed our first network of friends and family using it and a random business founder booked a tasker and they completed a project together. 

I was like, oh my God, it's worked. Someone has just done a thing on a thing that I've built. That was a big one. Mainly because, there's value there. If a stranger can come across to you and see the value and plug into it straight away and give it a go on this, obviously we're a marketplace, so there's benefit to two people and not just one, but that's really good to see. 

I guess the next best moment is it's like a long moment above the one moment in time, but when you see the reviews come through of businesses being really happy with the students that they've found or where it's “oh my God, she saved me so much time. I didn't want to spend six hours fiddling around on canva doing that thing. And they just did it for me. And now I can.” but those really positive reviews coming through.

That's a good thing as well. I'm going to add one more. So I've just received a message from Tasker saying they've actually been hired by the company that started booking them out on Paperound in the first place, which is an awesome feeling because that's the hallways in our mission that kind of started was this idea that let's help students pick up these nuggets of experience that are lying around in the digital workspace. And then that should lead to things. And it did. She got booked out for a few hours and then they just ended up hiring her full-time. It's like this kind of community engagement person and she loves it. And there's just that there's like kind of discoverability factor kicking in, which is awesome to see.

Charles Brecque: That's great. And I would just say, I always find it nerve wracking when complete strangers come to your platform. First of all, because you're wondering, how did they find us? What are they looking for? And it also always seems to be that whenever there's a complete brand new user there's always a bug that they'll find.

Jake Fox: could I ask you what your best moment has been so far?

Charles Brecque: I'd say it's been relatively similar. We were quite lucky early on in our journey to stumble across a large landlord who wanted to give our system a try. And this was just after version one had been built and was ready to accept users. Within the first week of them using the platform we onboarded 150 new tenants and I guess it was quite an achievement because the platform didn’t crash and in the grand scheme of things, there weren't that many issues. So I'd say that was probably one of my favourite moments so far.

Jake Fox: Totally.

What do you wish you had known before getting started?

Charles Brecque: . Now you've had some traction and you're a bit more established, what would you wish you'd known before starting Paperound?

Jake Fox: Luckily Paperound, isn't the first app I've been involved in and I think the first time you go around and try to do something it's a massive learning curve.

The second time is more market-based sort of knowledge and mistakes rather than just general entrepreneurial founder journey stuff. Although saying that once you've got a live product out there, it is amazing to look at how users want to, or try to use your product rather than the way you thought they were going to use a product.

And they always find a way to use it in a way that wasn't the way you build it, which is like your love for it. And it's wow. Why are you doing it that way? If you have to go find out where that kind of iteration comes from, and this is like this weird bit where you have to factor in that people are just different.

People will interact with something in 10 different ways. Even if you built something that you think is actually quite simple low and hard to factor that in and get that best guests is I think that's a skill that's oh, I predicted the future. Do you guys as well?

Charles Brecque: Yeah, I think especially when 10 people can access the same service on 10 different devices on 10 different internet connections, a lot can happen. You mentioned that users have interacted with the product in ways you didn't necessarily anticipate, has that influenced your roadmap and your vision for the company?

Jake Fox: I'd say it's influenced the roadmap, but 100% the mission probably less. I think the way people behave around a product can convince tweaks to the user flow or just giving people the option to use it in the way they want to use it, but ultimately the business of Paperound regardless of whether you book them in advance, or come back to pay them, or you search by a different type of filter and things like that, regardless, it is about students and businesses, completing projects together for the benefit of both parties and the longer term vision, you have the microcosm of the product, but the longer-term vision is really a national vision to bring way more businesses and students together across the country. And, we’ll launch a marketplace in each city and it's about supporting regional networks as well. I think there's so much talent in the UK, which potentially gets lost or just isn't found because we don't have those networks in place. So many companies now are thinking about what skills they're going to be needing in a few years time? What is that emerging talent looking like? This is our way of saying look, you can start trying these people out now. You can give them something real to do now and you don't have to sign up to a year long placement thing or anything like that. You can just start to give them stuff to do and see what those skills and those people that are there ready to be booked and start bringing them through. And that's still got that local feel to it and I think that's the wider vision of bringing the future of work closer together.

Charles Brecque: And based on your marketplace and data, are you seeing any trends? Both in terms of skills that employers are looking for or jobs that students are looking for?

Jake Fox: It's been an interesting one. We took our best guess with the digital sort of savvy skilled tasks and that is what we get used for. Like I mentioned, the kind of creative output, analytical kind of work. I think what has been interesting is that remote working has changed how we work, but not necessarily who we want to work with. So this idea that if someone is a bit more local to you or they share an interest, or they're based that kind of bit of context or something that brings you together a little bit better, you're probably going to pick that person, which is why, although 99% of the jobs on paper are delivered remotely we still see that people have this idea that they like the idea of working with a student in their city.

And so we help facilitate that. That's just an interesting thing, but there's always things that are going to bring us together. Even if when we work together, that thing isn't actually tangible in front of us.

Charles Brecque: That makes sense. And I guess especially if remote work goes hybrid, you want people to be close to. Good insight. And so as a company, which facilitates work, are you providing the contracts to the students? Or how would that work.

Jake Fox: We make it really simple. We don't really sell the students on contracts. They're really just freelancers and they're in charge of their own jobs and tasks that they pick up.

They don't have to pick up everything. We don't contract them to a set number of hours. What we're really trying to do is make it work for both parties because we appreciate as a student, I'm sure you're the same, that your life changes week by week and availability too, because you, maybe have new lectures.

Maybe you have things to do, things that aren't as routine, which means there's no point trying to contract students into particular slots at those hours. Whenever else, what works better for them is just give them a due date for a project and they'll work towards that deadline. And it's the same with the business.

So when we have to think about. Contracts and things like that. What we're really trying to do is build a terms of use and an onboarding experience. So those tasks could basically fulfil what they want to the best of their abilities.

What are the key contracts you interact with?

Charles Brecque: That makes sense. And so in your day-to-day job then what are the contracts that you interact with the most?

Jake Fox: Contracts. Yeah. An interesting one. So, when we did our funding round in April, that was some long contract. Then as someone who doesn't really speak legalese, that was a pretty stressful time, but I stayed calm, and put my head around it by pulling in some favours from someone who knew a bit more.

But I guess the other thing is really like those kinds of early team things. When you're a big company, you just have employee contracts and maybe they're incredibly typical. But when you're trying to incentivise people early on, we've been putting together co-founder agreements and stuff like that.

And maybe it's a bit of pay, but it's also equity stuff, vesting schedules and things like that.

Charles Brecque: So effectively the contracts that you've been working with right now have been for setting up the business

Jake Fox: Pretty much, yeah, and early team member stuff. Things like IP, obviously as you don't want anybody stealing the whole concept. Even when you're starting up.

Charles Brecque: Especially when you're starting

Jake Fox: Yeah, exactly. Especially when you start.

Charles Brecque: Have there been any objections or in that whole experience of dealing with contracts was there anything that stood out as something that, you thought could be improved by a solution?

Jake Fox: I think and if anything, where people are hunting around to get advice from people, there needs to be a solution that they can look to and feel confident in the decisions they're making.

If the only way you're going to be making a decision is because you've got a mate who did this, then often you're not in a place where you've got all the information you need. Which I definitely felt like before where it's, you know what's the typical thing here and what clauses do I need?

And the other side is like going Google and the amount of times I spent asking what is this bit here? And what's typical. What's fair. Sometimes just someone telling me what is typical, what is the typical relationship that happens here is really good. But if only one person can tell you what they did, you don't know if its an outlier or if that's normal, so that kind of stuff there.

And then obviously putting them together and agreeing on them is a low form of processing. It's just a lot of reading through and really making sure you're not getting caught out. Like this there's stuff that terrifies me where sometimes a contract could be so, somebody could put a sentence in and it changes the relationship or it changes what's agreed because there's a lot of stuff. There's a lot of stuff to take in, right?

Charles Brecque: Contract clauses are highly interconnected and that's definitely something that we try to model in Legislate. So that, if you remove something, it will make all the required changes throughout the contract.

And if you insert something then first of all, it knows that you've inserted. And second of all, you see it throughout the contract. But the other thing that you said, which resonated with me was how do you know that it is a standard term and the truth is.

No one really knows unless you will. You're dealing with that contract every day with lots of companies and businesses and Legislate provides those services. So we are aggregating data and we will shortly be releasing those aggregate statistics to our users so that when they're creating an NDA, when they're creating an employment contract, for example we'll be able to say that 75% of our users choose these times so that people who are not familiar with those types of contracts feel as if they're going with the group.

Jake Fox: That makes sense. Yeah. And that's just like peace of mind. To be like, oh, okay. The typical level of these contracts is about two years. So we'll set it for that.

If you were being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?

Charles Brecque: Yeah, absolutely.

So I'm conscious that we've already taken a lot of your time. So I'm going to ask you the closing question we ask all our guests. If you were receiving a contract to sign today, what would impress you?

Jake Fox: Yeah, it's a good question. There's probably a couple of bits, to be honest. I think interactivity is so much nicer. I've yet to have an experience of a contact, I'm yet to have something where there's stages to what I'm doing. So most contracts it's you get to over and it's basically just, I've got a ton of stuff to read.

That's not what that's the way they're not unexperienced in any way and be through there's no breaking it down or anything like that. So I guess that's one side. And I think the other thing is if a contract could explain the legal to me in stages, if I could, select sections or just look at stuff or I'm like, okay, but what does that actually mean?

Because what is it in my language? And then that'd be cool. Do you happen to be doing that stuff? If you're not, you should be.

Charles Brecque: We definitely make it a stage process and we try to make it as interactive as possible. Both through the questions and answers, which gives ownership to the person creating the contract that we are tailoring a contract, which is bespoke to their requirements. So we offer full customisation. We do offer explanations of legalese, but I think what's even better than explaining legalese is to not use legalese in the first place.

So our templates are sourced from the gold standard libraries, our legal team go through the additional effort of simplifying the language and sometimes you can't simplify and we only effectively explain sections when we can't simplify more than we've already simplified. If that makes sense.

Jake Fox:  Yeah, totally. The more you can reduce that risk of people just not knowing what they're reading, the better. So it's kinda like an education thing for you.

Charles Brecque: Absolutely. We offer education both within the contracts and the platform. But where we have had a lot of success in terms of sourcing users has also been by answering typical questions because lots of people Google legal questions, and we don't have all the answers yet, but we have quite a few and that, helps improve people's education and understanding of contracts.

Jake Fox: Brilliant.

Charles Brecque: Thank you, Jake, for being on the show. It was a pleasure. 

Jake Fox: Thanks for having me.

Charles Brecque:  And hopefully we can have you on again and best of luck with Paperound.

Jake Fox: Thank you very much.


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