The next wave of entrepreneurial disruptors must be mindful of social and economic casualties, as they up-end traditional work forces.
That’s according to Airtasker Chairman, James Spenceley – a venture capitalist, with a sharp eye for disruption.
He invested early in Airtasker, which provides an online and mobile marketplace, enabling users to outsource everyday tasks – now an archetype for the disruptive business model.
The BRW Rich Lister and two-time EY Entrepreneur of the Year winner says while disruption creates opportunities it also leads to displacement.
“You look at the impact on middle class jobs,” he says.
“I can now get a piece of software that takes an invoice as a PDF into my accounting system, scans and codes it, to set it up for payment and authorisation internally, without a human even touching it.
“That used to be per invoice 10 to 20 minutes of someone’s day.
“What are you replacing that with?”
He says disruptive business models must work on bringing more people into the workforce – creating new means of employment, rather than just cutting intermediaries out.
“One of the major focuses at Airtasker is about doing good, we want to provide jobs for people as a safety net,” he says.
“We get people emailing us saying, I lost my job and you allowed me to pay my rent for the six weeks it took me to get my next job.
“We contrast to say, Deliveroo or Uber, who actually in the end, just want to get the people out and maximise profit.”
“I think you can only keep doing that to a point before cracks form in society.
“If wealth just gets transferred to Uber shareholders at the expense of a broad worker base, that’s not good for society and it’s probably not good for Uber in the long term.”
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Spenceley says the speed of disruption is moving at such a rapid rate, it makes it difficult for government, as well as the education and training sectors to keep up.
“Over time people are reskilled through school, university and tafe into the new jobs.
“But if technology moves too fast, we might get to a period where people are disintermediated.”
He believes it’s up to workers to take the initiative and skill-up for the wave of digital disruption crashing through the economy or risk unemployment.
“Just look at the trends, look at what technology is changing,” he advises.
“It doesn’t mean you have to become a programmer, that’s not what technology is nowadays.
“But look at how systems are changing and maybe skill-up for those systems.
“There’s also lots of opportunity when a new system is created that automates and replaces people.
“There’s an opportunity to be the person that implements the system, manages it, designs it or sells it.
“I always say to people don’t swim upstream, always go downstream.
“So look for what is growing in an area that you have some interest and capability and then go and skill-up.”