Servers

CrowdTech: BAM on the Virtual Assembly Line

by Jayne Jaderholm

CrowdTech is a growing company based in the region of South East Asia, now expanding to other parts of the world. The company began in 2009 with the idea for a business model that could grow quickly and would provide South East Asia with virtual jobs in computer work.

Martin Bruin first established a software development company, Leaf Technology, three months after arriving in South East Asia. His original mindset was for the company to be a side job as he did other ministry work in the region. Just prior to moving to Asia, the Bruin family was forced to leave the Gulf Region after living there for a year and a half. Martin remotely managed an American software company while his wife Amy worked as a finance director at a local school. Martin and a friend also reached out into the labor camps filled with men from South Asia. They took 12,000 bibles in 12 different languages along with food donations to the camps during the last nine months they were in the Gulf.

They noticed the demand for data-entry jobs from developed countries and the supply of talented workers desperate for these types of jobs.

While back home visiting family, three church pastors in the USA challenged Martin and Amy to see where God was working in Leaf Technology. Shortly after returning to South East Asia they noticed the demand for data-entry jobs from developed countries and the supply of talented workers desperate for these types of jobs. As an established software company, they realized they could build software to connect the talent to the demand. Martin could already see the brokenness in the growing crowd-sourcing industry, especially a lack of accountability that resulted in poor-quality work. In order to solve this problem, CrowdTech looked for inspiration and found some in the Grameen Bank’s solidarity group model and different church planting movement (CPM) models that focused on small healthy teams that promoted accountability.

Business focus

CrowdTech is in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. The company utilizes advanced web based software to manage their data entry workers that work remotely. The company takes large data entry projects and core business processes that involve data and breaks them down into micro-tasks. The tasks are then processed in various ‘virtual assembly lines’ in an online environment. To date they have served 20-30 customers across Europe and North America. CrowdTech currently has over 100 full-time staff who develop software, manage client projects, and oversee the worker teams. Currently there are around 2500 part-time data entry workers. This virtual team has grown by as much as 250 workers a week and the target is over 8,000 data entry workers by the end of the year.

The purpose of CrowdTech is to enable hundreds of thousands of workers in the developing world with basic computer work and empower to them to tackle issues in their own communities. CrowdTech is in the process of rewriting their core values. Martin explains, “We previously wrote what we envisioned them to be, but now we are re-evaluating what values truly reflect our company mission and the culture God has already created within CrowdTech.”

At the heart of poverty is broken relationships and the root of that problem can only be fixed by being restored to right relationship with God through Jesus.

CrowdTech’s goal is to create opportunities for people in the developing world by plugging them into the global economy. “We believe that leadership requires competent people that develop the character needed to be a part of restoration of their own community. Taking wisdom from the bible and learning to apply it to life is the best way to build character and create leaders. We believe that at the heart of poverty is broken relationships and the root of that problem can only be fixed by being restored to right relationship with God through Jesus,” shares Martin. He goes on to say, “The bigger purpose is restoration. That is why we are here. Our investors, key managers, and board of directors agree with this core purpose.”

CrowdTech has been processing tasks round the clock since late 2011 and has seen huge growth during the intervening period. They have grown from processing 1 million tasks a year to 1 million a week and now over 1 million per day. “Things are really taking off and we are scaling the business quite aggressively. We have client work booked already that will see us grow five times more before the year ends”, says Martin.

BAM experiences

Martin still meets with almost every full-time employee when they join CrowdTech and tells them his story. He sets the expectations from day one by explaining that the company exists because of Jesus. Martin shares along the following lines, “Our faith in Jesus motivates our work and we have made a commitment to run the company according to his teachings. This all comes down to loving God and loving others. We think it is a great thing for you as an employee and we encourage you to keep us accountable! We have dedicated the company to Jesus and will pray and read from the Bible during meetings from time to time. We know and respect that everyone has different beliefs and there hasn’t been problems with this so far. Feel free to talk to any other employees or let us know what questions you have about how we are different in this area, but we want to know if you think you’ll be comfortable coming into an environment like this?”

In this way Martin sets the foundations for the CrowdTech environment. With the opportunity for these one-on-one discussion he observes, “It is amazing how the Holy Spirit uses people to foster the positive environment of our company.”

CrowdTech has tried many different ways to connect the employees work to their desire to minister to others. This has included monthly gatherings of all believing staff for prayer and worship. Most of the worker managers are believers and choose to meet weekly to pray and worship before heading out onto the streets to mentor and oversee their teams. Each manager oversees up to 20 teams or 100 data entry workers.

Brand new engineers are stunned by the treatment they receive from the senior workers… These are opportunities to practically demonstrate the counter-cultural value of servant leadership within the company.

The teams of data entry workers are designed to intentionally teach and build up good character traits during the process of working together. The worker meetings occur every week and will be attended by a worker manager every other week. During a worker meeting each member shares something that is causing stress, and something they are thankful for. The first portion is mainly about work related learning and challenges, while the second portion is spent discussing one of the company principles. Each group member uses a sheet of paper and draws three columns. In the first column they rewrite the biblical principle. In the second, they write the principle in their own words, showing understanding. In the third, they write out their goal to apply and also share the principle with someone in the week.

Every Monday morning in the building there is a cross-functional meeting known as “All Aboard”. The gathering both recognizes the staff and sets the vision for the week. It is a time where they celebrate victories, recognize an “action hero” person of character for that week, and share together about what the company is doing.

An example of the business model’s positive impact is the fostering of meaningful relationships across experience levels. Brand new engineers are stunned by the treatment they receive from the senior workers. They are shown respect as equals beginning from their formal training program. Their ideas and efforts are celebrated. They are given freedom to share concerns and ask questions. These are opportunities to practically demonstrate the counter-cultural value of servant leadership within the company.

The next step for CrowdTech is continuing to grow their client and data entry worker pool. They have already started hiring workers in Africa and are planning to expand into eight to ten other developing countries in the next five years. The goal remains to build a sustainable and scalable model that will provide jobs, as well as raising up men and women of high character that will transform their communities.

With thanks to Martin Bruin.

This is an except of a story first written in 2013 and published in the BAM Think Tank ‘Measuring BAM Impact’ Report.

Download the Report ‘Measuring the Impact and Performance of BAM Businesses’ to read the full business profile.

 

Picture credit: Servers by Victor Grigas