17 July was the final of the Santander X Tomorrow Challenge, a worldwide gathering of entrepreneurs to tackle the socio-economic impacts of the covid-19 pandemic. Over six weeks, 1,200 startups presented their ideas, but only 20 were made winners. 

Today, we spoke to the entrepreneurs behind five of those 20 projects. They were the winners of the Re-Work category, with projects to reduce unemployment and relocate talent following the pandemic. This category saw 490 projects, which accounts for 22% of all submissions. 

Connecting Visions, which was one winner, defines itself as the personal shopper of consulting: customers explain their business challenges and budget, and Connecting Visions finds the best talent and technology. While it serves companies of all sizes, it focuses mostly on SMEs seeking unconventional consultancy.

Founders Sofía Medem and Gonzaga Avello believe “the covid-19 crisis is putting a lot of talent into the market and we want to make sure companies (corporations and SMEs) have access to [it]. It is a win-win situation for everyone: companies need talent to help them overcome business challenges, and senior talent can draw on experience to add value from the start while staying active in the job market”.

About the role of entrepreneurs in the fight against coronavirus, Sofía says “it is always crucial to preserve and create jobs; but at times like these, when so many people are being laid off, it is vital for society. ‘Inherited business models’ are becoming more obsolete and uncompetitive than new business models. Therefore, organisations need to ‘trim the fat’. Only when entrepreneurs create new companies and have the courage to try out new business models can jobs and opportunities for relocation be created”.

Santander X Tomorrow Challenge winners: Connecting Visions

Service Club was another star in this category. This company saw a need in the courier industry for the delivery of food, medicines and other products. Courier services have grown 200% thanks to the pandemic. Though more couriers and messengers are needed than ever, the relationship they have with their employers is generally characterized by tension. Service Club aims to resolve quality issues with “micro-learning” to improve staff recruitment and retention. 

Founder and CEO Zeynep Demirbilek is a passionate advocate for couriers' rights. “The technology of delivery apps may be ground-breaking, but we are forgetting something: human beings make delivery possible. Delivery companies must invest in their workforce and provide a friendly, inclusive and culturally appropriate environment. [They] need to offer their couriers career development opportunities, and they can do this with Service Club".

The company uses Service Club AI-PEM technology to train low-skilled workers’ and evaluates applicants’ personalities to match them with jobs based not only on their capabilities but also on their character and social skills.

Santander X Tomorrow Challenge winners: Service Club

WOKE is another winning startup. It aims to become a professional ecosystem for the self-employed, entrepreneurs and small enterprises to boost their talent, help them gain experience and income, organize their workload and find them affordable workspaces. Its value proposition rests on the greater security and stability it offers the independent work community through links to suitable projects, management tools and affordable workspaces. 

CEO Luis Fernando Gómez explains how the pandemic has affected unemployment and the relocation of talent: “It has made everyone take a step back and reflect on how we live and, though it has given us the opportunity to bring about change, it’s also had a significant impact on employment because of uncertainty about the future. Our focus is on creating the right infrastructure so self-employed professionals working remotely can thrive. We think the jobs of the future will go beyond borders and require efficient software for management and career development. Things won’t necessarily remain the same. People must be able to find diversity and professional growth through online opportunities while working from wherever they choose to or can”.

Gómez also believes entrepreneurship is playing a pivotal role in the global economy. “Entrepreneurs address problems by designing, developing and implementing innovative solutions to help a specific market and/or group of people, which is what we need right now. We’re trying to tackle unemployment, which is probably the obvious drawback of coronavirus, because it not only causes more health problems but also creates a climate that makes dealing with it correctly more difficult”.

Santander X Tomorrow Challenge winners: WOKE

Markets can often be unfair to farmers, taking a lot with little in return. They can also keep buyers from directly accessing fresh fruit and vegetables.

Sumá connects family farmers to buyers (e.g., hotels, schools, hospitals), who are its main customers and are charged for each purchase. Supply meets demand in the same region based on farmers' estimated income and availability of locally-sourced produce for buyers.

Co-founder and CEO Daiana Censi Leripio’s grandparents were farmers from southern Brazil who had to leave their land because of scarce opportunity. “My father is almost 80 years old and he always says, if he got the chance, he’d go back to the countryside. With his words in mind, I graduated in environmental engineering with the hope of making life better for countryfolk. In addition, newspaper headlines would always talk about how corruption affected small farmers, who always got the short end of the stick because they didn’t know the changing rules of the market. They needed tools, so my colleague, Alexandre de Ávila, and I decided to create and provide them”.

According to Censi, not many people in Latin America see the decision to open a business as an opportunity. “Most entrepreneurs create their business because they can't find a job, so providing them with tools can have a considerable social impact and change. For us, every day is a big challenge. We want to change our country’s food distribution systems so farmers are not left so unprotected. We’re already doing this with the means at our disposal, and there is no greater joy than to see how the users of our platform are already earning more”, she adds.  

Santander X Tomorrow Challenge winners: Sumá

Taqe is a digital recruitment and hiring platform to boost youth employability and overcome the big hurdle of inexperience to find a job. It focuses not on applicants but rather on companies and how they can improve their hiring criteria. Taqe's strategy targets companies that employ more than five people per month and use fully digital methods for matching profiles, teaching, gamification and artificial intelligence. 

Santander X Tomorrow Challenge winners: Taqe
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