The Pocketask team: (from left to right) Aneesh Bafna, Marie-Liesse Gouilliard, and Nassouh Kabbani
Courtesy of Marie-Liesse Gouilliard
Pocketask, a new app-based startup founded by third-year students Marie-Liesse Gouilliard and Nassouh Kabbani, launched in mid-August of this year. The app allows young people to find short-term employment opportunities posted by trustworthy adults in their communities. Gouilliard said their mission is “to create a teenage-friendly platform to help you make good money in a safe, efficient market.”
As of October 14, Pocketask had a total of 220 active users spread across Hyde Park, Woodlawn, Kenwood, Grand Boulevard, and Bronzeville. It has accumulated these users primarily through word of mouth and several posters hung up around the Hyde Park area. According to Gouilliard, a primary investor is on track to take over financial support of the company in the next three months as it continues to grow. In the near future, the company hopes to expand to the greater Chicago area and eventually out of state.
Gouilliard created the prototype for Pocketask during her gap year before coming to UChicago, but it wasn’t until the second quarter of her first year that she began to turn her idea into a company. Gouilliard remembers pitching an idea for a different business to her sister, to which her sister responded, “This is an awful idea. Why don’t you go back to that idea you had to help teenagers make pocket money? My friends and I are broke!” Gouilliard then sent out a survey to her sister’s friends to gauge the demand for such a service, and as a result of overwhelmingly positive responses, she set to work building Pocketask.
In its current form, the app allows “creators” aged 23 or above to post offers for one-off jobs, such as dog-walking and babysitting, that “taskers” aged 14 to 23 can take on. All users over the age of 18 must first go through an identity verification process, run externally by veriff.com, and a sex offender registry check, run externally by familywatchdog.us. Users over the age of 18 can also opt to have a criminal background check performed on them, the completion of which will be indicated on their profile should a negative result be returned. Taskers under the age of 18 are required to get parental or guardian consent before they can use the app, and every time they accept jobs through the app, their parent or guardian will be notified through SMS or email. Once a job is successfully completed, money is transferred between individuals through the app, and a 10 percent commission goes to Pocketask.
Using funding from the Jeff Metcalf Internship Program, Pocketask is able to employ one intern. It also receives funding from Learning To Fly Ventures, a student-run venture capital group at UChicago, and supplementary financial support from the families and friends of current employees. It is also part of the Edge Entrepreneurship incubator program, which provides it with mentorship from Chicago Booth professor John McKinney.
As many high schools across the country require students to spend a certain amount of time volunteering, Pocketask is planning to incorporate a feature into its app that would allow local organizations to post volunteer opportunities for students to complete. Schools in partnership with Pocketask would then be able to track the number of hours each student has spent volunteering. Gouilliard explained that members of Pocketask are currently negotiating a partnership with North Shore Country Day School to roll out and test this feature.