Former Nike, American Airlines Designer Joins Local Startup
Although his background includes designing for some of the biggest brands in the world, Jarrod Ausborne feels right at home now as Chief Design Officer at Gig Wage, a venture-backed payments platform specializing in independent contractors. Headquartered in downtown Dallas, Gig Wage makes it simple, fast and easy for businesses to pay, manage, and support their contractors with their platform. Jarrod joined the team this past April to help pioneer their design-centric approach to business, and we spoke with him to learn a bit more about his career and approach as a designer.
Jarrod has been designing for around ten years now, with his employment roster including brands such as Nike, American Airlines, and AT&T. While he’s enjoyed working with these big brands, he’s found a deeper connection to his work at Gig Wage, a company whose mission he relates to more than those of some of the bigger brands. But working with those larger companies provided him a lot of valuable experience and many lessons learned, he told us. He not only learned many important aspects of design and working with clients, but also how to navigate the politics of some of those organizations. Most of all, he learned how to pitch stakeholders and explain the “why”, which has proven helpful to date in working with investors. But moving forward in his career, he was looking for something that felt like a better fit for him. “I can’t relate to the problems that Google and Facebook are trying to solve right now,” he explained. He relates more to the contractor perspective, and loves the problem that Gig Wage is trying to solve. He cares about people and the pain points they have, giving the example of “the contractor who maybe got himself into some debt and can’t open a bank account to get paid for the work he’s trying to do and turn his life around.” Jarrod and his team have the ability to design and build technology that can improve people’s lives, and that’s both important and meaningful to him.
Jarrod was first introduced to Craig Lewis, Founder of Gig Wage, several years ago and he quickly became a friend and mentor. Jarrod was attempting to break out of corporate life and do his own thing at the time, and Craig provided him with the mentorship and support he needed to get started. But after trying to give it a go on his own, Jarrod ran into some personal hardships and had to re-enter corporate life. Shortly after, he began helping Craig with some design work for Gig Wage and the conversation evolved from there, with him eventually deciding to join the team. “I just needed to be here full time. I loved what we were doing, and I love the types of problems we’re solving,” he said.
Now a full time member of the team, Jarrod helps pioneer the company’s design-centric approach to business. “My philosophy is being user-centric. It doesn’t matter what we feel is the best solution, it matters what the data tells us,” he explained. He noted that even though he’s been designing for so long, he still doesn’t know what the user will do until they have the product in their hands, so he believes that assumptions about users and their expected behavior are best left off the table. Instead, Gig Wage engages with their customers on a regular basis to solicit feedback to make sure they are fulfilling and remaining responsive to their customer’s needs. They collect a fair amount of data and feedback from customer interviews done via video chat, which allows them to physically see people and respond to and learn from their body language in addition to their verbal feedback. “When we’re responsive to our users needs, it helps us build a better product,” Jarrod said.
As for the future, he thinks Gig Wage is just getting started. “I see us becoming a larger company,” he said, and he expects their contractor base to continue growing. Although the company hasn’t been investing time or money into lots of marketing efforts beyond social media posts, they’ve continued to grow exponentially. To date, they’ve raised over $1.5M in pre-seed funding, and expect to announce more news related to their growth in the near future. As the gig economy grows, the problem that they’re solving for is only becoming more relevant.