Heru recently raised $1.7 Million in Pre Seed funding. Below is our recent interview with Stiven Rodríguez, Co-founder and COO of Heru:
Q: Stiven, this is the first time we have spoken. Can you provide a brief overview of Heru?
A: Of course! Heru is the first tech platform entirely focused on providing benefits and services access to gig economy/independent workers in Latin America. Both, my co-founder Mateo Jaramillo and I worked for Uber for over six years starting in 2014.
We were lucky to have the opportunity to launch Uber in Bogotá, my hometown, and Cali, my co-founder’s hometown which were the 2nd and 3rd city to launch in Latin America after Mexico City. In our time at Uber, we learned a lot! We felt really like intrapreneurs since, as “standard” as the business was in terms of the business’ main goal (tap a button, get a car, and get from point A to B safely), there wasn’t actually a pre-defined playbook. Each city would have its own requirements, challenges, and strategies in order to launch successfully but, operating and growing a big operation (3 cities to more than 150 and ~70k weekly trips to ~42M weekly trips) was not the only thing we learned. We also learned a lot about the upcoming revolution within the independent workforce, what we call today the gig economy workers.
Nowadays there are about 11,000,000 active gig economy workers in the region every week being Brazil and Mexico the countries with the most participation in the statistics. But that’s not it, we also had to learn a lot about the independent workforce itself, of which it is estimated that 145 million people are part of. Most of these people have found a great way of living and they are comfortable with what they achieve thanks to their work style. However, when you look deeper you find that there’s a pretty vicious component of this type of work: These workers have a clear lack of benefits and access to services that are really essential: medical insurance, disability insurance in case you suffer an accident, access to credit facilities, and in general, feeling part of a community that is supportive and allows them to unlock professional and personal growth.
Heru: With that being said, we launched Heru with the idea of building a really large community of independent workers, build a tech platform (an app) that can help them find benefits and services that they really need and can afford, and helping them navigate through most of the things that sometimes represent a blocker for them (such as registering as taxpayers and filing their taxes) to continue to grow, increase their income, and plan for their future.
At this point, we are offering insurances, credit services, taxes reporting services, data plans, and even physical spaces across the city which we call the Heru Casas. The Heru Casas specifically are spaces mostly thought to fulfill the most basic needs of gig economy workers: have access to a bathroom, charging stations, sanitization, WiFi, and a rest area where they can sit and wait safely for their next trip.
Q: How can your platform help freelancers?
A: At this point, we are mostly focused on gig economy workers. However, we do believe that as our platform evolves we will have the opportunity to offer very similar (if not the same in some cases) services to freelancers. The very first service that we want to offer to freelancers is our tax product. With our tax product, we’ll first help the freelancers understand what’s their most convenient regime for them, actually registering as taxpayers, and finally, controlling and filing their taxes directly from our app. We hope to be launching this product for them in February.
Q: You’ve recently raised $1,700,000 in Pre Seed funding; can you tell us something more?
A: That’s right, we raised $1.7M USD for our pre-seed round, and beyond the funding what really makes the closing of this round very exciting for us is the VC funds that joined us. First of all, Mountain Nazca from Mexico led the round; they did so by following on from an investment they had made back in February of 500k; they are amazing!. Then we have Flourish Ventures which is part of the Omidyar Network and are really focused on developing countries/communities and the gig economy workers itself. Finally, we were joined by Xtraordinary Venture Partners, a Mexican VC firm that will help us grow locally and other amazing angel investors.
With the funds, we plan to double down on our product development roadmap by hiring engineers and product operations managers, invest in marketing, and connecting with on-demand companies to help them get their benefits to their workers in a way that is beneficial for both sides without leading the platforms to incurre in employment liabilities.
Q: What are your plans and goals for the future?
A: Right now we are very focused on building our product and making sure that independent workers know us and understand the value we bring to support their work style. In the next months, we will be growing the team, adding more services and benefits that are really beneficial for them at the price they need, and broadening our scope to cover even more people within the independent workforce.
Q: What’s the best thing about Heru that people might not know about?
A: There are two things that most people might not know about. The first is that our team is not only comprised of top-notch talent but, they are really committed to improving and supporting the work/live style of the independent workers. Often, most of the news are about my co-founder and me but in reality, without having been able to assemble such a strong, committed, and hustler team we wouldn’t have been to get to this point.
The second thing, which I do believe some people are aware of is that, beyond the business component, there’s a huge and positive social impact in the independent workers’ lives. Our users (which we call Herues) are really thankful and appreciative for what we do for them and what we want to achieve; they are very supportive and they’ve been extensive in expressing their gratitude and the way we are positively impacting their lives. This is a really strong motivation for all the work we do and the things we want to accomplish.Activate Social Media: