Alok Alström

Founder of Appjobs

Alok Alström grew up in the suburbs of Uppsala, Sweden and went on to attend Stockholm School of Economics where he received his Masters in Economics and Business. He began his career as a Management Consultant at Boston Consulting Group working in California and Southeast Asia and later worked for Bisnode Group and Uber Sweden.

While working as the General Manager for Uber Sweden, he was inspired to begin Appjobs after realizing that not only services could be provided at the click of a button but jobs and work could be found as well. Appjobs is now a leading gig economy platform with over 2 million members, operating in over 4,600 cities (with cities being added daily) across 40 countries and available in 12 languages. From here, he established the Future of Work Institute with the intent to use data and trends garnered and analyzed from Appjobs data to collaborate with researchers and prominent policymakers to empower stakeholders to make decisions on the burgeoning labor market and the future of work based on facts.

He is passionate about working with ideas that can scale and touch the lives of many people. He started a scholarship “Passions for Results Award” in his hometown to encourage and reward students who work hard and excel in their academic studies. He is an advocate for work-life balance which includes a remote first and flexible hour policy in the workplace allowing employees to adjust their schedules to their needs as he believes this helps to maintain productivity as well as employee satisfaction.

Where did the idea for Appjobs come from?

I got the idea for Appjobs during my time as the General Manager at Uber. Being immersed in the gig economy every day, I realized that this new way of working will become more prevalent and that not only can services be booked at the click of a button but also jobs and work could be found. It also became apparent to me that gig workers needed not only a platform to help them navigate the new gig economy landscape but also access to more resources. Whereas, the Future of Work Institute emerged from Appjobs data as I noticed the need to use data and facts to influence and promote a smoother transition within this emerging labor market.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Usually, 50% of my day consists of meetings with colleagues, managers and employees, but also stakeholders. Around 35% of my time is spent on following up on emails and tasks. Lastly, I use approximately 15% of my time on thinking and working on innovative solutions and ideas to continue to drive the business forward.

While, there are three main strategies that I use to stay productive. Firstly, I use my calendar to guide my time allocation and design it in such a way that I can achieve optimal workflow. I also include time in it for individual work and thinking. Secondly, I do all the work through the browser and online tools. This way I never have to think about where all documents or tools are located, as I can easily access everything through my browser bookmarks. Thirdly, whenever I join a meeting I first make sure that my role there is clear, and that I have a specific contribution to make. This way I avoid overlapping my work with other members.

How do you bring ideas to life?

For me, the first step is to think about what makes sense to myself and what I would use. Ultimately I look at myself as a stakeholder for a while. Next, I visualize the idea in a concept, usually in google slides. This adds more dimensions to it, making it more alive. If there are any bits that make the idea unfeasible or unsuitable they are likely to come to light in this step. Lastly, I verify the visualized concept with the people I trust. After that I start working on it.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One trend which I find particularly exciting is our increasing ability to “stream” work to our phones. Much like how we stream Netflix or play Pokémon GO, now we can connect to particular projects or companies of interest.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

If I had to choose one habit, that is adopting a grit mindset. One phrase I often use to describe this is thinking “how would I solve this myself if I didn’t have anyone else to ask.” A lot of times we tend to take the easy way out, and ask someone for help. While I do not believe that that in itself is a bad thing, doing it too often robs us of valuable learning experiences and opportunities to come up with a solution ourselves. I often tell my employees that they may ask questions but they should come with at least one or two anticipatory answers to their questions in order to provoke thought whether it is right or wrong.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would remind myself to not be afraid of failure, as long as I do my best. The fear of failure can paralyze us all. It is important to remember that failure is a natural part of growth and it is inevitable in entrepreneurship.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I believe that overall we are more productive when we do not only focus on one thing. In my experience, most people think you benefit by focusing on one idea or project at a time. I beg to differ. I think you gain perspective and can cross-fertilize ideas if you engage in 3-5 ideas or projects at a time.\

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I find it valuable to get my hands dirty in all areas of my company every now and then. This helps to keep me grounded. By being hands-on in all areas of your business, you gain insight to how things are done, what the company really consists of on different levels and what improvements can be made.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

One strategy I use is to link smaller objectives with bigger ones and measure the progress on a daily or weekly basis. Then, I lead by example and encourage those around me to do the same. Visualizing and being attentive to the progress of different tasks can be a powerful motivator – what gets measured gets done.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One failure I had was losing all the money I had put into two previous ventures. It was a tough, but also a great learning experience. I overcame it by getting a job, saving some more money and then trying again. Failure is an opportunity to grow as well as a powerful learning tool.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

One idea that has a lot of potential is within the transportation sector. A lot of advancements are being made, but there still is a gap. I think there is potential for a slightly bigger and more powerful drone that you can sit in. That could solve traffic issues.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 investment I recently made was in a pair of wireless headphones. I use them for both personal and professional purposes. It is very convenient to not have to untangle the headphones cord whenever I want to use them.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I am using Teemyco, an online office resource. Although not many people in my company use it, I myself use it quite frequently along with the few who do. It makes spontaneous interactions and ideation easier plus you feel less lonely when working from home.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recommend reading “Reboot – Leadership and the Art of Growing Up.” It provides valuable insights about the anxiety and emotional challenges of entrepreneurship and leadership. From it there is a lot to learn on building successful and healthy businesses and relationships.

What is your favorite quote?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson

Key Learnings:

  • Don’t be afraid of failure, being an entrepreneur or leader doesn’t mean running the risk of failure but experiencing failure. Failure will happen but it gives the opportunity to learn and grow; as long as you try your best, failure shouldn’t define you as a person.
  • If you have a question, try to come up with an answer before turning to someone else for help. Even if you are wrong, it will help to promote innovative thinking and problem solving skills.
  • If you are having a hard time achieving business goals, set smaller goals in the intermediary that can be tracked as well as accomplished. What can be measured, can be done. And any deficiencies along the way are easier to spot in smaller, trackable increments.