Emprego Ligado’s Derek Fears on How to Build for the Next Billion

Growth markets represent 85% of the world’s population: a huge opportunity for developing new products and businesses. But to reach this audience, it’s essential for tech leaders to understand who the “next billion users” are — and how to design and build products for their specific use cases.


We sat down with Derek Fears, Co-Founder and Head of Consumer Products at Emprego Ligado, to answer these questions. Emprego Ligado, based in São Paulo, Brazil, is the largest jobs platform in Latin America focused on blue-collar, service-sector roles. Derek shared his thoughts on how product leaders can apply what his team has learned to their own emerging-market expansions.


Thinking hyperlocal = big results

Emprego Ligado’s mission is to make the world a more productive and happier place by connecting companies with hyperlocal labor. “Working hyperlocal generates huge, measurable gains for people, companies, and cities,” Derek says, and Emprego Ligado evaluates its success not only based on financial performance, but also in terms of its social and environmental impact. Using Emprego Ligado lowers the average commute for people in São Paulo from three hours per day to under one hour per day, reducing strain on the city’s public transportation infrastructure, as well as carbon emissions. The reduction in commute time also helps companies retain workers and avoid turnover costs, as employees who live within four kilometers of their workplace stay with companies longer.


Apply a three-pronged approach: business, UX, and technology

So how did Derek’s team build a product capable of achieving these results? They started with a three-pronged approach to product management, taking into account the business, UX, and technology implications of their product. Specifically, Derek says, successful product management requires thinking about the economic viability of a product or idea (business), the desirability of the product for the intended user (UX), and the feasibility or implementation of the solution (technology):


The role of the product manager is to apply this framework to every project, and it’s especially useful for emerging markets, where the product manager’s goals should be to think flexibly, design locally, and build lightly. The final goal is especially crucial for user acquisition in Brazil, where the typical user’s phone has only 512MB internal memory. With fierce competition for screen real estate, it’s essential to build as lightly as possible. One remarkable example of this approach is Shazam’s adaptation of its popular app, which clocks in at a tiny 1MB.


Identify your extreme user — and design for her

Once you’re comfortable with the framework and how it applies to growth markets, Derek says, your task is to find your extreme user and design your product for her. Emprego Ligado’s extreme user is Aline, a 22-year-old single mother with a partial high-school education, who lives with her family in Sao Paulo. She works one or two jobs per year, earning an average of about $250 U.S. per month when employed, which is sporadic. She uses a feature phone that is low on mobile credit, has intermittent access to a computer, and doesn’t use digital tools to venture beyond her neighborhood (so she rarely does).


Emprego Ligado has many users whose digital worlds look very different from Aline’s: better phones, steady access to a computer, and habits that more closely mirror those of users in developed markets. There’s also a range of other users in between those two ends of the spectrum. And by designing its product to solve Aline’s problems, Emprego Ligado has the best chance of reaching all of them.


Interested in learning more about how to get your product ready for its next billion users? Check out our full conversation with Derek for his full thoughts on how to:


  • abandon U.S.-centric thinking to reach your extreme user
  • navigate entrepreneurial challenges specific to growth markets
  • identify the right strategy to bring your product to the emerging world

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