“You can really invest in yourself, and there’s nothing to lose,” the highly educated and enthusiastic Robert Lo tells me. He’s talking about his smartphone app, Alset. Say you want a photographer, dog walker, yoga instructor, business consultant , etc.— or say you are one — you download the app and connect with those in your area. But unlike other service-providing apps, Alset lets you barter, do a favor, and get paid for services, depending on your preference.
“Originally, I developed the app to give people who wanted to gain experience the ability to do favors for a while until they gained enough experience and they could switch over to paid services, once they got enough reviews,” Lo explains as I devour an amazing omelet at Hugo’s on Santa Monica Boulevard
Alset’s trade-favor-sell options are genius, providing a brilliant rebuttal to online services like Thumbtack, which also matches customers with local professionals. However on Thumbtack, you need reviews to get work but you need work to get reviews, which can be time-consuming (not to mention costly, since Thumbtack charges to advertise services). On Alset, because you can barter or do a favor as well as sell, you can get reviews more quickly to build up your cred which can sooner result in revenue. With Alset, you simply need the drive and desire to work, and success can be achieved expeditiously.
Yet at its heart, Alset is not about making a bundle. (It’s certainly not for Lo, who only takes a flat fee of 50 cents from the seller of each financial transaction made. Service provider platforms like Alset usually charge extravagant percentage-based fees.) Instead, it’s about connecting with others and community.
“I’m in service of other folks,” Lo tells me. “I think that why we’re all here, it’s really to help each other … it’s about lifting each other up. I think that’s how we really get on with life. It’s to really help each other.”
If it sounds like Lo lives in a dream world where mountains are made of cream and chocolate cake, that’s hardly the case. The modest Robert Lo has done his homework and has some serious experience under his belt. He’s worked for Fortune 500 companies as a management consultant and has enough corporate experience to make any WeHo resident shudder. By the way, he currently is a member of West Hollywood’s Business License Commission.
While consulting for high profile companies, Lo noticed that his employers didn’t use their greatest resource: Human Capital. He couldn’t understand why companies were not investing in those who had the power to optimize their businesses. Alset does the opposite of that: It’s a community-based app that rests on investing in others — though instead of it being only monetarily, it’s with trust: Trust that someone can get the job done, trust to do an equitable quid pro quo, and trust that people actually do favors without asking for something in return — and even trust that doing a favor will lead to something good.
You can download the Alset app and advertise the services you have to offer. This is particularly good if you’re looking to get your feet wet on a new career path. Or if you’re waiting around for work, why not network while keeping your talents fresh? Alternatively, if you have stuff that needs doing, you can search for what you need and find it in your backyard, literally. Barter, do a favor and even get paid.
Lo envisions Alset going beyond West Hollywood and even America. Lo at one time had wanted to help out in impoverished countries, but then realized the work he needed to do could be done right here in West Hollywood, with his app that he hopes one day will improve Third World countries.
One of the coolest things about the app is that it’s for everyone. Its multi-generational appeal is not just happenstance. Lo designed it that way. He describes an hourglass to explain his logic: At the top of the hourglass is where all the power is, that’s where the Baby Boomers are according to Lo, which he defines as those born between 1946 and 1964. Coming from their Depression-traumatized parents, Boomers, Lo says, are focused on security. “What they wanted to do was create safety for themselves. And to create safety and security they [did] it through power, and power is through wealth, and wealth is what they generated for themselves. That’s why we think of them as kind of Scrooges.”
After the Boomers, in the middle of the hourglass are the Gen Xers, who Lo defines as those born from 1964 to 1976. They don’t think money is the answer to everything: “What they value is not wealth, but time. They grew up, not cutting corners, but really knowing how to do stuff effectively and efficiently… so they could save time and still be able to go shopping and surfing and exercising and still rest. They value time.”
Finally, at the bottom of the hourglass are the Millennials and Gen Zs, born between 1977 and 1995 and 1995 and 1996, respectively according to Lo. These generations value teamwork, contribution, and progress, per Lo: [They value] shared resources because they know there’s a limited amount of resources out there. That’s why they’re willing to share.”
Alset is meant not just for one generation, it’s for the whole hourglass and future generations to come. “That’s how I designed the app — around the three different value systems — because it’s an open-source system that allows human capital to redefine values as they see it.”
Robert Lo certainly has a big brain and it’s in the right place. If the maxim, “If you build it, they will come” is true, the Alset app could enable people to advance their experience, shift cultural norms and even transform our current economic system into the next frontier. And it could start right here, with West Hollywood leading the charge.
“I would love West Hollywood to take on some of that,” says Lo, who’s been a resident for 25 years and currently serves on the city’s Business License Commission. “However way it shows up — whether it’s with drag queens or gay sports leagues, however it shows up. The Russians. I don’t really know how it’s going to happen.”
Very simply. VisitAlset’s website for more information, or just download the appby clicking here and get started. You have nothing to lose — except your old ways of doing thingsthat have far less heart. Gain experience, share, barter, get a job done well. You may even save or make a few bucks. With Alset, you’ll be All Set, having all your bases covered, complete with a community you’ll realize was there for you all along.
In West Hollywood, a city whose economy is built on tourism and nightlife, there is an active but little known community of digital entrepreneurs. This is the latest story by WEHOville.com about one of those. Earlier stories were aboutBlaine Vessand his StudyMode.com, Olenka and Adam Polakand their MyLingo app, Jonathan Eppers’ RadPad app, Firas Bushnaq’s $100 million sale of his Obitera cloud-based software platform, and Adam Guild’s PlacePull.