by Herman Manson (@marklives) What value would a brand or marketing find in a staff-on-demand platform, you may ask?

Essentially, M4JAM (Money 4 Jam) offers access to thousands of consumers — carefully segmented, of course — able and willing to provide real-time market research, mystery shopping and even product training. Now also available to brands is a similar service, focused upon in-house corporate training.

Andre Hugo
Andre Hugo

Rewarded with cash

In return, those customers, known as “jobbers” in M4JAM parlance, are rewarded with cash (often between R20–R30 per job), which they can cash out at Pick n Pay or Shoprite stores. The minimum amount for a withdrawal is R15, with the maximum capped at R1000. The wallet size at the time of cash-out averages R250–R300. The number of jobs available on a weekly basis averages between 20–30 000, and the company has in excess of 83 000 active jobbers in the field at the moment.

The business was launched by Andre Hugo, a former chief commercial officer at DirectAxis and director at Deloitte Digital, and his cousin, Warren Venter, founder of location service, Waytag.

The concept for M4JAM emerged during a discussion in which the duo saw an opportunity to “disrupt traditional data gathering models and specifically focused on real-time research, whereby consumers offered opinions or gathered data at specified locations, engaging directly with the brands in exchange for value,” says Hugo.

First meeting, first client signed

Hugo and Venter hit the road, targetting 20 South African CEOs they knew who spent budget on digital. In their first meeting, they signed their first client — and, 115 days later, they launched their service on a self-built platform and with a 100 000 jobs available to jobbers (which they believed would last them three months).

Initially, it launched with a three-month exclusivity period on WeChat, but has since diversified online and onto feature phones. Jobbers now access jobs through various platforms, including mobisites, WeChat, email, SMS and Facebook.

The approach away from being purely app-based is strategic and aimed at reaching the mass market. It’s where marketers want and need to gain strategic insights, and the cash-for-jobs model may be truly transformative in this market. One jobber is already financing his matric year using the platform.

At the moment, around 15% of jobbers are over 55, although 25–35 year olds make up the bulk of users. They tend to LSM 8-10 as a result of where early marketing efforts were focused; Hugo promises that a fuller spectrum of LSM demographics is on its way.

M4JAM logoNearly crashed and burned

Nevertheless, the business nearly crashed and burned before it even had a chance to get going. Three days after going live, 12 500 jobbers arrived at Pick n Pay stores, wanting to cash out their wallets. Staff members were not trained in this, and it was going to take 3–6 weeks to do so. Social media buzzed that M4JAM was a scam and it faced a deluge of angry jobbers demanding their money.

Taking a cue from its own book, the company put out a training manual that rewarded jobbers for training themselves, and then training a Pick n Pay staffer to do the same. Jobbers trained staff at 2000 Pick n Pay till points, and support calls dropped from 200 an hour to two.

This walking the talk has paid off for M4JAM. In February 2015, WeChat Africa (a joint Naspers and Tencent venture) invested in the platform, with the promise to help it scale globally. WeChat Africa head, Brett Loubser, and Tencent general manager of international business, Poshu Yeung, also joined its board.


Launched with a staff of three in August 2014, the business currently consist of a team of 14, primarily based at its Stellenbosch office. It faces a number of hurdles when it comes to achieving scale, though. While sales staff are enjoying an 80% conversion rate, there are limits in terms of just how many marketers they may reach. Vendor forms also take up a lot of time, especially at a start-up not stacked with admin personnel.

Hugo believes M4JAM can scale to 5m jobbers in the next 12 months and 50m in the next 24, through a referral model that gives referrers a percentage of revenue from every jobber they sign up, thus creating their own workforce to help them earn.

To achieve these numbers, M4JAM will be looking at global growth and is currently preparing a self-service campaign platform so marketers may load their own campaigns and pay with a corporate credit card or preloaded wallet (same as you do with Facebook or Google Ads).

Self-service rollout

The self-service rollout will make M4JAM instantly available in numerous English language markets and is scheduled to go live during the course of August 2015. In anticipation, it is already in the process of securing jobbers and jobs in key markets such as Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Italy and Spain, and expects to be in 20 new markets within the next year.

It is also working on an insights business for brands and ad agencies that will allow it to offer real-time insights based upon the data jobbers provide.

M4JAM offers hyper-local experiences and targeting, too: retailers could monitor store-level bottlenecks, says Hugo, and TomTom is using the platform to verify points of interest. The company is building an offering that will allow NGOs to use local jobbers to ensure donations trickle down to where they’re supposed to go. Brands such as Unilever, SAB and Hungry Lion are all experimenting with the platform and app companies are using it to beta-test products, too.

Built-in safeguards

There are built-in safeguards against people gaming the system, and the quality of feedback is consistently monitored.

Online complaints that jobbers lands on telesales lists is dismissed by Hugo, who says that may only happen if brands asked users (and paid them) to opt in to their call lists. In fact, says Hugo, the company has found that campaigns of this nature “are not the right campaigns for our community and we are no longer placing them on platform as ‘jobs’ and are working with key providers to find a better solution that works for our community.”

M4JAM has been in the black since its launch, although all profit is currently being reinvested in growing the business. Funding is currently provided by Naspers/Tencent, and the company is on the verge of unlocking KPIs that will release its next phase of growth funding.


Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of

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