Watson, the adVIZEor
When Bryce Watson '16 was on a study abroad trip in Beijing, China he saw a need for organized communication amongst factory workers about working conditions and created "Vize".
By Haley Venglar ‘19
After graduation, students either take some time off to explore the world, or dive into the workforce. However, international studies graduate Bryce Watson ‘16 had something much bigger in mind.
As an undergraduate student in the College of Liberal Arts, Watson had the opportunity to take part in study abroad and live in Beijing, China for eight months. While there, he conducted research on the education of children of immigrants who had moved from rural villages across the nation to work in Beijing’s factories.
“I was fortunate enough to be invited to have dinner with some of the children’s families and they would tell me about their jobs,” said Watson. “Some had stories of opportunity and growth, but many had stories of abuse and being forced to work 70 hours a week while living in unsanitary dorms.”
Watson has spent the past five years working with various non-profit organizations and government agencies to turn his initial idea into a full-time business: Vize.
“With Vize, we want to make labor markets around the world more equitable and we’re doing this by giving employees in emerging markets the information that they need to find the best jobs available, and employers the data that they need to retain those workers,” said Watson. “We hope that the rating system will create a direct incentive for the factories to improve conditions.”
Watson’s business is quite literally rooted in his liberal arts education and the opportunities that have developed as a result of his study abroad trip.
“The most important factor from my liberal arts degree has been the exposure to new ideas and ways of analyzing problems,” said Watson. “Traveling to China taught me about a new culture and taught me a new way to understand challenges.”
According to Watson, the absence of active labor unions and efficient labor laws causes individuals seeking work to have to find factories with the least harsh conditions through word of mouth. This lack of resources and information inspired Watson to come up with a solution that would benefit Beijing’s working class.
“This information that they were receiving from other people was often inaccurate,” said Watson. “I noticed that all of them had smartphones and wondered, ‘Why couldn’t they put this information [about the factories’ working conditions] online so that they could build accurate information with their community?”
Though Watson originally wanted to launch Vize in China, due to external factors he chose Tijuana, Mexico instead.
“There is an enormous manufacturing industry in Tijuana that is largely made up of foreign buyers–they call these factories maquiladoras,” said Watson. “About 95% of factory workers have smartphones, so the internet infrastructure and social usage was already present. The factories’ recruiting and retaining costs are extremely high and therefore there is an intense demand for a solution like Vize.”
For more information on Vize, click here.