Upski: Intelligent Bot for Economic Mobility



The COVID-19 pandemic has led to economic disruption and widespread anxiety. The International labor Organization (ILO) has anticipated 25 million job losses globally, and 10 million people in the U.S. alone have already applied for unemployment benefits. The number is anticipated to rise due to the severity of the economic downturn. Additionally, the ILO warns, and it has become clear in the months of lockdowns throughout the world, that certain populations will be disproportionately affected by this job crisis: people in less-protected and low-paying jobs, especially the youth and elderly; women; and migrant workers. This will further increase global socio-economic inequality.

Our team mitigates this damage by using technology to help connect job seekers with remote work opportunities as an alternative income source during this crisis. We have developed Upski, an intelligent recommendation system in the form of a chatbot that introduces remote job opportunities to our beneficiaries. We assess their skills and interests and match them with appropriate remote work and upskilling resources. This service is currently being offered for free through Facebook Messenger in order to more easily reach our target populations.

Our mission is to provide tailored and equal access to learning and economic mobility opportunities by leveraging predictive analytic and artificial intelligence in the form of virtual assistant technology (chatbot). We aim to reach the most vulnerable of our global workforce, recommend the best upskilling resources, and connect them with sustainable remote jobs that are tailored to their needs and skills.
Our solution is to utilize the untapped benefits of crowdsourcing and digital technology by introducing full-time and flexible remote jobs that allow individuals to work online as the alternative income source during this crisis, and to prepare for the long-term change in jobs for the future. Though the idea of remote work is appealing, sifting through job listings can get confusing and cumbersome, yielding meager results that are often full of job scams. To address this immediate problem, we developed the Upski chatbot.

Our Solution

The Upski chatbot asks users a series of simple questions that serve as a quick skills assessment. The chatbot uses these inputs to create a list of remote job and upskilling recommendations specific to the user’s background and expertise. The recommendations provided to users have been pre-screened by our team to ensure they are legitimate and not scams. Our team also collects all data retrieved from the questions to analyze and learn more about our target demographic. Over time, as we collect and learn from our data, we will improve the intelligence and automation of our recommendation system to increase its effectiveness.

In order to best serve our target demographic and scale our implementation, building sustainable partnerships with the government, private sector, and civil society organizations is critical. Our team has strong relationships with the Obama Foundation, the MIT Media Lab, resources from Harvard and Stanford universities, and organizations that work directly with those at risk, including the Labor Protection Network and Solve Education.


We are a new-generation multidisciplinary team in technology, data, business, and digital marketing.

Viria Vichit-Vadakan is a social entrepreneur recognized by the Obama Foundation and World Economic Forum for her work in education technology. She will complete her Harvard Business School MBA in May 2020.

Pat Pataranutaporn is an antidisciplinary technologist/scientist/artist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is part of the Fluid Interfaces research group at MIT Media Lab led by Professor Pattie Maes, which specializes in designing on-body technology for human enhancement. Pat’s research is at the intersection of biotechnology and wearable computing, specifically at the interface between biological and digital systems.

Poom Shetshotisak is an entrepreneur and engineer who worked in automation and robotics before he founded businesses that leverage chatbot technologies and digital marketing.

Nikiya Crisostomo has a B.S./M.S. in Civil Engineering from Stanford, and worked in engineering management and data analytics prior to Upski. Kyla Crisostomo also graduated from Stanford and has experience marketing mission-driven organizations. They are sisters who grew up in poverty and migrated from the Philippines, so Upski’s mission is deeply personal for them.