Over the past 20 years, tuition rates have spiked by more than 150 percent. More students are pursuing their degrees, only to graduate with a staggering amount of debt, and getting a flexible college job to offset living costs while accruing that debt isn’t always easy. One Rhode Island-based startup is aiming to help students leverage their talents and interests to freelance in their communities.
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Pangea.app was founded by Adam Alpert and John Tambunting, both recent graduates of Brown University. Their company, which is officially launching today, allows students to advertise their freelancing projects–from physics tutoring and guitar lessons to website design and videography–within their local communities.
“Pangea.app is focusing on the college market, the 20.5 million students in the U.S. who are highly skilled and can do a lot, but are totally underutilized,” Alpert told Crunchbase News.
With Pangea.app, buyers can post requests for help on the app, and browse current offerings. Those users range from students in Rhode Island to local businesses and entrepreneurs in the area.
“People are using the app to hire college students to help build websites, create content for their businesses, and help them do marketing,” Alpert said. “These entrepreneurs are able to get really good quality work while helping students pay for school and get the experience they need to get full-time jobs once they graduate.”
Anyone can download the app, make a request, and browse for talent, but for now, the company is limiting the providers on Pangea.app to college students in Rhode Island. The team plans to expand to other universities in the future. Pangea.app currently uses Stripe as its payments service and relies on a rating system within the app to keep both the student providers and requesters accountable. Alpert says that users are responsible for filling out 1099s for work that they complete on the platform, and the company plans to add features that ensure transactions are legally binding and compliant.
“We will be advocating for new regulations around freelancing and short-term employment to make it more transparent and easy for people to engage in the sharing economy,” Alpert told Crunchbase News. “The current regulatory system is not necessarily aligned with the future nature of work and should be updated to reflect new modes of economic activity.”
The company participated in Brown’s eight-week accelerator program, B-Lab, in the summer of 2017. The program provides student entrepreneurs with space, a stipend, and access to experienced mentors. The company is now in an incubator program run through Brown for post-graduate entrepreneurial projects.
Alpert told Crunchbase News that the team will be spending this semester building the app community. The company is relying on social media platforms like Instagram to engage with its users. Further, the team plans to run focus groups and host events in Providence, like a farmers market-style night market where student freelancers can showcase their talent.
After launching the beta version of its app last year, the company attracted 500 Brown students to the platform; it hopes to add 1,000 more from Brown and other universities in Rhode Island by the end of the semester. Once the company hits 10,000 users, it plans to start collecting a 10 percent fee on all transactions from new signups.
The company is aiming to raise $750,000 by the end of the year, likely from investors in New York and Boston. The Pangea.app team itself, though, is staying in Rhode Island. Alpert, who is also the Associate Director of the Rhode Island Coalition of Entrepreneurs, a newly founded grassroots organization of startups in the state, believes that growing startup communities in regions like Rhode Island are the place to be.
“We have 100,000 students here in Rhode Island. Providence is situated between New York and Boston, and has really good access to all of the schools in New England. It’s very strategic for us to want to be here,” he expressed.
That sentiment rings true for a lot of startups around the U.S. as cost of living and talent acquisition costs skyrocket in big tech hubs. Pangea.app is one more local startup run by millennials hoping to prove that Silicon Valley isn’t the only place startups can thrive.
Illustration Credit: Li Anne Dias
Editorial Update: A previous version of this article noted that the company aims to raise $1.5 million, it has since been updated.