COVID-19 Startups Venture

The Scramble To Create Job Boards For Laid-Off Workers Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

As the number of unemployed in the United States has mounted exponentially in recent weeks, a number of organizations are stepping up to help match laid-off employees with open positions.

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One of those is Torch Capital, a New York-based early-stage consumer tech fund. Founder Jon Keidan and investment partner Katie Reiner have created an online job database to help those affected by layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic by connecting them with potential employers.

The firm says it saw more than 200 total postings within the first 24 hours of creating the database. As of Monday morning, it has 738 open job postings from companies such as Dollar Shave Club, Zumper and Amazon. Nearly 730 people have also added themselves on the platform with a wide range of talent including business development, engineering, finance, operations, analytics and design. The majority of job openings have been posted by startups.

“Being an early-stage venture investor, we’re seeing firsthand how the current situation is affecting startups across the spectrum,” Keidan told Crunchbase News. “There are people and companies that have had to cut costs drastically and unfortunately, layoffs have been a big part of that.”

But at the other end of the spectrum are companies that are still hiring.

“This isn’t a situation where companies are laying off their worst performers,” Keidan said. “It’s straight up cost-cutting. There’s a lot of talented people looking for work. So we were trying to figure out how to connect a committed pool of people looking for jobs with those hiring from that same pool.”

The idea for putting together the spreadsheet was born out of an internal strategy of trying to figure out ways Torch could help portfolio companies grow and cut costs.

“A friend knew that one of our companies was hiring and mentioned that she had to lay off 25 incredible engineers,” Reiner recalls. “I saw the list and realized how incredibly tough it is to find such quality talent in normal environments. The light bulb came on.”

Reiner started putting together a Google spreadsheet that quickly went viral, she said.

“At that point, we decided to create a unified website,” Reiner told Crunchbase News. “This was built to stretch way beyond Torch’s portfolio companies, and invigorate the market.”

Speaking of portfolio companies, Torch has funded about 23 companies since its inception two years ago. They include Acorns, Ro, Sweetgreen, Zocdoc, Naadam, Recess and others. It raised nearly $70 million across two tranches for its first fund.

The company is not charging for its job-matching services.

Another resource

Earlier this week, a new company based out of North Carolina, LayOffers, announced it is accelerating its launch in light of the economic uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Jeffrey Jewett, a tech executive who has held senior roles at the likes of Impact Technologies, Procore, PitchBook and Smartsheet, actually founded the service earlier this year but went live at on April 6. He’s self-funded.

The site tracks layoff events and has over 10,000 jobs posted on it with “thousands of recruiters and candidates joining the site.” While most sites are focused on only the tech industry, Jewett said he wants LayOffers to be a resource for all industries.

LayOffers also provides a company directory where it says people can discuss potential layoffs anonymously–“like Glassdoor or Indeed focused on layoffs with a Reddit style company discussion around recent layoff events.” There folks can provide reviews on their outplacement services and report on the company’s outlook.

It also offers a candidate explorer where recruiters can find people who have been laid off from specific companies and set up criteria-specific alerts that trigger notifications once candidates join and match this criteria. It monitors layoffs in real-time and also offers a forum where users can provide mental and emotional support to one another.

“The traffic we are experiencing is fueled by the misfortune of others during an unprecedented health crisis and for that reason, we have decided to make the service 100% free. There is no go-to resource for displaced workers and our rapid growth is a testament to the need for critical information around layoffs, benefits, severance packages and more,” Jewett said in a statement.

Eventually, he said, there will be a long-term monetization strategy around partnering with outplacement vendors or other services that can benefit the audience through affiliates or other partnerships. However, there is no immediate timeline for this because of COVID-19.

After launch, ZoomInfo agreed to give LayOffers a recruiter list with hundreds of thousands of recruiters, Jewett told Crunchbase News.

“With such unrivaled data, we are now able to turn our mission into a reality,” Jewett said

‘Actively hiring’

Drafted says it has retooled its hiring technology to create a free platform for laid off workers to get connected with hiring recruiters. The Boston-based startup says it has more than 5,000 recruiters on its mailing list and 500 recruiters “actively hiring” on its platform from companies such as Amazon, Uber and various growth startups.

Venture-backed Catalyte is working on a unique approach. It is helping individuals from any professional background learn how to become software engineers.

“We have engineers who were baristas, roofers, fast-food workers, teachers, PhD candidates, you name it,” said Jacob Hsu, Catalyte CEO.

The Baltimore, Maryland-based company’s screening identifies software development aptitude. It claims to then provide “the technical and soft skills needed to be a successful junior developer.”

“This is so important now as we have millions of people unemployed, almost all without a computer science degree or prior tech experience,” Hsu wrote via email. “Many of their previous positions aren’t coming back. We need to be able to slingshot around this crisis and provide better, more stable, more lucrative careers for those who can do the work.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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