Before an exit, founders must get their employment law ducks in a row

Successfully selling a business has much to do with timing. For many entrepreneurs, it’s the high-stakes end game where they cash out and reap the rewards of their efforts. At a certain point, when both buyers and sellers are working hard to close the deal, negotiations can move very quickly. If you’re the seller, this is not the time to discover unanticipated problems in your business.

Distressingly often, these problems are related to employment. Inattention to employment issues can have a significant impact on deals — from preventing closings and reducing the deal value to altering the deal terms or significantly limiting the pool of potential buyers.

Poor compliance, lack of policies or flawed practices mean potential liability exposure or expensive policy revisions and employee retraining — all of which can devalue your business.

Fortunately, such issues typically can be resolved well in advance with a little forethought and legal guidance. It’s important to get your employment ducks in a row long before you start planning your exit.

What follows is an overview of the three main categories of employment issues that can derail or delay a sale. For the most part, these assume an asset sale, but may vary in the case of a stock sale.

Compliance

By far the most significant problem is general employment law compliance. This means creating strong employment policies and practices that are documented, in place and operating long before you pursue a deal. The key area is wage and hour issues — timekeeping and payroll practices, worker classification issues (employee vs. independent contractor; exempt vs. non-exempt), meal and rest periods, PTO policies and payouts at termination.

#articles, #column, #ec-column, #employment, #employment-laws, #executive, #hiring, #labor, #law, #startups

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Teamsters plan aggressive push to unionize Amazon logistics workers

One of the country’s most powerful unions, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, confirmed today that it plans to make a nationwide push to unionize Amazon warehouse workers and drivers. And it won’t be a gentle one.

The news was first reported by Motherboard, which obtained a video and resolution announcing the effort. As the organization explained, the plan to unionize Amazon’s growing logistics business has been underway for some time, and the failure in Bessemer to do so — after the grassroots effort faced intense opposition from Amazon itself — illustrates why such an endeavor is necessary.

As Teamsters National Director for Amazon Randy Korgan explained in a recent op-ed on Salon that hinted at the effort:

I see that Teamster locals across the country are already stepping up to meet the challenge by engaging members, building large volunteer organizing committees, building strong community-labor alliances and integrating transformative social justice organizing into their work.

As we saw in the closely-watched National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, the company is willing to violate the law and spare no expense to keep its workers from forming a union.

Building genuine worker power at Amazon will take shop-floor militancy by Amazon workers and solidarity from warehousing and delivery Teamsters.

The Teamsters’ plan, assuming a passing vote at this week’s 30th quinquennial International Convention, is to create a special Amazon Division that will fund and aid unionizing efforts in the company’s workforces around the country.

While Amazon repeats loudly and at every possible occasion its commitment to safe and well paid jobs, reports continue to come out of workers in horrendous conditions, callous management, and stagnant wages. As to the last, while Amazon has established a $15 minimum wage at the company, others have pointed out that this is far less than many warehouse workers and drivers were making at other jobs — which have now lowered their compensation to follow Amazon’s lead.

The conflict at Bessemer, in which Amazon was accused of union-busting tactics and dirty tricks to sink a traditional union voting process, has prompted the Teamsters to adopt a different approach.

According to Motherboard, the organization is planning “a series of pressure campaigns involving work stoppages, petitions, and other collective action,” in the hopes that Amazon will find unionization and negotiation preferable. I’ve asked the company for comment on the matter and will update if I hear back.

This is one of the union’s highest priority efforts for the next few years, though it did not specify any particular timeline or budget — no doubt because much of that depends on the situation they find on the ground. But Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of workers represent an enormous untapped working group, the unionization of which could realize similarly enormous sums in benefits for them.

The full text of the resolution will be published when it is provided to the local unions for a vote, at which point it will be embedded below in this article.

#amazon, #labor, #teamsters, #unionizing, #unions

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Beamery raises $138M at an $800M valuation for its ‘operating system for recruitment’

Online job listings were one of the first things to catch on in the first generation of the internet. But that has, ironically, also meant that some of the most-used digital recruitment services around today are also some of the least evolved in terms of tapping into all of the developments that tech has to offer, leaving the door open for some disruption. Today, one of the startups doing just that is announcing a big round of funding to double down on its growth so far.

Beamery, which has built what it describes as a “talent operating system” — a way to manage sourcing, hiring and retaining of people, plus analyzing the bigger talent picture for an organization, a “talent graph” as Beamery calls it, in an all-in-one, end-to-end service — has raised $138 million, money that it plans to use to continue building out more technology, as well as growing its business, which has been expanding quickly and saw 337% revenue growth year over year in Q4.

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’), a prolific tech investor, is leading the round by way of its Teachers’ Innovation Platform (TIP). Other participants in this Series C includes several strategic backers who are also using Beamery: Accenture Ventures, EQT Ventures, Index Ventures, M12 (Microsoft’s venture arm) and Workday Ventures (the venture arm of the HR software giant).

Abakar Saidov, co-founder and CEO at London-based Beamery, told TechCrunch in an interview that it is not disclosing valuation, but sources in the know say it’s in the region of $800 million.

The round is coming on the heels of a very strong year for the company.

The “normal” way of doing things in the working world was massively upended with the rise of Covid-19 in early 2020, and within that, recruitment was among one of the most impacted areas. Not only were people applying and interviewing for jobs completely remotely, but in many cases they were getting hired, onboarded and engaged into new jobs without a single face-to-face interaction with a recruiter, manager or colleague.

And that’s before you consider the new set of constraints that HR teams were under in many places: variously, we saw hiring freezes, furloughs, layoffs and budget cuts (often more than one of these per business), and yet work still needed to get done.

All that really paved the way for platforms like Beamery’s — designed not only to be remote-friendly software-as-a-service running in the cloud, but to handle the whole recruiting and talent management process from a single place — to pick up new customers and prove its role as an updated, more user-friendly approach to the task of sourcing and placing talent.

“Traditional HR is very admin-heavy, and when you add in payroll and benefits, the systems that exist are very siloed,” said Saidov in the interview. “The innovation for us has been to move out of that construct and into something that is human, and has a human touch. From a data perspective, we’re creating the underlying system of record for all of the people touching a business. So when you build on top of that, everything looks like a consumer application.”

In the last 12 months, the company said that customers — which are in the area of large enterprises and include Covid vaccine maker AstraZeneca, Autodesk, Nasdaq, several major tech giants, and strategic investor Workday — filled 1 million roles through its platform, a figure that includes not just sourcing and placing candidates from outside of an organization’s walls, but also filling roles internally.

The work that Beamery is doing is definitely helping the business not just pull its weight — its last round was a much more modest $28 million, which was raised way back in 2018 — but grow and invest in new services.

The company said it had a year-on-year increase of 462% in jobs posted across its customer base. A year before that (which would have extended into pre-pandemic 2019), the number of candidates pipelined increased by a mere 46%, pointing to acceleration.

Beamery today already offers a pretty wide range different services.

They include tools to source candidates. This can be done organically by creating your own job boards to be found by anyone curious enough to look, and by leveraging other job boards on other platforms like LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned professional networking platform that counts “Talent Solutions” — ie recruitment — as one of its primary business lines. (Recall Microsoft is one of Beamery’s backers.) It also provides tools to create and manage online recruitment events.

Beamery also offers tools to help people get the word out about a role, with a service akin to programmatic advertising (similar to ZipRecruiter) to populate other job boards, or run more targeted executive recruitment searches. It also provides a way for HR teams to create internal recruitment processes, and also run surveys with existing teams to get a better picture of the state of play.

And it has some analytics tools in place to measure how well recruitment drives, retention and other metrics are evolving to help plan what to do in the future.

The big question for me now is how and if Beamery will bring more into that universe. There have been some interesting startups emerging in the wider world of talent IT (if we could call it that) that could be interesting complements to what Beamery already has, or provide a roadmap for what it might try to build itself.

It includes much more extensive work on internal job boards (such as what Gloat has built); digging much deeper into building accurate pictures of who is at the company and what they do (see: ChartHop); or the many services that are building ways of sourcing and connecting with contractors, which are a huge, and growing, part of the talent equation for companies (see: Turing,  RemoteDeelPapaya GlobalLattice, Factorial, and many others).

Beamery already includes contractors alongside full- and part-time roles that can be filled using its platform, but when it comes to managing those contractors, that’s something that Beamery does not do itself, so that could be one area where it might grow, too.

“The key reason enterprises work with us it to consolidate a bunch of workflows,” Saidov said. “HR hates having different systems and everything becomes easier when things interoperate well.” Employing contractors typically involves three elements: sourcing, management and scheduling, so Beamery will likely approach how it grows in that area by determining which piece might be “super core” the centralization of more data, he added.

Another two likely areas he hinted are on Beamery’s roadmap are assessments — that is, providing tools to recruiters who want to measure the skills of applicants for jobs (another startup-heavy area today) — and tools to help recruiters do their jobs better, whether that involves more native communications tools in video and messaging, as well as Gong-like coaching to help them measure and improve screening and interviewing.

It might also consider developing a version for smaller businesses to use.

Questions investors are happy to see considered, it seems, as they invest in what looks like a winner in the bigger race. TIP’s other investments have included ComplyAdvantage, Epic Games, Graphcore, KRY and SpaceX, a long run in a wide field.

“Leading companies worldwide are prioritising recruitment and retention. They are turning to Beamery for a best-in-class talent solution that can be seamlessly integrated with their business,” said Maggie Fanari, MD for TIP in Emea. “Beamery’s best-in-class approach is already recognized by top-tier companies. I’m excited by the company’s vision of to use technology to support long-term talent growth and build better businesses. Beamery is the first company to bring predictive marketing and data science into recruitment. They are a truly innovative company, building a vision that can shape the future of work – the company fits all the criteria we look for in a TIP investment and more.”

#beamery, #enterprise, #europe, #funding, #hiring, #hr, #job-boards, #jobs, #labor, #recruitment, #talent

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Gloat raises $57M to reinvent the internal job board

A lot of the focus in recruitment these days has been on better technology to connect people to job opportunities at new organizations, but that also leaves a wide opening to focus on one of the other big funnels for finding work: internal transfers. Today, a startup that is building tools to improve that experience is announcing a big round of funding to expand its business.

Gloat, which has built an AI-based platform that it sells to organizations to power their internal job boards, has picked up $57 million in funding, money that it will be using both to continue both for business development, but also to continue adding more features to its own platform, for example to expand deeper into openings for contractors and to open up more opportunities for secondments at other businesses, and to extend into front-line positions alongside the knowledge worker roles for which the AI is currently optimized — in short, to improve career agility for people embedded at, and valued by, an organization, who may want to explore opportunities there instead of, or even alongside, looking elsewhere.

Accel is leading this Series C round, with previous backers Eight Roads (a part of Fidelity), Intel Capital, Magma Venture Partners, and PICO Partners also participating.

Gloat is not (ahem) gloating about its valuation, but we understand that it is in the region of around $400 million (but note, it’s a wide region so might be as low as $300 million or as high as $500 million: we’ll update when and if we learn more). The Tel Aviv-based startup has raised $92 million to date and counts big companies like Unilever, Pepsi, MetLife, HSBC and ADP among its customers.

Ben Reuveni, Gloat’s CEO who co-founded the business with Amichai Schreiber and Danny Shteinberg, said he got the idea for the company while working as an engineer focusing on storage at IBM after IBM acquired a smaller company where he was working. This was his first job after spending time in the Israel’s IDF, and so after six years of working first for the startup and then IBM in effectively a similar role, he had itchy feet and wanted to do more.

But the problem, he said, was that although IBM did have internal job boards, it was hard to see how his expertise mapped on to the opportunities that were available. And that is before you consider the interface or any of the other aspects of user experience of using these tools. On top of this, when you are considering large enterprises the size of IBM, chances are that they are not focusing too much on individualized career development or talent retention for most people at the lower end of the wider pay scale.

“I really had only two options available to me,” he said. “Look for new jobs outside the company, or try to look internally. The fact was that exploring outside was easier than looking internally.”

It turns out that his experience was not unique. Internal job boards, he said, typically have atrocious engagement, in the single-digit percentage of staff.

Reuveni eventually did move on from IBM, to start Gloat. The company’s central premise is to build a job board tool that it sells to bigger enterprises — the kind that employ thousands of people and already have job boards — so that they can better hold on to talent rather than losing it to others because they — the employee and the employer — haven’t found the right role for a particular person who wants to switch gears.

It does this first of all by way of making the barrier to using Gloat very low: it initially can be integrated with whatever recruiting software or tools that an organization might already be using to source and internally advertise their job openings, which it then channels through its system and algorithm.

Secondly, it starts to build profiles not just of jobs, but of people in the organization and the skills that they have to match with those jobs. That is to say, Gloat’s taken what has typically been a very one-sided, and one-directional effort and turned it into one that goes both ways. To source information on employees — who can signal to Gloat that they would like to look for new opportunities — it looks at employment records, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and perhaps a little input from the employee directly: all of this is ingested into its AI to help match a person to openings.

In cases where those skills are not quite right for what an employee wants to do, they get guidance on what they need to learn, and might also get options for “part-time” work within the organization where they can pick up experience they may still lack. (This is not unlike the career development tools that LinkedIn has built to bolster job hunting on its platform.)

Meanwhile, the department looking for a new person is getting sent referrals through the system, but it can also proactively use the Gloat database to find people to tap.

All of this is interesting but it leaves out a tricky variable, in the form of a manager.

What if you are working in a tense environment or simply don’t get along with the person to whom you directly report? Or what if the manager is possessive and doesn’t want to encourage you to leave? Considering that management is often evaluated not just on their own performance but on how well their teams do, it can be a risk to lose someone good.

Gloat’s system requires managers to endorse a worker as part of the process, so while some might be genuinely happy to see people they value continue to go upwards and onwards, couldn’t that also blow up this whole system in a bad way in those other cases?

Reuveni brushed that scenario aside when I brought it up, describing Gloat as a “win win situation” for managers, too, who will be motivated to help because the platform helps them find the right replacements. “Every manager can open a part-time project or internal job with their product,” he said.

I’m not fully convinced that may always be the case. But on the other hand, if you’re in a tough situation in your current placement, maybe looking at other organizations, or just using the more standard job board approach (which remains active, from what I understand), both would be better options anyway.

In the meantime, the company is looking to keep stretching the concept of “internal hires” into a much wider set of circumstances.

That will include providing openings to existing contractors looking for new contract roles when their current assignments end; or moving from a company to a similar role at another organization, as long as it’s non-competitive with your current employer (something that also comes up, Reuveni said, when a company is conducting a mass restructuring and is attempting to help affected employees find jobs elsewhere); or providing more analytics to HR teams, managers and other higher-ups who want a better look at the state of talent at their companies.

With talent retention and brain drain continuing to be big issues in a number of industries, it seems like a ripe time to address all of that.

“As companies are adapting their workforces to be more flexible and take advantage of remote workers, new tools are needed to optimise productivity and ensure equality of opportunities,” said Philippe Botteri, Partner at Accel, in a statement. “Gloat pioneered the Talent Marketplace to solve that, and it’s now becoming a strategic tool for global enterprises. Some of the world’s largest, most forward-looking companies are benefiting from the workforce agility enabled by Gloat’s AI-powered platform. The Accel team is looking forward to partnering with Gloat on the next stage of its journey, bringing this fundamentally new way of developing talent and managing work to every global enterprise.”

#funding, #gloat, #hiring, #jobs, #labor, #personnel, #recruitment

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As the economy reopens, startups are uniquely positioned to recruit talent

We are amidst a sprawling renegotiation between employers and employees as to the very nature of work, and no one has more leverage than skilled technologists — many of whom feel unmoored from their current jobs.

Our 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report — which in the second quarter polled technology professionals who mostly work at bigger organizations — shows 48% tech professionals expressed an interest in changing companies this year, up from 40% in the fourth quarter of 2020, and a big jump from 32% in the second quarter last year.

It’s a unique moment, one that creates an unusual opportunity for startup founders on the hunt for talent.

Fast growing upstarts have a lot of advantages. Bigger companies may be more likely to attempt to recreate the office environment of the past — especially if they have leased space and a built environment that will be difficult to unwind. Startups are often non-traditional and may be able to react to create the hybrid work environments many technologists crave as the economy reopens.

While all startups are certainly not focused on being disruptive, they often rely on cutting-edge technology and processes to give their customers something truly new. Many are trying to change the pattern in their particular industry. So, by definition, they generally have a really interesting mission or purpose that may be more appealing to tech professionals.

A migration of tech talent just as the economy is revving up would be disruptive and could also play to startup strengths. The market for tech talent is already strong: tech hiring has increased every month since November, according to our last tech jobs report released in May. Great data engineers, developers, business analysts and the like are in red-hot demand, and unemployment in tech is just above 2.4% percent, versus 5.5.% percent in the economy overall.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #entrepreneurship, #labor, #personnel, #recruiting, #recruitment, #startups, #tech-jobs, #tech-recruitment

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Freelancer marketplace Toptal sues Andela and ex-employees, alleging theft of trade secrets

The war for talent in the tech world can be brutal — and so, it turns out, can the war between platforms that help companies source it. In the latest developement, Toptal — a marketplace for filling engineering and other tech roles with freelance, remote workers — has filed a lawsuit against direct competitor Andela and several of its employees, alleging the theft of trade secrets in pursuit of “a perfect clone of its business”, according to the complaint. All of the Andela employees previously worked at Toptal.

Toptal’s lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York and embedded below, alleges that the employees reneged on confidentiality, non-solicitation and non-compete agreements with Toptal. Toptal also alleges interference with contract, unfair competition and misappropriation of trade secrets.

While both Toptal and Andela have built businesses around the idea of remote freelancers filling tech jobs — a concept that has increased in profile and acceptance as people shifted to remote work during the pandemic — the pair only emerged as very direct competitors in the last year or so.

Toptal was co-founded by CEO Taso Du Val in 2010, and since then it has grown to become one of the world’s most popular on-demand talent networks. The company matches skilled tech personnel like engineers, software developers, designers, finance experts and product managers to clients across the globe. According to company data, it currently serves over 1,000 clients in more than 10 countries.

Andela, on the other hand, only recently turned to using a similar approach. Founded in 2014 in Lagos, Andela’s original business model was based on building physical hubs to source, vet, train and house talent across the continent. It did this in Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda.

However, Andela struggled with scaling and operating that business model, and in 2019 it laid off 400 developers. Early last year as the pandemic took hold, it laid off a further 135 employees. However this time around it did so with a strategy pivot in mind: after testing satellite models in Egypt and Ghana, the talent company decided to go forego physical hubs completely and go remote, first across Africa in 2020 and globally this year.

“We thought, ‘What if we accelerated [the African remote network] and just enabled applicants from anywhere?’ Because it was always the plan to become a global company. That was clear, but the timing was the question,” Andela CEO Jeremy Johnson told TechCrunch in April.

Yet Toptal believes Andela’s choice to scrap its hubs and source remote talent from everywhere was specifically to replicate Toptal’s business model — and success.

“Until recently, Andela operated an outsourcing operation focused on in-person, on-site hubs in Africa,” Toptal notes in the complaint.Over the course of the past year, Andela has moved away from its prior focus on in-person hubs situated in Africa and is engaging in a barely disguised attempt to become a clone of Toptal.”

Toptal claims that for Andela to pull off a “perfect clone of its business,” it poached key Toptal employees to exploit their knowledge, and that the ex-employees knowingly breached their confidentiality and non-solicitation obligations to Toptal.

Companies often try to uncover each other’s trade secrets by poaching, and many blatantly copy a competitor and do so without repercussions. On top of this, these two are hardly the only two places to for tech talent to connect with remote freelance job opportunities. Others include Fiverr, Malt, Freelancer.com, LinkedIn, Turing, Upwork and many more.

In a global economy with an estimated 1 billion so-called knowledge workers, and with freelancers accounting for some 35% of the world’s workforce, it’s a pretty gigantic market, which you could alternately look at as a major opportunity, but also a ripe field for many players with multiple permutations of the marketplace concept.

So why is Toptal crying foul play? The company says its ex-employees have not only revealed Toptal’s trade secrets and confidential information to compete unfairly but are also poaching additional Toptal personnel, clients and the talent that Toptal matches and sources to clients.

The ex-employees cited by Toptal include Sachin Bhagwata, vice president of enterprise; Martin Chikilian, head of talent operations; Courtney Machi, vice president of product; and Alvaro Oliveira, executive vice president of talent operations. Toptal says three additional former employees in non-executive roles breached express covenants not to compete in their agreements with Toptal.

While some of the allegations focus on the expertise of the employees, one of the trade secret allegations more directly references Toptal’s technology.

Toptal claims Machi tapped into her extensive knowledge of Toptal’s “proprietary software platform” and used that to help transform Andela “from a group of outsourcing hubs situated in various African locations into a fully remote, global company like Toptal.”

Asked to comment on the suit, Johnson at Andela said he believes Toptal is suing Andela for being competitive.

“With regards to the situation overall, I can say that frivolous lawsuits are the price of doing anything that matters,” he told TechCrunch in an email. “And this is the kind of baseless bullying and fear tactics that make employees want to leave in the first place. We will defend ourselves and our colleagues vigorously.”

Toptal has an unconventional story for a company that started only a decade ago. It is one of the few companies in the Valley that doesn’t issue stock options to its investors or employees. Even Du Val’s co-founder, Breanden Beneschott, was ousted from the company without any shares, according to an article from The Information.

How did it pull this off? In 2012, Toptal raised a $1.4 million seed via convertible notes and investors were entitled to 15% of the company, according to The Information article.

But there was one condition: Toptal had to raise more money.

However, the company hasn’t needed to secure additional capital because of its profitability and growing revenue ($200 million annually as of 2018, per The Information). So investors are stuck in limbo — as are employees who joined hoping that the company would raise money down the line so their stock options would convert.

The Information story strikes a distinct note of resentment, noting that some employees felt “tricked out of stock in a company that Du Val has said publicly is worth more than $1 billion.”

Given that situation, TechCrunch asked Du Val if he thought it played any role in employee departures, and ex-employee relations.

“The issuance of stock options does not excuse theft of trade secrets,” he replied. “Also, there are more than 800 full-time people at Toptal [but] the complaint names seven individual defendants.”

The full complaint is embedded below.

#andela, #freelance-economy, #freelancer, #freelancers, #labor, #lawsuit, #startups, #talent, #tc, #toptal

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ChartHop raises $35M for its internal org chart and people analytics platform

Human resources is generally a salient cornerstone of any organization, but digitization has democratized a lot of the work that goes into HR, and that’s meant more people in businesses interested in, and using, the kind of data that HR people build and typically manage. Today, a startup called ChartHop that’s built a platform to cater to that trend is announcing $35 million in funding on the heels of strong growth.

The Series B is being led by Andreessen Horowitz, a past backer, with Elad Gil and previous investors Cowboy Ventures and SemperVirens also participating. We understand from sources close to the company that the round values ChartHop at between $300 million and $400 million.

ChartHop was founded in New York by Ian White, now the CEO, who first started building the tools to fill what he felt were gaps in his own knowledge when he founded, ran and eventually sold his previous company, Sailthru (which was acquired by CampaignMonitor).

He said he realized the company could build “all the tech we wanted,” but when it came down to thinking about how to run and scale the business, that was at its heart actually a people question, and also understanding how departments, and the entire organization, looked and worked as a whole.

“It was not as important as hiring, structuring a ‘single you’ of the organization,” he said. (Ian’s pictured here to the right.) Similar to the great analytics tools that have been built for developers, sales teams and others, “What I wanted was people analytics,” he said. “I wanted to understand my team.”

That’s actually a very multifaceted question. It’s not just a matter of an org chart — a big enough task in its own right that the very day that ChartHop came out of stealth in early 2020, another org chart startup, The Org, launched, too. It’s also retention strategy, employee satisfaction, turnover statistics, diversity statistics, predictive visualizations on finances one area was compensated differently, or if hiring were frozen, etc. “All of those problems became mine and there was no great software out there to solve for it,” White said.

The ChartHop platform is built like all strong structures these days in the world of tech: tons of integrations to feed data into ChartHop to make it richer; tons of integrations also to export and use that data in more dedicated applications when needed; and an easy way for everyone to update data but also put in place easy and strong protections to keep confidential data as it should be.

And while HR still “owns” the platform, White said, it can be accessed and used by anyone in the organization, and it is.

It seems that others have found the talent management software market lacking for it, too. Since 2019 it went from a team of one — White himself — to 75, with 130 corporates now using its services. The list has a strong list of household company names with a heavy emphasis in tech, from what White showed me. Revenues in the last 12 months — a time when the spread-out nature of many of our workplaces has meant an even greater need for a platform to manage all the information has possibly reached a high water mark — have grown at a rate of 17% month-by-month.

“With HR and people functions so crucial to the growth and success of businesses, it’s unfortunate that most HR teams lack the critical people data to drive organizational decision making,” said David Ulevitch, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement. “ChartHop is the solution to this all-too-common problem, and is built by company leaders who have felt this pain personally. ChartHop’s visual approach to people analytics allows leaders to make organizational planning and strategy decisions with confidence. We’re thrilled to lead ChartHop’s Series B because of their impressive growth, the company’s vision, and the terrific, mission-oriented team they’ve assembled.” He also led the company’s seed round in February 2020.

“Since implementing ChartHop earlier this year, we’ve seen significant improvement in our engagement with talent routines as they’re managed via ChartHop,” said Sara Howe, vice president human resources at ZoomInfo, a customer of ChartHop, in a statement. “Our employees have found the simple user interface and the centralized view of their data as the most helpful features. Leaders across ZoomInfo have also leveraged ChartHop to ensure that their organizations are well structured to support our continued rapid growth.”

#charthop, #enterprise, #funding, #hr, #human-resources, #labor, #org-charts, #people-management, #personnel, #tc

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4 women in engineering discuss harassment, isolation and perseverence

Women engineers often face workplace and career challenges that their male colleagues don’t because they remain a minority in the profession: Depending on how you count, women make up just 13% to 25% of engineering jobs. That inequity leads to a power imbalance, which can lead to toxic working environments.

One of the more infamous and egregious examples is Susan Fowler’s experience at Uber. In a blog post in February 2017, she described her boss coming on to her in a company chat channel on her first day on the job. She later wrote a book, “Whistleblower,” that described her time at the company in detail.

Fowler’s ordeal cast a spotlight on the harassment women engineers have to deal with in the workplace. In a profession that tends to be male-dominated, behavior ranges from blatant examples, like what happened to Fowler, to ongoing daily microaggressions.

Four female engineers spoke with me about their challenges:

  • Tammy Butow, principal software reliability engineer (SRE) at Gremlin
  • Rona Chong, software engineer at Grove Collaborative
  • Ana Medina, senior chaos engineer at Gremlin
  • Yury Roa, SRE technical program manager at ADL Digital Labs in Bogota, Colombia

It’s worth noting that Fowler was also an SRE who worked on the same team as Medina (who was later part of a $10 million discrimination lawsuit against Uber). It shows just how small of a world we are talking about. While not everyone faced that level of harassment, they each described daily challenges, some of which wore them down. But they also showed a strong determination to overcome whatever obstacles came their way.

Feeling isolated

One of the primary issues these women faced throughout their careers is a feeling of isolation due to their underrepresentation. They say that can sometimes lead to self-doubt and an inkling that you don’t belong that can be difficult to overcome. Medina says that there have been times when, intentionally or not, male engineers made her feel unwelcome.

“One part that was really hard for me was those microaggressions on a daily basis, and that affects your work ethic, wanting to show up, wanting to try your best. And not only does that damage your own self-esteem, but your esteem [in terms of] growing as an engineer,” Medina explained.

Roa says that isolation can lead to impostor syndrome. That’s why it’s so important to have more women in these roles: to serve as mentors, role models and peers.

“One barrier for us related to being the only woman in the room is that [it can lead to] impostor syndrome because it is common when you are the only woman or one of few, it can be really challenging for us. So we need to gain confidence, and in these cases, it is very important to have role models and leadership that includes women,” Roa said.

Chong agrees it is essential to know that others have been in the same position — and found a way through.

“The fact that people talk authentically about their own jobs and challenges and how they’ve overcome that, that’s been really helpful for me to continue seeing myself in the tech industry,” she said. “There have been points where I’ve questioned whether I should Ieave, but then having that support around you to have people to talk to you personally and see as examples, I think it has really helped me.”

Butow described being interviewed for an article early in her career after she won an award for a mobile application she wrote.  When the article was published, she was aghast to discover it had been headlined, “Not just another pretty face…”

“I was like, that’s the title?! I was so excited to share the article with my mom, and then I wasn’t. I spent so much time writing the code and obviously my face had nothing to do with it. … So there’s just little things like that where people call it a paper cut or something like that, but it’s just lots of little microaggressions.”

Pushing through

In spite of all that, a common thread among these women was a strong desire to show that they have the technical skill to get past these moments of doubt to thrive in their professions.

Butow said she has been battling these kinds of misperceptions since she was a teenager but never let it stop her. “I just tried to not let it bother me, but mostly because I also have a background in skateboarding. It’s the same thing, right? You go to a skate park and people would say, ‘Oh, can you even do a trick?’ and I was like, ‘Watch me.’ You know, I [would] just do it. … So a lot of that happens in lots of different types of places in the world and you just have to, I don’t know, I just always push through, like I’m just going to do it anyway.”

Chong says she doesn’t give in to discouraging feelings, adding that having other women to talk to helped push her through those times.

“As much as I like to persevere and I don’t like giving up, actually there have been points where I considered quitting, but having visibility into other people’s experiences, knowing that you’re not the only one who’s experienced that, and seeing that they’ve found better environments for themselves and that they eventually worked through it, and having those people tell you that they believe in you, that probably stopped me from leaving when I [might] have otherwise,” she said.

Women helping women

Chong’s experience is not unique, but the more diverse your teams are, the more people who come from underrepresented groups can support one another. Butow recruited her at one point, and she says that was a huge moment for her.

“I think that there is a network effect where we know other women and we try to bring them in and we expand on that. So we can kind of create the change or we feel the change we want to see, and we get to make our situation more comfortable,” Chong said.

Medina says that she is motivated to help bring Latinx and Black people into tech, with a focus on attracting girls and young women. She has worked with a group called Technolachicas, which produced a series of commercials with the Televisa Foundation. They filmed six videos, three in English and three in Spanish, with the goal of showing young girls how to pursue a STEM career.

“Each commercial talks about how we got our career started with an audience persona of a girl younger than 18, an adult influencer and a parent — people that are really crucial to the development of anyone under 18,” she said. “How is it that these people can actually empower someone to look at STEM and to pursue a career in STEM?”

Butow says it’s about lifting people up. “What we’re trying to do is sharing our story and hoping to inspire other women. It’s super important to have those role models. There’s a lot of research that shows that that’s actually the most important thing is just visibility of role models that you can relate to,” she said.

The ultimate goal? Having enough support in the workplace that they’re able to concentrate on being the best engineers they can be — without all of the obstruction.

#developer, #diversity, #diversity-and-inclusion, #labor, #racism, #sexism, #software-engineer, #startups, #susan-fowler, #uber

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Medium sees more employee exits after CEO publishes ‘culture memo’

In April, Medium CEO Ev Williams wrote a memo to his staff about the company’s shifting culture in the wake of a challenging year.

“A healthy culture brings out the best in people,” he wrote. “They feel psychologically safe voicing their ideas and engaging in debate to find the best answer to any question — knowing that their coworkers are assuming good intent and giving them the benefit of the doubt because they give that in return.”

A few paragraphs later, Williams wrote that while counterperspectives and unpopular opinions are “always encouraged” to help make decisions, “repeated interactions that are nonconstructive, cast doubt, assume bad intent, make unsubstantiated accusations, or otherwise do not contribute to a positive environment have a massive negative impact on the team and working environment.”

He added: “These behaviors are not tolerated.”

The internal memo, obtained and verified by TechCrunch, was published nearly one month after Medium staff’s unionization attempt failed to pass, and roughly one week after Williams announced a pivot of the company’s editorial ambitions to focus less on in-house content and more on user-generated work.

Medium’s editorial team got voluntary payouts as part of the shift, with VP of Editorial Siobhan O’Connor and the entire staff of GEN Magazine stepping away.

However, several current and former employees told TechCrunch that they believe Medium’s mass exodus is tied more to Williams’ manifesto, dubbed “the culture memo,” than a pivot in editorial focus. Since the memo was published, many non-editorial staffers — who would presumably not be impacted by a shift in content priorities — have left the company, including product managers, several designers and dozens of engineers.

 

Those departing allege that Williams is trying to perform yet another reset of company strategy, at the cost of its most diverse talent. One pull of internal data that includes engineers, editorial staff, the product team, and a portion of its HR and finance team, suggests that, of the 241 people who started the year at Medium, some 50% of that pool are now gone. Medium, which has hired employees to fill some vacancies, denied these metrics, stating that it currently has 179 employees.

Medium said that 52% of departures were white, and that one third of the company is non-white and non-Asian. The first engineer that TechCrunch spoke to said that minorities are overrepresented in the departures at the company. They also added that, when they joined Medium, there were three transgender engineers. All have since left.

“A beloved dictator vibe”

In February, a number of Medium employees — led by the editorial staff — announced plans to organize into a union. The unionization effort was eventually defeated after falling short by one vote, a shortfall that some employees think was due to Medium executives pressuring staff to vote against the union.

The month after the unionization effort failed, Medium announced an editorial pivot. The company offered new positions or voluntary payouts for editorial staff. A number of employees left, which is not uncommon in the aftermath of a tense time period such as a failed unionization and the offer of a clear, financially safe route out.

In April, Williams posted the culture memo outlining his view on the company’s purpose and operating principles. In the memo, he writes that “there is no growth without risk-taking and no risk-taking without occasional failure” and that “feedback is a gift, and even tough feedback can and should be delivered with empathy and grace.” The CEO also noted the company’s commitment to diversity, and how adapting to “opportunities or threats is a prerequisite for winning.”

Notably, Medium has gone through a number of editorial strategy changes, dipping in and out of subscriptions, in-house content, and now, leaning on user-generated content and paid commissions.

“Team changes, strategy changes and reorganizations are inevitable. Each person’s adaptivity is a core strength of the company,” the memo reads.

The memo doesn’t explicitly address the unionization attempt, but does talk about how Medium will not tolerate “repeated interactions that are nonconstructive, cast doubt, assume bad intent, make unsubstantiated accusations, or otherwise do not contribute to a positive environment [but] have a massive negative impact on the team and working environment.”

Employees that we spoke to think that Williams’ memo, while internal rather than publicly posted, is reminiscent of statements put out by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong and Basecamp CEO Jason Fried, which both banned political discussion at work due to its incendiary or “distracting” nature. While the Medium memo doesn’t wholly ban politics, the first engineer said that the “undertone” of the statement creates a “not safe work environment.” Frustrated employees created a side-Slack to talk about issues at Medium.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Medium said that “many employees said they appreciated the clarity and there were directors and managers involved in shaping it.”

The month of the memo, churn tripled at the company compared to the month prior and was 30 times higher than the January metric, using an internal data set obtained by TechCrunch.

The second engineer that spoke to TechCrunch left the company last month and said that the memo didn’t have anything “egregious” at first glance.

“It was more of a beloved dictator vibe, of like, your words are vague enough that they’re not enforceable on anything else, and it looks good on paper,” they said. “If you just saw that memo and nothing else, it’s not a Coinbase memo, it’s not a Basecamp memo.”

But, given the timing of the memo, the engineer said their interpretation of Williams’ message was clear.

“[Medium wants] to enforce good vibes and shut down anything that is questioning ‘the mission,’” they said.

Medium’s extreme 

The same engineer thinks that “very few people left because of the editorial pivot.” Instead, the engineer explained a history of problematic issues at Medium, with a wave of departures that seem to be clearly triggered by the memo.

In July 2019, for example, Medium chose to publish a series that included a profile of Trump supporter Joy Villa with the headline “I have never been as prosecuted for being Black or Latina as I have been for supporting Trump.”

When the Latinx community at Medium spoke to leadership about discomfort in the headline, they claimed that executives from editorial didn’t do anything about the headline until it was mentioned in a public Slack channel. One editor asked anyone who had gone through the immigration process or was a part of the Latinx community to get in a room and explain their side, a moment that felt diminishing to this employee. The headline only changed when employees posted in a public Slack channel about their qualms.

“They think caring is enough,” the employee said. “And that listening is merciful and really caring, and therefore they’re really shocked when that is not enough.”

The third engineer who spoke to TechCrunch joined the company in 2019 because they were looking for a mission-driven company impacting more than just tech. They realized Medium had “deeper issues” during the Black Lives Matter movement last summer.

“There were deeper issues that I just hadn’t heard about because I wasn’t part of them. That just kind of got slid under the rug,” they said, such as the Trump supporter profile. The former employee explained how they learned that HR had ignored a report of an employee saying the N-word during that time, too. Medium said this is false.

“I don’t feel like I needed the memo to really understand their true colors,” they said.

After The Verge and Platformer published a report on Medium’s messy culture and chaotic editorial strategy, the second engineer said that multiple employees who were assumed to be tied to the story were pressured to resign.

“The way I see it, they fought dirty to defeat the union,” the first engineer said. “But it wasn’t a total success because all of these people have decided to leave in the wake of the decision, and that’s the cost. The people who are left basically feel like they have to nod and smile because Medium has made it clear that they don’t want you to bring your full self to work.”

The engineer said that Medium’s culture of reckoning is different from Coinbase because of the mission-oriented promise of the former.

“Some companies, like Coinbase, have said that ‘we want people who are not going to bring politics and social issues to work,’ so if you join Coinbase, that’s what you are expecting, and that’s fine,” they said. “But Medium specifically recruited people who care about the world, and justice, and believe in the freedom of speech and transparency.”

The engineer plans to officially resign soon and already has interviews lined up.

“It’s a good job market out there for software engineers, so why would I work for a company that is treating their own people unfairly?”

#basecamp, #coinbase, #controversy, #ev-williams, #labor, #medium, #pivot, #politics, #tc, #union

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Rideshare drivers gather in NYC in hopes of unionizing

Protesters gathered in bright red t-shirts and matching masks bearing the Independent Drivers Guild logo. Placards bearing slogans like “Freeze Hiring, Reactive Workers Now!” and “Unlock Uber” were being handed out at a table toward the entrance. What the gathering lacked in sheer numbers, it made up with enthusiasm.

A wide range of speakers approached the podium — IDG members, drivers, local and prospective politicians. Nearly every speech was followed by a spirited call and response from the crowd, culminating in pro-union chants.

Previous protests have found drivers opting for other locations — perhaps most notably in 2019, when Brooklyn Bridge traffic toward the mayor’s residence at Gracie Mansion was slowed to a crawl. Today’s location was perfectly suited for such an event.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The gathering was framed by the Falchi Building, a large office space in Queens, New York, housing some 36,000 square feet of Uber offices. The neighborhood of Long Island City has long served as an epicenter for the city’s ridesharing operations. Lyft has offices nearby, as does the Taxi Limousine Commission (TLC). Walk down a block or two and you’ll almost certainly stumble across rows upon rows of yellow cabs.

The concerns of gig workers are nothing new, of course, but today’s crowd gathered in Long Island City, Queens to add support to a proposed bill currently making its way through the state legislature in Albany. The legislation is designed to make it easy for gig economy workers in the state to unionize.

“Currently, the gig workers have no voice in their workplace. No voice to negotiate pay or benefits of workplace policies,” bill sponsor state Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island explained in a recent interview. “And I have been talking about this issue for several years now. The world of work is changing, and labor law has not caught up to technology and how it has changed the world of work.”

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Such legislation would have a profound impact on not just ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, but also a wide range of gig economy jobs, including food delivery services like Seamless. The gig economy has experienced explosive growth over the past decade, in many cases accelerated by the pandemic, as more people have relied on delivery and other services amid shutdowns. But the complaints remain the same: As corporations thrive on the backs of contractors, these workers too seldom receive the benefit of that growth.

The already complex math of being a driver in a city like New York is further compounded by a series of regulations that largely exist to support its once-thriving taxi business.

Tamina Ahmed, a member of the NYC Rideshare Club and registered nurse who has also worked as a driver for six years, cites the flexible hours as a net benefit for workers, but notes the rather intensive process required to start driving in NYC.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

“That takes a lot time, funds and energy for the drivers,” Ahmed told TechCrunch after speaking at the event. “They have to sacrifice to get to this point, and it’s not right for them to be deactivated without cause. They don’t give valid reason. They just deactivate them. They’re never on the driver’s side. They’re always on the rider’s side.”

The group present at the protest seems optimistic about Savino’s proposed legislation. The ability to unionize brings certain protections to gig workers, include wages, discrimination protection and unemployment benefits. The latter is even more timely these days, as some one million gig employees in 20 Republican-controlled states will be losing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits soon. Prop 22, which passed in California last November, has been seen as another major precedent setting legislation for the industry.

With the legislative session ended this month, many are expecting action on Savino’s proposed bill. But not everyone is thrilled with what it offers. “[T]he biggest concern I have is that workers won’t have employee status,” State Senate Labor Committee Chair Jessica Ramos told NY1. “And more than that, Uber and Lyft drivers’ pay would be slashed in half. It’s very unfortunate that they crafted this bill without the workers at the table.”

We’ve reached out to Savino’s office for additional comment.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Among those I spoke with at the event, employee status wasn’t high on the list of demands. In fact, a number of drivers told me that the flexibility the current model affords them. Ramos’ name appeared on a number of the protest placards at the event, largely in a negative light. It’s a complex issue, certainly — only exacerbated by the large number of residents any legislation would impact. The rise of the gig economy has brought a number of key questions relating to the connection between worker protections and employee status to the fore.

What seems clear across the board, however, is that these drivers — and other gig economy workers — are seeking what, in many other industries, have become fairly fundamental protections. Of late, unionization has become a major talking point for blue and white-collar workers, alike. Efforts have seen a number of wins over the past few years, though April’s failure to unionize employees at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama has been seen as a major setback for the cause.

Like those workers, the list of complaints among drivers is long. When a speaker at today’s event asked the crowd how many in attendance had had their accounts deactivated, the response was overwhelming. Many believed the decisions were made fairly arbitrarily.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

“A lot of drivers are falsely being accused, deactivated, thrown out of all these rideshare companies that they invested so much money on,” Ahmed said.

The Independent Drivers Guild — which organized today’s event along with the NYC Rideshare Club and the Chinese Delivery Association — isn’t mincing words.

“By helping drivers through deactivated systems, we realized only a true union can solve that problem,” Aziz Bah, IDG organizing director, told TechCrunch. “We decided to unionize. We will let the companies know what our plans are. They had better be behind our proposal. Because this is no negotiation. If this is what drivers and delivery workers want, they had better be behind it.”

#apps, #labor, #lyft, #ridesharing, #transportation, #uber, #union

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Dear Sophie: How does International Entrepreneur Parole work for startup founder immigration?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I’ve been hearing a lot about International Entrepreneur Parole lately. I’m wondering if both my co-founder, who is currently on an H-1B that we’re in the process of transferring to our startup, and an employee on STEM OPT, who we’re making a co-founder, would be eligible to apply. How does parole work and how long does it take?

Also, we are close to securing $200,000 in investments. Do we have to raise another $50,000 to sponsor someone for parole?

— Looking for Answers in Los Altos

Dear Looking,

Thanks for reaching out to me with your International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) questions! What makes IEP so exciting is its flexibility: Up to three co-founders of a startup can self-petition for IEP, which means they don’t need an employer sponsor. Unlike an H-1B or another work visa, this is great because the applicant can be the boss of the company. Moreover, if your startup has raised less than $250,000, your team can still qualify for IEP by submitting evidence of your startup’s potential for rapid growth and job creation. Take a listen to my podcast episode on IEP, which goes over the process for applying and answers some of the most frequently asked questions that I receive.

If your co-founders pursue IEP, I highly recommend, as usual, that they work with an immigration attorney. It’s especially important here because the stakes are so high for your company and because this is a new program, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers have little experience reviewing IEP applications. Additionally, your startup’s fundraising falls short of $250,000 from U.S. investors, so you’ll need strong legal arguments about your qualifications.

How new is this program? Well, it already has a lot of history. Even though IEP has been available since 2017, the previous administration had unsuccessfully tried to eliminate it. Only recently did the Department of Homeland Security withdraw the proposal to rescind the IEP program, which has been available since 2017, and the the Biden administration announced it would fully implement it.

A 2020 Congressional Research Report on “Immigration Parole” noted that USCIS had received 28 IEP applications from the time it began them through February 10, 2020. Of those, only one was approved, 22 were denied, three were withdrawn and two were pending.

We don’t know exactly how long USCIS will take to make a determination on IEP applications — and USCIS said in a recent stakeholder meeting that there is no processing time yet. My law firm is in the process of submitting several applications on behalf of clients and hope to have decisions soon. We’ll keep you posted!

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

How parole works

The secretary of Homeland Security and agencies within Homeland Security, including USCIS and Customs and Border Patrol, have the ability to grant parole, which allows entry to and a temporary stay in the United States. Parole has traditionally been granted for urgent humanitarian reasons, such as to persecuted refugees or those seeking medical treatment in the U.S., or to serve a public benefit, such as providing disaster assistance, cooperating with law enforcement or testifying at a trial.

Created by the Obama administration after Congress failed to create a startup visa, IEP allows entrepreneurs who provide a “significant public benefit” by creating jobs for American workers and expanding the U.S. economy to temporarily stay in the U.S. to grow their startup. If USCIS approves an IEP application, the entrepreneur will receive a parole document that is valid initially for 30 months.

Parole is not a non-immigrant (temporary) visa status, which means your co-founders cannot simply file to change their status from an H-1B or F-1 to IEP while living in the U.S. To be granted parole, your founders must leave the U.S. and reenter and get a stamp by a border officer to be “paroled” into the U.S.

If an entrepreneur is approved for IEP, then their spouse and dependent children (unmarried and under 21 years) are also eligible for parole during that same period. Once they arrive in the U.S., spouses are eligible to file for a work permit that would allow them to get a job or start their own business.

IEP eligibility requirements

To qualify for IEP, each of your co-founders will need to show that:

  • Your startup is a U.S. corporation that is less than five years old.
  • They have at least a 10% ownership stake in the startup.
  • They are central to and play an active role in the startup. I recommend that your co-founders have a C-suite title, such as chief executive officer, chief operations officer or chief technology officer, and/or a senior-level title, such as president.
  • Your startup has received at least $250,000 from qualified U.S. investors or at least $100,000 in grants or awards from federal, state or local governments.

If your startup has only received $200,000, your co-founders will need to provide compelling evidence of your company’s potential for rapid growth and job creation, such as its users or customers, revenue, social impact, far reaching or national scope, or positive local or regional effects. Your attorney can support you with these legal arguments.

To extend IEP for another 30 months, your co-founders will need to show that:

  • They continue to play a central and active role with the company.
  • They have at least a 5% ownership stake.

And one of the following:

  • Your startup has received at least $500,000 from qualified investments and/or qualified government grants or awards.
  • Your startup has created at least five full-time jobs with the startup entity during the initial parole period.
  • Your startup has at least $500,000 in annual revenue in the United States and averaged 20% in annual revenue growth during the initial parole period.

If your startup entity partially meets funding, job creation or annual revenue criteria, your co-founders must provide compelling evidence that the startup entity continues to show substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation with the support of your attorney.

Although there is no wage requirement under the IEP program (like there is for H-1B visa), each of your co-founders will need to have a household income that is greater than 400% of the federal poverty line for their household size as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services. For example, based on today’s requirements, a family of four would need to have a household income of more than $106,000.

My hope is that by the time your co-founders are ready to extend their IEP, there will already be new laws in place for a startup visa and green card pathway for startup founders. I was honored to work on this draft legislation with Jeff Farrah of the National Venture Capital Association, and hopefully we’ll see some announcements soon!

Good luck!

Sophie


Have a question for Sophie? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space.

The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration, #international-entrepreneur-rule, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startup-visa, #startups, #verified-experts

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Unit tests an easier way for workers to organize

Work looks wildly different today than it did a year ago. In tech, every bit of the workplace has been tweaked to fit our new remote world. From scaling accountability and onboarding remotely to figuring out what old perks can be made socially distant — myriad decisions have been made at the hands of the employers.

An early-stage startup thinks it’s time to give some of that decision-making power back to employees, too. So Unit, a New York-based company, is tackling perhaps the most elusive and controversial topic in mainstream tech today: labor unions.

Numerous studies show that union members earn significantly higher wages and get better benefits than non-union workers. At the same time, many companies are anti-union because it impacts the bottom line, or puts more autonomy into their workers’ hands and limits control.

Unit wants to make it easier for employees to virtually organize, and manage, labor unions to protect them from their employers. Unit itself is not a labor union, but instead helps worker-organizers set up, affiliate and manage a union with a mix of software and human resources.

Janitorial entrepreneurship

Unit founder and CEO James White watched Occupy Wall Street unfold in real time while he was a graduate student. He helped out a cohort of janitorial workers from MIT and Harvard that were organizing with the SEIU, or Service Employees International Union, a union of about 2 million people across the services industry.

“By day I would be working in the bio-instrumentation lab at MIT on medical injection devices, and by nights and weekends we were organizing students to support these janitors in their bid for better pay and working conditions,” he said. “[Volunteer organizing] felt very manual and inefficient, but they won some things. It took a couple of years, but they won.”

White spent most of the next decade picking the day job, and worked on a company in the medical device space. But after getting business and sales chops, he left to start his own business. He kept thinking about labor unions.

“Tech-enabled organizing kept coming back to the forefront [of my ideas], and being both the most exciting to me personally, but also I think the most impactful in the ways I wanted to see the world change in terms of income inequality and individual empowerment,” he said.

A turnkey solution for unions

Unit offers a suite of services to fix the process of unionizing, which starts with education. The startup has a step-by-step process of how to virtually unionize a workplace that it offers for free public use on its website.

After a worker-organizer decides that they want to unionize, Unit helps them begin the process. Employees can come to the website, run through an eligibility survey, and begin to start inviting fellow co-workers to the organizing platform. Interested employees will fill out paperwork and a small cohort will begin to form within an organization.

In the background, Unit begins handling the legal automation process needed before a team approaches a national union, such as the national Labor Relations Board, or local union with their pitch. The startup works with a Boston law firm that files the petitions on behalf of employees.

“So far, the biggest feedback we’ve gotten from our organizing application is that ‘I chose you guys over calling a labor organizer at a national union or over contacting volunteers to come and help us because it seemed like the fastest way to get started’,” White said.

After (and if) a union is approved, Unit takes on the role of a labor advisory service. The startup uses a combination of digital and human services to create a “turnkey solution” for union management.

The startup will help conduct voting and polling, provide consensus tools and oversee the charter draft and review process, otherwise known as the governance of a union, on behalf of workers. It will also help with negotiation, such as bargaining surveys, contract drafting and review, compensation and strategic analysis. Beyond that, Unit focuses on ongoing organizing such as new member education and strike planning, as well as contract maintenance. Another company in the space, UnionWare, helps with membership management, while Unit is aiming for the full suite.

“We plan to try to take the time commitment down by quite a bit by automating a bunch of it,” he said. “So that people can vote over software, they can get updates over software, nominate new officers or run for office within these small unions over software.” A Shopify for union organizers, of sorts.

Similar to how an employee only pays fees once a union is approved, Unit only charges a fee after the formation process is complete. The typical cost of national union dues is 1.5% of wages, the company said, meaning that an employee who makes $40,000 a year would pay about $50 a month. Unit charges 0.8% of those monthly earnings.

The “no strings attached” business model means that Unit could lose 90% of their customers once the union is approved, White said. The startup is in the process of forging partnerships with large national unions so that it gets paid whenever a Unit-approved union that comes through one of its networks gets affiliated — with the pitch that it saves unions time and resources through its software.

Customers include software developers, digital media companies, fast food franchises and mental health companies, with a specific focus on helping smaller companies unionize.

‘It’s not a technical problem we have to solve’

Arianna Jimenez, who was a labor organizer for 20 years at SEIU, expressed caution around oversimplifying the unionizing process, which she thinks could give a false sense of hope to workers. In her experience, the negotiation process is the most contentious part of unionizing, taking anywhere from six months to 10 years.

“Once you have signed the cards and you are technically a union in the eyes of the law, that doesn’t in and of itself bring a change in the material conditions of the workers’ lives,” she said. “What brings the change is that the workers are engaging in a legal process that is protected by law with the employer officially to change the contract — such as increased benefits, healthcare and pension.”

While Unit and labor organizers across the country help with the negotiation process, employer-led oppression and fear tactics can often force employees to worry about their livelihoods, and thus vote against forming a union. For example, earlier this year Amazon conducted an anti-union campaign to pressure employees to vote against organizing efforts. The corporation defeated the union attempts, a setback for the biggest unionization push in Amazon’s 27-year history.

Jimenez doesn’t think that unionizing could ever have a fully turnkey solution because “the transformation fundamentally for workers between having a union and not having a union is not a legal threshold. It is really a more intangible transformation from a group of people who feel disempowered and disenfranchised to not.”

Jimenez says hitting scale for Unit would mean rewriting U.S. labor laws.

“It’s not a technical problem we have to solve, it’s a problem of values,” she said.

When venture is the elephant in the room

To scale, Unit will have to lean on VC, per White. In July 2020, Unit closed $1.4 million in financing, from investors such as Bloomberg Beta, Draper Associates, Schlaf Angel Fund, Haystack, E14 and Gutter Capital.

And this is where the heart of the tension with Unit is, per White: It needs to raise venture capital to hit scale, but getting in bed with that very asset class can feel counterintuitive.

For example, what if Unit helps employees within portfolio companies of existing investors start unions? Is there a conflict of interest, or can Unit be swayed to not prioritize those clients in order to keep its cap table happy?

Last year, California voters passed Proposition 22, essentially supporting Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates that gig workers should not be entitled to the same labor right as employees, staying as independent contractors. The move was a blow to the efforts of worker-organizers around the world, and a reminder that venture-backed companies can be incentivized to act against broader access to benefits and worker protections.

While White says that venture was the best option for speed and scale, he did admit to worrying about some of these concerns, specifically about the influence that investors might try to have in later rounds if the founding team is unable to keep the majority of the company. He hopes that Unit can operate off of little venture capital for as long as possible to delay or altogether avoid those interests.

Siri Srinivas, an investor at Draper, thinks of Unit as a service that is building a better tool for a process that is regulated and complex. In other words, stripping out the politics, it’s a SaaS tool that makes sense.

“Frankly as VCs, we invest in technologies that people want. We as a team make a hard call on not engaging with certain products (e.g. tobacco) which we think are net negative for the world but don’t see this as much different from investing in other companies building software products in regulated industries,” she said. “Unit allows for a form of worker equity and can unlock a lot of value for its users and in that our incentives are completely aligned.”

For now, White is hoping that general interest in rebuilding workplaces keeps Unit busy and revenue-generating.

“We never could have predicted COVID having the impact that it did and really igniting even more conversations around labor and safety,” he said. “I do think, when we face these problems on a national level, sometimes they hit everybody at once and people think about the same things at the same time.”

#draper, #labor, #prop-22, #startups, #tc, #unions, #unit

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Malt raises $97M at a $489M valuation for its freelance marketplace for developers

The world of professional services has long relied on contractors to fill in for assignments and projects that might not be a part of the course of daily work, but are essential work nonetheless. Today, a startup that’s built a marketplace to make it easier for freelance developers, designers and others with technical skills with those job opportunities is announcing a significant round of funding to expand its business.

Malt, which provides a way for developers, data scientists, designers, project managers and others working in related fields to connect with fixed-term job opportunities in their fields, has picked up €80 million ($97 million at today’s rates), money that the company plans to use to expand its business to more markets.

We understand from sources that the investment — led by Goldman Sachs Growth Equity and Eurazeo — values Malt at €400 million ($489 million).

Vincent Huguet, Malt’s CEO who co-founded the company with Hugo Lassiège and Jean-Baptiste Lemée, said in an interview that the funding in part will be used towards continuing to expand the company across Europe with a view to, longer term, also breaking into the U.S. In Europe, the company was founded in Paris, and it currently has operations in France (Paris, Lyon), Germany (Munich), and Spain (Madrid). The plan is to extend that to Benelux next, with the UK and Italy company after that.

The company has to date amassed 250,000 freelancers in its community, with 30,000 businesses tapping this pool to fill jobs. End customers include the likes of Unilever, Lufthansa, Bosch, BlaBla Car, L’Oreal and Allianz, and it also partners with traditional consultancies like McKinsey to help them source people for projects. Altogether the company has handled some €300 million in business since being founded in 2013.

These numbers, it seems, are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s estimated that there are some 6 million people in Europe working as freelancers today, and Malt estimates that the freelance consulting market is worth some €350 billion annually in the region.

Although recruitment for many parts of the economy has largely gone digital in the last two decades, Malt is tackling a part of the temp economy that has ironically held a strong offline presence.

“The most important thing is that we are a very open marketplace, an Airbnb-style search marketplace,” he said. “It’s all really based on our search engine. In a market that is very opaque, where offline and online players [those connecting technical workers with jobs] are protecting their bases, we have opened the information.” It also provides payment services and advanced solutions for some of its customers once people are engaged, he added.

“Freelancer” is a pretty loaded term in the tech world today — it could mean anything from a gig worker delivering food, driving you around or cleaning a house, from the plethora of people who work on fixed-term contracts, and soemtimes the implications are not great. Critics will say companies lean on the freelancer model in order to skirt around having to provide extensive benefits to those doing the jobs.

Malt is working in a somewhat different area, focusing on a gap in the market that has been around for a long while, finding people with specific, valued technical skills to fill in for project-based work, but has often been a tough one to crack for employers, Huguet said.

“We are going after those who charge a few hundred dollars per day and connecting them with mid- and large-sized companies,” said Huguet, who described Malt as very different from the likes of Fiverr, which also lets people find skilled workers but focuses on finding the lowest bidder for a job. “You search for a specific freelancer as the employer. You don’t post a specific task for freelancers to respond.” The average time of engagement is around three weeks but might be as long as three months, he said.

What has been interesting — and has definitely had an impact on how Malt has grown, and the investment it’s announcing today — is how much the working world has shifted in the last year and a half. Not only has Covid-19 changed how people work in offices — if they are working in offices at all anymore — but the rapidly changing circumstances have somewhat played into the idea of building out work strategy on more concrete short- and medium-term goals, with longer-term remaining a conditional. This fits the kind of jobs that Malt typically helps fill requirements for, and the changes also has meant more workers coming into Malt’s universe looking for work.

“What we can see already and predict in the next quarters is that we will be a post covid winner,” Huguet said. “People are now considering different options. The idea of a full-time employee was that when everyone was in office people knew how to work 9-6, and that’s what was expected. Now that people are working on projects, employers are more open to consultants. This plus the bigger hiring freezes helped us grow much faster. The market and the mindset have changed.”

Similarly, people who might have previously looked first for full-time employment are now feeling more secure putting their eggs into the freelance basket. “More than 90% of freelancers are joining us by choice,” he added.

What will be interesting is to see how and if companies like LinkedIn, which has been a strong player in professional recruitment, make more headway in this space, on the back of a launch of a freelancer marketplace earlier this year.

“We are watching what it’s doing, but we think it will be hard for them to do,” Huguet said. He pointed out that LinkedIn’s profiles today are dedicated to classic recruitment, so doing the matching for freelance is very different.

Regardless of how LinkedIn’s interest plays out, its activity there also points to a big opportunity, one big reason for why investors are backing Malt right now.

“Malt is at a pivotal time in its development. This new round of funding will allow the company to scale rapidly and drive even greater impact,” said Yann du Rusquec, a partner at Eurazeo. “We are excited to partner with Vincent and Alexandre—and offer the expertise of our Growth and Venture teams along with the depth of Eurazeo’s network in Europe—to drive Malt’s future success.”

“We are delighted to support Malt to build the leading freelance marketplace in Europe,” added Alexandre Flavier, executive director at Goldman Sachs Growth Equity. “Malt is at the forefront of the future of work, promoting agility, innovation, impact, freedom of choice, making freelancing simpler and more reliable. We are excited to partner with Malt’s founders, empower their community of highly skilled freelancers, and give companies access to the world’s best freelance talents.”

#contractors, #designers, #developer, #developers, #europe, #freelance, #funding, #hiring, #labor, #malt

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Poor onboarding is the enemy of good hiring

The world of hybrid work is here, and the usual 10-minute intro call, swag bag and first-day team lunch are just not enough to make your new employee feel welcome.

While many companies have found a way to interview and select candidates in a fully remote environment, fewer have spent time and resources on aligning the “pre-boarding” and onboarding process for the new hybrid world of work. Many employers still rely on old ways of welcoming new hires, despite our totally changed work environment.

It’s important to capitalize on candidates’ enthusiasm and eagerness from the moment the offer is signed, instead of when they log in on Day One.

In our experience at Greenhouse, where we help companies as diverse as BuzzFeed, HubSpot and Intercom hire talent across their organization, first impressions can make or break a candidate’s chances of staying at a company.

In fact, 69% of employees will stay for more than three years if their onboarding experience is good, while 20% will leave within 45 days if it’s bad. That difference is costly, as it takes, on average, around $4,129 and 42 days to fill a position.

Replacing someone can cost up to 50%-60% of their annual salary. At the same time, 58% of organizations said they were guilty of centering their onboarding processes on administrative and paperwork requirements alone.

Here is how we advise our clients to set up every new hire for success right from the start.

The company’s Day One comes long before the candidate’s Day One

Most of us can remember the excitement (and anxiety) of receiving and signing an offer for a new job. It’s important to capitalize on candidates’ enthusiasm and eagerness from the moment the offer is signed, instead of when they log in on Day One.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #ec-how-to, #employment, #human-resource-management, #labor, #onboarding, #recruitment, #startups, #telecommuting

0

In the race for tech talent, the US should look to Mexico

The global tech sector is booming, and as technologies like cloud and AI accelerate their growth, the demand for tech talent outpaces supply globally. Specifically, the U.S. tech sector has seen unprecedented growth in recent years, with four tech firms reaching a $1 trillion market cap by the beginning of 2020 — all of which have seen double-digit growth since achieving a 13-digit valuation pre-pandemic.

One of the major factors in the growth and adoption of tech in the U.S. is the increasing focus on software as a service and broader digital transformations across industry sectors, which have accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, there is an insatiable appetite for quality tech talent in the U.S., with projections showing an 11% increase by 2029 from 2019 numbers, which amounts to over half a million new jobs.

Given that the U.S. produces only about 65,000 computer science graduates, there is a vast deficit in the tech talent market, which materialized as over 900,000 unfilled IT and related positions in 2019 alone. The problem is so vast that more than 80% of U.S. employers stated that recruiting for tech talent is a top business challenge, according to a survey by top HR consulting firm Robert Half.

Demand increasing for Mexican tech talent

Mexico’s tech talent can help to fill the gaps left in a hypercompetitive U.S. market for tech workers. Unlike the U.S., 20% of Mexican college graduates have relevant engineering degrees, amounting to over 110,000 per year, far surpassing the U.S. in technical talent. Investors and tech firms have noticed and are increasing operations in Mexico.

20% of Mexican college graduates have relevant engineering degrees, amounting to over 110,000 per year, far surpassing the U.S. in technical talent.

Some have referred to the cities of Monterrey and Guadalajara as the “Silicon Valley of Latin America,” and while their tech sectors are also seeing tremendous growth, the pace falls short of Mexico’s talent production, leading to a surplus of highly trained and capable individuals in the tech sector. The cost of higher education in Mexico is far less than in the U.S., so we’re likely to see that talent surplus grow in the coming years.

Under current conditions, the U.S. has an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the surplus of tech talent in Mexico. Because tech jobs are more scarce than in the U.S., the cost of talent in Mexico is considerably less than in the U.S. or in Canada. In general, talent in Mexico can be two to three times cheaper than in the U.S. while still delivering outstanding quality and specialized experience.

More so than other Latin American countries, Mexico has the experience and economy to support a robust tech talent export ecosystem. In fact, Mexico City’s concentrated market is larger than the sum total of every other Spanish-speaking country in Latin America. Specifically, Mexico’s IT outsourcing industry has been growing at an annual rate of 10%-15% and is now considered the third-largest exporter of IT services.

What’s more, the U.S./Mexico relationship is seeing a refresh after several tumultuous years. With Mexico ranked No. 1 among U.S. trade partners, the political and economic mechanisms for investments and partnerships are in place. Technology leaders such as Cisco and Intel have already set up shop in Mexico, demonstrating confidence in the country’s ability to support tech and economic growth.

The benefits of proximity

Mexico provides a number of benefits that make drawing from its talent surplus easier and more efficient. For one, Mexico’s time zones align with those in the U.S., enabling real-time collaboration at times that work best for both parties. Compare this to the time difference in India, which is over 12 hours ahead of California’s Silicon Valley.

Beyond the time difference, there are also many cultural similarities that make working with Mexico the clear choice for IT outsourcing. For example, the U.S. is home to more than 41 million native Spanish speakers, and plus over 12 million bilingual Spanish speakers, making the U.S. the second-largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico. While difficult to quantify, the number of consumer and cultural exports from Mexico to the U.S. also helps to build familiarity and solidarity between the two countries, which can only improve an already healthy relationship.

New geopolitical considerations favor U.S.-Mexico ties

The steady progression of America’s tech sector is now seen as a strategic priority at the federal level. Meanwhile, public and private sector decision-makers are more interested than ever in conducting business under favorable trade treaty terms with friendly governments amid a new climate of geopolitical uncertainty.

As the U.S. tech sector continues its explosive growth, technology companies in the U.S. will need to seek alternative means to supplement its in-demand tech workforce. Rather than turning to countries undergoing increased regulatory scrutiny, or distant talent bases requiring significant business travel, business leaders are looking to geographically close, diplomatically friendly nations. U.S. companies are finding Mexico’s status as a key business partner and strategic ally to be a massive value driver.

By 2030, the middle-class population in Mexico is expected to reach 95 million, placing it in the top 10 countries with the highest share of global middle-class consumption. As the middle class rises, so will companies to meet their consumer needs, and, as such, Mexico’s own tech sector will grow and require significantly more tech talent, reducing or potentially eliminating Mexico’s talent surplus.

This is evidenced by the uptick in Mexico-based technology companies, such as Mexican used-car startup Kavak, which recently hit a $4 billion valuation. Amid an exciting backdrop of skyrocketing tech valuations and potential, the U.S. tech sector should look to Mexico as a key growth market and technology partner. The time is now for the U.S. to tap into the surplus of quality tech talent in Mexico.

#column, #diversity, #immigration-law, #labor, #latin-america, #mexico, #opinion, #silicon-valley, #startups, #technology, #united-states

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Upstream, a Miami-based professional networking platform, raises a $2.75M seed round

If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you have a LinkedIn profile with your digital resume and hundreds — if not thousands — of professional connections. But how many of those people do you actually know well, and, more importantly, do you ever connect with them and meet others from their networks?

“You don’t go to LinkedIn to meet people. You don’t hang out and spend meaningful time there,” said Alex Taub, co-founder and CEO of Upstream, a new professional networking platform that just closed a $2.75 million seed round, bringing their total raised to $3.25 million. The round was led by Ibex Investors and managing partner Nicole Priel (who joins the board) and includes participation by 8-Bit Capital, Human Ventures, NYVP, Converge Venture Partners and a number of angel investors.

“Your LinkedIn network is not a good representation of who you actually know and how well you know them. We see these places that LinkedIn isn’t particularly focused [on] and believe there are opportunities for multiple big companies to better serve the needs of professionals,” Taub added.

Unlike LinkedIn, Upstream focuses on generating meaningful connections between its members, and one way they go about it is by hosting digital events that start with a speaker, followed by breakout matched sessions that are five minutes each.

To get a sense of the product, Upstream invited me to be the speaker at last Friday’s “Upstream Social,” where I talked about my work as a journalist and then coincidently got matched with two founders — one in Brazil and the other in Boston. The week before, the guest speaker was U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

To me, the experience felt like LinkedIn meets Clubhouse meets Hoppin.

Upstream, which is pre-revenue and is Miami-based, is a company whose founder was attracted to the Sunshine State from NYC during the pandemic. Taub and his family signed a two-year lease here and plan to reevaluate their residence in the summer of 2022; they are one of the movers who are cautiously optimistic about the tech industry’s recent explosion in the Magic City.

The origin story

Taub and his co-founder, Michael Schonfeld, are both serial entrepreneurs, having built and sold Social Rank for an undisclosed amount before launching Upstream in October 2020. The impetus for the company came as a solution to a struggle Taub faced in his daily life.

“Throughout my life, regardless of the job I’ve been in, I spend my time making introductions, connecting people and helping friends hire rock-star talent. Like many people, I get energy from helping others,” Taub said. “When COVID-19 hit and the job market took a dive last March, the number of requests for help I received increased 100X. I noticed quickly that my speed of responding to emails and brain capacity to connect the dots became the limiting factor in getting people help,” he added.

So it’s no surprise that Upstream started as a product where people could ask for help, and others from the community pitched in. The company now has more than 200 communities (similar to LinkedIn groups), and about 75% of the people who attend an initial Upstream event return for a second one.

“I joke that we are building a product that people need because I need it. We feel that we are the right team to solve this problem because we so desperately want it ourselves,” Taub said.

#alex-taub, #cory-booker, #human-resource-management, #human-ventures, #ibex-investors, #labor, #linkedin, #miami, #michael-schonfeld, #nicole-priel, #recent-funding, #recruitment, #social, #social-networking, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #upstream, #work

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Don’t wait for legislation banning NDAs: Write ethical policies now

Companies across the United States should be closely following the California State Legislature hearings on the “Silenced No More Act,” which would prevent the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence employees from speaking up about all forms of discrimination and harassment.

The legislation was introduced in response to the stunning claims brought forward by former Pinterest employees alleging a pattern of racial and gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation. They courageously called attention to the hypocrisy of Pinterest’s aspirational comments on social issues even though the company had required them to sign NDAs.

As attorneys who work with shareholders to hold companies accountable for this misconduct, these allegations have deeply impacted our work. They formed the basis of an ongoing shareholder derivative lawsuit that a state pension fund we represent brought against Pinterest’s board of directors and top executives for participating in and otherwise protecting powerful executives who are alleged to have discriminated against Pinterest employees.

Failure to recognize this necessity will lead to future corporate scandals as multiple accounts of the same type of misconduct in the workplace come to light.

The Silenced No More Act would extend existing laws that limit the use of NDAs. Such laws are important because NDAs are intended to protect executives by keeping their harassment, discrimination and retaliation under wraps. That NDAs chill the voices of employees who have already been victimized makes them even more toxic. NDAs cause women to fear reprisal from the company, sometimes even incorporating financial penalty clauses, long after their individual claims have been resolved.

The Silenced No More Act should pass swiftly and be a model for other states, but this is what all companies throughout the country should be doing on their own, rather than waiting for legislation to drag an ethical NDA policy out of them.

Failure to recognize this necessity will lead to future corporate scandals as multiple accounts of the same type of misconduct in the workplace come to light. It will continue to uphold an unsustainable corporate system where executives in positions of power assume they will be protected no matter how unlawful their behavior toward others in the workplace.

We have seen from our investigations the compounding impacts of NDAs and how they allow problems to fester over years.

The two of us, working with others and on behalf of Alphabet shareholders, were part of the team that led a groundbreaking $310 million settlement with the tech company that led to historic diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) reforms at the company. That settlement was the result of a shareholder derivative lawsuit where stockholders alleged that executives and board members violated their fiduciary duties by enabling a double standard that allowed executives to sexually harass and discriminate against women without consequence.

In that case, we believe Alphabet’s “culture of concealment” was driven in large part by the silencing effects of NDAs.

The duration of misconduct, enabled by NDAs, goes far beyond Alphabet and Pinterest. There is no shortage of #MeToo scandals at powerful companies, many with presences in California, that were exacerbated by muzzling NDAs. Weinstein Company, Wynn Resorts, NBC and 21st Century Fox are prominent examples of companies that first tried to keep allegations quiet through the use of NDAs and later faced a firestorm of allegations from former employees.

Fortunately, the landscape surrounding discrimination and harassment in the workplace is changing. Shareholders, workers, customers and other key business stakeholders are becoming more active in demanding that companies stop protecting harassers.

All of this should send a message to boards and C-suite executives that they must set the tone from the top and they are far better off being proactive than reactive. That means actively creating a company culture where DEI is a foundational component — not an afterthought. It also means intentionally prioritizing transparency and proactively doing away with policies that are antithetical to that goal, like NDAs that are intentionally designed to suppress the voices of employees.

The public and shareholders want to be associated with companies that do right by their employees. Business should recognize this change from a culture of compliance to one of equity and inclusion and embrace this new reality by stopping the practice of requiring complainants to enter into NDAs and fostering a culture of inclusion and accountability.

#california, #column, #diversity, #labor, #labor-rights, #law, #ndas, #opinion, #pinterest, #sexual-harassment, #startups, #venture-capital

0

Worksome pulls $13M into its high skill freelancer talent platform

More money for the now very buzzy business of reshaping how people work: Worksome is announcing it recently closed a $13 million Series A funding round for its “freelance talent platform” — after racking up 10x growth in revenue since January 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a remote working boom.

The 2017 founded startup, which has a couple of ex-Googlers in its leadership team, has built a platform to connect freelancers looking for professional roles with employers needing tools to find and manage freelancer talent.

It says it’s seeing traction with large enterprise customers that have traditionally used Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to manage and pay external workforces — and views employment agency giants like Randstad, Adecco and Manpower as ripe targets for disruption.

“Most multinational enterprises manage flexible workers using legacy MSPs,” says CEO and co-founder Morten Petersen (one of the Xooglers). “These largely analogue businesses manage complex compliance and processes around hiring and managing freelance workforces with handheld processes and outdated technology that is not built for managing fluid workforces. Worksome tackles this industry head on with a better, faster and simpler solution to manage large freelancer and contractor workforces.”

Worksome focuses on helping medium/large companies — who are working with at least 20+ freelancers at a time — fill vacancies within teams rather than helping companies outsource projects, per Petersen, who suggests the latter is the focus for the majority of freelancer platforms.

“Worksome helps [companies] onboard people who will provide necessary skills and will be integral to longer-term business operations. It makes matches between companies and skilled freelancers, which the businesses go on to trust, form relationships with and come back to time and time again,” he goes on.

“When companies hire dozens or hundreds of freelancers at one time, processes can get very complicated,” he adds, arguing that on compliance and payments Worksome “takes on a much greater responsibility than other freelancing platforms to make big hires easier”.

The startup also says it’s concerned with looking out for (and looking after) its freelancer talent pool — saying it wants to create “a world of meaningful work” on its platform, and ensure freelancers are paid fairly and competitively. (And also that they are paid faster than they otherwise might be, given it takes care of their payroll so they don’t have to chase payments from employers.)

The business started life in Copenhagen — and its Series A has a distinctly Nordic flavor, with investment coming from the Danish business angel and investor on the local version of the Dragons’ Den TV program Løvens Hule; the former Minister for Higher Education and Science, Tommy Ahlers; and family home manufacturer Lind & Risør.

It had raised just under $6M prior to thus round, per Crunchbase, and also counts some (unnamed) Google executives among its earlier investors.

Freelancer platforms (and marketplaces) aren’t new, of course. There are also an increasing number of players in this space — buoyed by a new flush of VC dollars chasing the ‘future of work’, whatever hybrid home-office flexible shape that might take. So Worksome is by no means alone in offering tech tools to streamline the interface between freelancers and businesses.

A few others that spring to mind include Lystable (now Kalo), Malt, Fiverr — or, for techie job matching specifically, the likes of HackerRank — plus, on the blue collar work side, Jobandtalent. There’s also a growing number of startups focusing on helping freelancer teams specifically (e.g. Collective), so there’s a trend towards increasing specialism.

Worksome says it differentiates vs other players (legacy and startups) by combining services like tax compliance, background and ID checks and handling payroll and other admin with an AI powered platform that matches talent to projects.

Although it’s not the only startup offering to do the back-office admin/payroll piece, either, nor the only one using AI to match skilled professionals to projects. But it claims it’s going further than rival ‘freelancer-as-a-service’ platforms — saying it wants to “address the entire value chain” (aka: “everything from the hiring of freelance talent to onboarding and payment”).

Worksome has 550 active clients (i.e. employers in the market for freelancer talent) at this stage; and has accepted 30,000 freelancers into its marketplace so far.

Its current talent pool can take on work across 12 categories, and collectively offers more than 39,000 unique skills, per Petersen.

The biggest categories of freelancer talent on the platform are in Software and IT; Design and Creative Work; Finance and Management Consulting; plus “a long tail of niche skills” within engineering and pharmaceuticals.

While its largest customers are found in the creative industries, tech and IT, pharma and consumer goods. And its biggest markets are the U.K. and U.S.

“We are currently trailing at +20,000 yearly placements,” says Petersen, adding: “The average yearly spend per client is $300,000.”

Worksome says the Series A funding will go on stoking growth by investing in marketing. It also plans to spend on product dev and on building out its team globally (it also has offices in London and New York).

Over the past 12 months the startup doubled the size of its team to 50 — and wants to do so again within 12 months so it can ramp up its enterprise client base in the U.S., U.K. and euro-zone.

“Yes, there are a lot of freelancer platforms out there but a lot of these don’t appreciate that hiring is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing the friction in working with freelancers,” argues Petersen. “Of the time that goes into hiring, managing and paying freelancers, 75% is currently spent on admin such as timesheet approvals, invoicing and compliance checks, leaving only a tiny fraction of time to actually finding talent.”

Worksome woos employers with a “one-click-hire” offer — touting its ability to find and hire freelancers “within seconds”.

If hiring a stranger in seconds sounds ill-advised, Worksome greases this external employment transaction by taking care of vetting the freelancers itself (including carrying out background checks; and using proprietary technology to asses freelancers’ skills and suitability for its marketplace).

“We have a two-step vetting process to ensure that we only allow the best freelance talent onto the Worksome platform,” Petersen tells TechCrunch. “For step one, an inhouse-built robot assesses our freelancer applicants. It analyses their skillset, social media profiles, profile completeness and hourly or daily rate, as well as their CV and work history, to decide whether each person is a good fit for Worksome.

“For step two, our team of talent specialists manually review and decline or approve the freelancers that pass through step one with a score of 85% or more. We have just approved our 30,000th freelancer and will be able to both scale and improve our vetting procedure as we grow.”

A majority of freelancer applicants fail Worksome’s proprietary vetting processes. This is clear because it says it has received 80,000 applicants so far — but only approved 30,000.

That raises interesting questions about how it’s making decisions on who is (and isn’t) an ‘appropriate fit’ for its talent marketplace.

It says its candidate assessing “robot” looks at “whether freelancers can demonstrate the skillset, matching work history, industry experience and profile depth” deemed necessary to meet its quality criteria — giving the example that it would not accept a freelancer who says they can lead complex IT infrastructure projects if they do not have evidence of relevant work, education and skills.

On the AI freelancer-to-project matching side, Worksome says its technology aims to match freelancers “who have the highest likelihood of completing a job with high satisfaction, based on their work-history, and performance and skills used on previous jobs”.

“This creates a feedback loop that… ensure that both clients and freelancers are matched with great people and great work,” is its circular suggestion when we ask about this.

But it also emphasizes that its AI is not making hiring decisions on its own — and is only ever supporting humans in making a choice. (An interesting caveat since existing EU data protection rules, under Article 22 of the GDPR, provide for a right for individuals to object to automated decision making if significant decisions are being taken without meaningful human interaction.) 

Using automation technologies (like AI) to make assessments that determine whether a person gains access to employment opportunities or doesn’t can certainly risk scaled discrimination. So the devil really is in the detail of how these algorithmic assessments are done.

That’s why such uses of technology are set to face close regulatory scrutiny in the European Union — under incoming rules on ‘high risk’ users of artificial intelligence — including the use of AI to match candidates to jobs.

The EU’s current legislative proposals in this area specifically categorize “employment, workers management and access to self-employment” as a high risk use of AI, meaning applications like Worksome are likely to face some of the highest levels of regulatory supervision in the future.

Nonetheless, Worksome is bullish when we ask about the risks associated with using AI as an intermediary for employment opportunities.

“We utilise fairly advanced matching algorithms to very effectively shortlist candidates for a role based solely on objective criteria, rinsed from human bias,” claims Petersen. “Our algorithms don’t take into account gender, ethnicity, name of educational institutions or other aspects that are usually connected to human bias.”

“AI has immense potential in solving major industry challenges such as recruitment bias, low worker mobility and low access to digital skills among small to medium sized businesses. We are firm believers that technology should be utilized to remove human bias’ from any hiring process,” he goes on, adding: “Our tech was built to this very purpose from the beginning, and the new proposed legislation has the potential to serve as a validator for the hard work we’ve put into this.

“The obvious potential downside would be if new legislation would limit innovation by making it harder for startups to experiment with new technologies. As always, legislation like this will impact the Davids more than the Goliaths, even though the intentions may have been the opposite.”

Zooming back out to consider the pandemic-fuelled remote working boom, Worksome confirms that most of the projects for which it supplied freelancers last year were conducted remotely.

“We are currently seeing a slow shift back towards a combination of remote and onsite work and expect this combination to stick amongst most of our clients,” Petersen goes on. “Whenever we are in uncertain economic times, we see a rise in the number of freelancers that companies are using. However, this trend is dwarfed by a much larger overall trend towards flexible work, which drives the real shift in the market. This shift has been accelerated by COVID-19 but has been underway for many years.

“While remote work has unlocked an enormous potential for accessing talent everywhere, 70% of the executives expect to use more temporary workers and contractors onsite than they did before COVID-19, according to a recent McKinsey study. This shows that businesses really value the flexibility in using an on-demand workforce of highly skilled specialists that can interact directly with their own teams.”

Asked whether it’s expecting growth in freelancing to sustain even after we (hopefully) move beyond the pandemic — including if there’s a return to physical offices — Petersen suggests the underlying trend is for businesses to need increased flexibility, regardless of the exact blend of full-time and freelancer staff. So platforms like Worksome are confidently poised to keep growing.

“When you ask business leaders, 90% believe that shifting their talent model to a blend of full-time and freelancers can give a future competitive advantage (Source: BCG),” he says. “We see two major trends driving this sentiment; access to talent, and building an agile and flexible organization. This has become all the more true during the pandemic — a high degree of flexibility is allowing organisations to better navigate both the initial phase of the pandemic as well the current pick up of business activity.

“With the amount of change that we’re currently seeing in the world, and with businesses are constantly re-inventing themselves, the access to highly skilled and flexible talent is absolutely essential — now, in the next 5 years, and beyond.”

#adecco, #artificial-intelligence, #copenhagen, #covid-19, #employment, #enterprise, #europe, #european-union, #fiverr, #flexible-work, #freelance-marketplace, #freelancer, #fundings-exits, #kalo, #labor, #london, #new-york, #personnel, #remote-work, #saas, #telecommuting, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #upwork, #work, #worksome

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Dear Sophie: Can I transfer my H-1B to a startup I founded?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I’ve been working for a large tech company on an H-1B visa for about a year and a half. I’d like to establish my own company while maintaining my current, secure job.

Can I keep working on the H-1B, found my own company, and then have my startup sponsor me for an H-1B or another visa?

— Scrappy in Santa Clara

Hi Scrappy,

You need to be very careful while navigating this process because there are many different legal requirements that you need to pay careful attention to so you comply with U.S. immigration laws. But yes, it is possible for you to own a portion of a business on H-1B, and it is possible for a founder to obtain an H-1B transfer to work at the startup.

Take a listen to a recent podcast episode in which I discuss having two H-1B jobs — or concurrent H-1Bs. Concurrent H-1Bs enable your second employer — in this case, your startup — to avoid having to go through the H-1B lottery process because you have already gone through that process with your current employer.

Consult with experienced attorneys

Be kind to your attorneys — you will need their support to navigate this process! Before you embark on creating your startup, you should review and discuss your employment contract and NDA with an employment lawyer.

Big companies often require employees to obtain their consent prior to forming a startup. You should also consult with an experienced immigration attorney when considering embarking on this path and determining how to structure your startup. The H-1B has specific requirements that you and your startup must meet to qualify.

Employer-employee requirement

As you probably already know, the H-1B visa allows you to work for a specific employer in a specific job at a specific location. That means you cannot work for or at your startup under your current H-1B. Therefore, we often advise clients not to found any startup as a sole proprietorship. There will probably need to be a corporation or a limited liability company.

You may be advised to find a co-founder or two. One of the key requirements for the H-1B that you need to keep in mind is your startup and you must have an employer-employee relationship. That means someone at your startup, such as a co-founder, must have the ability to hire you, supervise you, hold you accountable for poor job performance, and fire you, according to the terms and conditions of the H-1B.

Also, you may need to work with a corporate attorney to draft certain bylaws, and it can be helpful if you personally own less than 50 percent of your startup. All of these things depend on the specific details of your situation, so definitely talk to experienced attorneys to guide you through, step by step!

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

Salary requirement

Your position and your startup must meet other requirements for an H-1B. To qualify for an H-1B, the future position must meet the definition of a “specialty occupation.” That means your position requires theoretical and practical application of highly specialized knowledge.

It also means you must have at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in a field that’s directly related to the position.

Moreover, your startup must be able to pay you the prevailing wage for the position and for the location where your startup or the position is based. Prevailing wages, which are determined by the U.S. Department of Labor, are broken down into four levels based on experience, with Level I being an entry-level position and Level IV being the most experienced.

Before filing an H-1B petition on your behalf to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), your startup’s immigration attorney will have to first submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA) for certification by the Labor Department of Labor. An LCA seeks to ensure that the wages and working conditions of American workers are not negatively impacted by an H-1B position.

Equity in a company and stock options are not considered wages in the H-1B context. Therefore, your startup will need to show that it can afford to pay you the prevailing wage as well as support business operations.

If you’re pre-revenue, this can be shown by a business plan plus your bank statements showing your runway from an initial investment. The amounts required depend on the details of your company’s situation.

Other things to keep in mind

There are no restrictions on the number of hours an individual on an H-1B must work. An H-1B position can be full-time or part-time or involve working just a few hours a week. Take a listen to my podcast on best practices for submitting a strong H-1B petition.

Concurrent H-1B employment can last as long as the original H-1B with your large tech employer. If you want to remain permanently in the United States, you or one of the companies sponsoring your H-1B should apply for a green card at least a year before your sixth year on the H-1B. (If you apply for a green card before your sixth year on an H-1B, the sponsoring employer can continue to extend your H-1B beyond six years until you receive your green card so you don’t have to leave the United States to apply at a U.S. embassy in your home country).

If you want to apply for a green card on your own, consider the EB-1A green card for individuals with extraordinary ability or the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) for individuals with exceptional ability.

Other employment-based green cards, such as the EB-2 green card for professionals holding advanced degrees and EB-3 for skilled workers and professionals, require an employer to sponsor you as well as the PERM process, which can be challenging if you own substantial equity in the company.

Check with your current employer to find out if the company is willing to sponsor you for a green card. Depending on the timing, you might be able to bypass a second H-1B completely, avoiding the employer-employee relationship restrictions with your startup venture.

The work permit that comes in the I-485 adjustment of status process is unrestricted as to the type of employment in which you can engage!

Wishing you the best on your journey,

Sophie


Have a question for Sophie? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space.

The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

#column, #diversity, #ec-column, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Biden’s labor secretary thinks many gig workers should be reclassified as employees

Biden Labor Secretary Marty Walsh charged into the white hot issue of the gig economy Thursday, asserting that many people working without benefits in the gig economy should be classified as employees instead.

In an interview with Reuters, Walsh said that the Department of Labor is “looking at” the gig economy, hinting that worker reclassification could be a priority in the Biden administration.

“… In a lot of cases gig workers should be classified as employees,” Walsh said. “In some cases they are treated respectfully and in some cases they are not and I think it has to be consistent across the board.”

Walsh also said that the labor department would be talking to companies that benefit from gig workers to ensure that non-employees at those companies have the same benefits that an “average employee” in the U.S. would have.

“These companies are making profits and revenue and I’m not [going to] begrudge anyone for that because that’s what we are about in America… but we also want to make sure that success trickles down to the worker,” Walsh said.

Walsh’s comments aren’t backed by federal action, yet anyway, but they still made major waves among tech companies that leverage non-employee labor. Uber and Lyft stock dipped on the news Thursday, along with Doordash.

In the interview, Walsh also touched on pandemic-related concerns about gig workers who lack unemployment insurance and health care through their employers. The federal government has picked up the slack during the pandemic with two major bills granting gig workers some benefits, but otherwise they’re largely without a safety net.

Reforming labor laws has been a tenet of Biden’s platform for some time and the president has been very vocal about bolstering worker protections and supporting organized labor. One section of then President-elect Biden’s transition site was devoted to expanding worker protections, calling the misclassification of employees as contract workers an “epidemic.”

Biden echoed his previous support for labor unions during a joint address to Congress Wednesday night, touting the Protecting the Right to Organize Act — legislation that would protect workers looking to form or join unions. That bill would also expand federal whistleblower protections.

“The middle class built this country,” Biden said. “And unions build the middle class.”

#america, #biden, #biden-administration, #congress, #department-of-labor, #economy, #employment, #federal-government, #gig-economy, #gig-workers, #government, #labor, #president, #secretary, #tc, #temporary-work, #united-states

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The gig is up on 21st-century exploitation

Today’s app-based or “gig” economy is frequently dressed up in talk about “modern innovation” and the “21st century of work.” This facade is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Precarious, contingent work is nothing new — we’ve always had jobs that are low-paying, insecure and dismissed as “unskilled.” Due to systemic racism and a historically exploitative economy, workers of color have always been, and continue to be, heavily concentrated in the most exploitative industries.

The only difference is that today, companies like Uber, DoorDash and Instacart claim they don’t have to play by the rules because they use digital apps to manage their workforce. Even as many of these tech giants remain unprofitable, they have been allowed for far too long to shirk responsibility for providing safe and just working conditions where workers can thrive on and off the job.

Even as many of these tech giants remain unprofitable, they have been allowed for far too long to shirk responsibility for providing safe and just working conditions where workers can thrive on and off the job.

Workers’ rights in the so-called gig economy are often positioned as a modern problem. But when we think about the problems faced by gig and app-based workers, who are predominantly people of color, we must learn from the past in order to move forward to a just economy.

The federal government has long failed to address widespread worker exploitation. Since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act, jobs like agricultural and domestic work, which were largely performed by workers of color, were carved out of labor rights and protections. The “independent contractors” of today, who are largely workers of color, fall into this same category of workers who have been excluded from labor laws. Combined, Black and Latinx workers make up less than 29% of the nation’s total workforce, but they comprise almost 42% of workers for app-based companies.

Gig companies argue that the drivers, delivery people, independent contractors and other workers who build their businesses, take direction from them and whose pay they set are millions of tiny businesses that do not need baseline benefits and protections. They do this in order to shield themselves from taking responsibility for their frontline workforce. Corporations then avoid paying basic costs like a minimum wage, healthcare, paid sick leave, compensation coverage and a litany of other essential benefits for their employees. For many workers, these conditions only serve to proliferate inequality nationwide and ultimately uphold a deeply flawed economy built upon worker exploitation and suffering.

App-based companies are the face of a larger, sinister trend. Over the last four decades, federal policies have greatly eroded the bargaining power of workers and concentrated more power in the hands of corporations and those who already have substantial wealth and power. This has perpetuated and worsened the racial wage and wealth gaps and contributed to the ever-increasing degradation of working conditions for too many.

It’s clear that, in order to build an economy that works for all people, “gig” and app-based companies cannot be allowed to exploit their workers under the guise of “innovation.” These companies claim their workers want to remain independent contractors, but what workers want is good pay, job security, flexibility and full rights under federal laws. This is a reasonable and just demand — and necessary to close generational gender and racial wealth gaps.

App-based companies are pouring significant resources into promoting government policies that prop up their worker exploitation model. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash Instacart and other app-based companies are loudly peddling misinformation in state legislatures, city councils and federal offices. Elected leaders at all levels need to recognize these policies for what they are — corporate efforts to rewrite the laws to benefit them — and reject the corporate interests behind the policies that carve out workers from universal protections.

Congress must also reject exclusions that lock people of color out of basic employment protections and pass legislation to extend protections to all workers, including app-based workers. The PRO Act is a great first step, which extends bargaining protections to workers who have been wrongly classified as “independent contractors” by their employers.

Across the country, app-based workers have organized to protect their health and safety and demand that their rights as workers be recognized and protected. Elected leaders cannot keep falling for corporate propaganda claiming a “21st-century” model. Work in the 21st century is still work; work that is organized on an app is still work.

We call on Congress to recognize the labor rights and protections of all workers and act boldly to ensure that app-based companies cannot block workers from equal rights in the name of “flexibility” and “innovation.”

#column, #congress, #doordash, #economy, #employment, #future-of-work, #gig-workers, #instacart, #labor, #lyft, #uber

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Dear Sophie: What’s the latest on DACA?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

My company is looking to hire a very talented data infrastructure engineer who is undocumented. She has never applied for DACA before.

What is the latest on DACA? What can we do to support her?

—Multicultural in Milpitas

Dear Multicultural,

Thank you for your questions and for supporting your prospective new Dreamer hire in her effort to obtain Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Take a listen to the podcast episode in which my colleagues Anita Koumriqian, my law partner who is an expert in family immigration law, and Cori Farooqi, an associate attorney in our family immigration team, provide an update on all things DACA.

What’s the latest on DACA?

In good news for many in the United States, the DACA program has largely returned to what it was when the Obama administration created it through an executive order in 2012. At the end of last year, a federal judge ordered U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to accept and adjudicate new DACA applications, which had stopped in September 2017 when the previous administration announced it was ending DACA.

Moreover, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum on his first day in office stating that the secretary of Homeland Security, who oversees USCIS, should “fortify and preserve DACA.”

Your company can support an undocumented engineer by offering to pay for the services of an immigration attorney to assist her with filing applications for DACA and an employment authorization document (EAD), also known as a work permit. It may take several months for her applications to be processed. The approvals will allow her to be legally hired in the United States.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

What are the DACA requirements?

#column, #daca, #diversity, #ec-column, #green-card, #h-1b, #immigration, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #u-s-department-of-labor, #verified-experts

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There is no cybersecurity skills gap, but CISOs must think creatively

Those of us who read a lot of tech and business publications have heard for years about the cybersecurity skills gap. Studies often claim that millions of jobs are going unfilled because there aren’t enough qualified candidates available for hire.

I don’t buy it.

The basic laws of supply and demand mean there will always be people in the workforce willing to move into well-paid security jobs. The problem is not that these folks don’t exist. It’s that CIOs or CISOs typically look right past them if their resumes don’t have a very specific list of qualifications.

In many cases, hiring managers expect applicants to be fully trained on all the technologies their organization currently uses. That not only makes it harder to find qualified candidates, but it also reduces the diversity of experience within security teams — which, ultimately, may weaken the company’s security capabilities and its talent pool.

At Netskope, we take a different approach to staffing for security roles. We know we can teach the cybersecurity skills needed to do the job, so instead, there are two traits we consider more important than specific technical expertise: One is a hunger to learn more about security, which suggests the individual will take the initiative to continuously improve their skills. The other is possession of a skill set that no one else on our security team has.

Overemphasis on technical skills creates an artificial talent shortage

To understand why I believe our approach has helped us build a stronger security team, think about the long-term benefits of hiring someone with a specific security skill set: How valuable will that exact knowledge be in several years? Probably not very.

The problem is not that these folks don’t exist. It’s that CIOs or CISOs typically look right past them if their resumes don’t have a very specific list of qualifications.

Even the most basic security technologies are incredibly dynamic. In most companies, the IT infrastructure is currently in the midst of a massive transition from on-premises to cloud-based systems. Security teams are having to learn new technologies. More than that, they are having to adopt an entirely new mindset, shifting from a focus on protecting specific pieces of hardware to a focus on protecting individuals and applications as their workloads increasingly move outside the corporate network.

#ceo, #column, #computer-security, #cybersecurity, #data-security, #ec-column, #ec-cybersecurity, #information-technology, #labor, #security, #startups

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