This editorial article is a part of Big Tech + You Month 2023 in Technical.ly’s editorial calendar.
Tech companies have been purging employees for a variety of reasons, including over-hiring in years before, and bracing for a possible recession. In 2022, 1,044 tech companies laid off nearly 160,000 employees, and so far in 2023, 312 tech companies have laid off 97,000 employees, the Layoffs.fyi tracker found.
Locally tied startup Equipt, is aiming to help these displaced technologists with a new initiative: Equipt for Success.
Cofounders Jide Osan and Hubert Dagbo make up a Philly- and London-based team. The pair met at Bethlehem’s Lehigh University in 2008, and Osan pursued a career in tech startups while Dagbo pursued finance. When the pandemic hit, and jobs of all kinds became harder to find, Dagbo came to his former classmate with an idea.
The first version of Equipt launched in 2021 as a diversity talent marketplace for upskilling and talent acquisition. The pair participated in the July 2021 Techstars accelerator, through which they received a $120,000 investment. By late 2022, though, the talent market had shifted.
“We recognized our community had a different challenge now,” Dagbo said. “They were dusting off their resumes, dealing with layoffs, visa issues and other problems following mass layoffs. And a large amount of our community wanted to help.”
They pivoted their platform to its current state: a free-for-members community of webinars, live tech talks and upskilling sessions where technologists can grow their network and connect with companies who are looking to hire. The sessions, which any member can register for and attend, hit on everything from founder stories, interview preparation, job hunting strategies and coding best practices. It’s “open source knowledge,” Osan said.
The sessions are led by a variety of technologists and members of their community. Their business model includes a charge for companies looking to connect with the diverse tech talent the platform has been attracting. A hiring manager might attend a session on side projects and meet a technologist looking for a role. They can review resumes on the spot, and although further communication about interviews has been happening off the platform, that’s a feature the cofounders are aiming to add in the near future.
The long-term vision is for a professional development network that’s focused on people helping each other, rather than self-promotion.
Some of the experience users will have on the platform is shaped by Osan’s experience job hunting in the startup world. He was CTO of Philly startup Squareknot, and before that, an edtech startup called GoodSemester. When Squareknot “dissolved,” he spent about a year interviewing and searching for a new role before opening his own dev shop.
“I remember sort of arrogantly applying for Facebook without studying, and I bombed the interview on a really stupid question — it was the nerves,” he said. “It was kind of a little scary there, learning how to interview, how to sell myself as a developer. I just wanted to sit and code. During that time, maybe a year, it was pretty intense and that’s when I learned the importance of networking.”
The startup is currently beginning fundraising with an eye on building out its platform and a forthcoming mobile app. For their community, Dagbo said, a big value proposition is that most members are going through a similar journey. Layoffs and interviewing can feel like an isolating thing, but the platform is focused on how they can help each other.
“They come for community and mental health, along with technical skills,” he said.
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