(Jopwell cofounders Porter Braswell and Ryan Williams / Photo: Jopwell)
It’s well documented that African-Americans, Latinos and other racial minorities are underrepresented in many fields, including tech and finance industries. That’s a troubling trajectory as the United States transitions further from a manufacturing to an information-based economy.
Jopwell, a new job-recruiting pipeline, is seeking to bring more balance. The organization has brought in the star power of sports icons Joe Montana and Magic Johnson, along with tech heavyweights Andreessen Horowitz, Kapor Capital, Omidyar Network and Valar Ventures.
Jopwell co-founders Porter Braswell and Ryan Williams, both African-Americans, launched the Jopwell platform in January 2015 to help companies like Microsoft, Facebook and many others find and recruit black, Latino and Native American employees. So far, Jopwell has raised more than $4.22 million in angel and seed funding, including previous investments from Y Combinator and Rothenberg Ventures.
In the last year, more than 40 leading companies have signed up to use Jopwell’s technology, with the company reporting the number of minority job seekers using the service skyrocketing 275 percent in the past six months. Companies using Jopwell for recruiting include Facebook, Goldman Sachs and MasterCard. While the company places heavy emphasis on tech fields, it also introduces candidates to a range of industries, including education, management consulting and medicine.
Co-founders Braswell and Williams told Opportunity Lives they met as analysts on the same Wall Street trading floor and saw firsthand how challenging it can be for leading organizations to recruit and hire historically underrepresented ethnic minority talent. In their cases, both had been exposed to careers in finance early — Braswell in high school and Williams in college — thanks to established diversity programs and internship experiences.
“These opportunities were really formative for us,” Braswell said. “Yet we also understood and talked about the fact that the majority of other ambitious minorities in America didn’t have access to similar opportunities. That’s when we realized we could use technology to introduce diverse talent to great jobs and companies at scale.”
From the job candidate side, users sign up and create profiles that can only be viewed by Jopwell’s partner companies. User profiles highlight candidates’ skills and abilities, but they also include personal interests and background sections that go beyond a traditional resume.
“This gives recruiters some valuable context and information beyond what you get from a laundry list of professional experience and quantifiable achievements,” Braswell said. “This format helps give our users and partners the best possible search experience.”
Braswell said after rolling out a new Jopwell search feature for recruiters in February, recruiters more than doubled their queries. Braswell said he expects the search frequency to continue to increase as more recruiters become aware of the new search functionality.
When asked whether creating a platform targeting specific populations runs the risk of funneling them away from the mainstream pipeline, Braswell disagreed.
“Definitely not,” Braswell said. “The statistics strongly suggest that underrepresented ethnic minorities are largely excluded from mainstream pipelines. We created Jopwell to help companies correct for that. Every time a user gets recruited via Jopwell, for example, he or she is theoretically entering a ‘mainstream’ pipeline, which very well may have been previously inaccessible.”
“We realized we could use technology to introduce diverse talent to great jobs and companies at scale”
Some African-American business leaders like Sam Kirk, founder of Youth About Business, report that too often kids in low-income homes dream of narrow careers such as music artists or athletes because they aren’t exposed to businessmen and women to show them alternative pathways. By bringing in sports celebrities, Jopwell hopes to garner attention for career alternatives.
“Having two cultural icons and business moguls like Joe Montana and Magic Johnson in our corner just underscores our technology’s value proposition,” Braswell said. “We have built a first-of-its-kind digital pipeline of underrepresented minority candidates that companies can tap into to implement their diversity commitment faster and more effectively than ever before.”
Ryan Williams said it is promising to see the number of minorities in STEM growing. He reported some 12 percent of all new STEM program bachelor’s degree graduates from top universities were black or Hispanic, for example. Yet these groups comprised only five percent of employees at some of the largest companies in the technology industry, even when including non-technical roles.
“That’s where we have to do more to get diverse talent into recruitment pipelines and across organizations — especially in leadership roles,” Williams said. “By building a digital pipeline of underrepresented ethnic minority talent, we are able to make meaningful introductions between candidates and our partner companies. Discovery can be a major barrier for diverse talent.”
Carrie Sheffield is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @carriesheffield and on Facebook.