Today marks the close of an incredible three year chapter as Jumpstart and a new beginning as Canvas. Over the week, we will be releasing podcasts, social media posts & a few news articles explaining our decision to make this transition. I wanted to write this article to tell our full story in detail, both for the general public and as a cultural artifact for our employees of today and tomorrow.
Let’s begin with the obvious: tech has a diversity problem.
It’s been a long-ignored and deliberately avoided topic in board rooms across the world, with most organizations refusing to acknowledge its existence or importance. And even though 2020 saw more public statements from companies taking a stand against institutional racism, it was also met with an equally powerful backlash of “it’s none of tech’s business” or “this work is too politicized.”
Some companies do acknowledge the problem… but only on their social media channels. In practice, however, they fail to make real change within their organizations. It’s all talk, no action; performative versus foundational & strategic.
We’re failing candidates, employees, and our organizations. The sad reality is we’ve always been failing, while finding moments of celebration from .1% improvements in representation at the expense of tokenism. Companies are far behind where they should be with recruiting diverse teams and creating inclusive workforces. It’s time to shatter systemic oppression and the old boys club methodology.
So let’s call out the elephant in the room. This is a blog post written by myself, another white, straight, able-bodied, college educated, male co-founder with a mission to change the world. So before saying anything else I first want to acknowledge that there are many things that I do not know. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up as a Black or Latin(a/e/o/X) person. I don’t know the experience of being a woman in tech. My co-founder and myself are both white men and will never understand what the journey looks and feels like for a person of color or the many other communities we don’t reflect. And that old boys club I mentioned? We both have directly benefited from it. Our work & growth on issues of equity will never stop nor will we ever consider ourselves experts. We have already made some mistakes along the way and continue to learn, which is why it’s important to be vulnerable and open to feedback. We learn the most when we leave our comfort zones, allowing us to further our own selves on our DEIB journey.
Let us also not ignore the people on the ground - nonprofits, organizations, activists, DE&I practitioners, and industry veterans that have been doing this work for a long time. We’re not the first to do this work and we certainly won’t be the last. We aren’t trying to replace these organizations, but instead, amplify them.
As co-founders backed by some of the best, our responsibility is clear: the tech and finance industry (and the past and present leaders that reflect our backgrounds) created this problem. It’s our job to help undo it.
Our industry doesn’t reflect the current & changing face of our country, let alone the growing diversity of our world and though talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Saying diversity is a pipeline issue as a scapegoat to justify the lack of progress is simply incorrect. Diverse talent exists - in numbers. It’s your process that is broken and the manifestation of bias throughout that’s the issue.
So how did we get here?
Decades of recruiting from elitist institutions that are historically not diverse and using past experience at top companies within the tech industry as a proxy for future aptitude has led to a tech echo chamber where the rich get richer and the historically overlooked continue to be left out.
The earlier days of tech’s leadership resembled the old boys club that we were used to seeing in many other industries. This mainly consisted of white males who went to an Ivy League or some other “top” university. They knew each other. They ran in each other's circles. The focus was on relentless growth, not on diversity, equity, and inclusion. This is not to say that women, people of color, folks that were differently abled and others were not part of Silicon Valley’s evolution. Rather their work often happened in the shadows, went uncredited or simply unrecorded in the memories of those who reminisce on the tech boom. As this formula was successful for those in the boy’s club, the result was that it continued and there was little to no consideration for building diverse teams.
I saw some of these things first hand when I went to college and again when I joined LinkedIn as an intern. Going to college wasn’t the expected route in my family but I ended up being the first person to do so. When I got there, I was blown away by the wealth and the connections everyone seemed to have. Wanting the same, I became obsessed with getting internships and ended up falling in love with the tech industry and what it represented to me at the time: an industry committed to making the world a better place and treating employees with respect and dignity while doing so.
This all culminated into my big Junior year summer internship. I couldn’t have been more excited but when I arrived in San Francisco the utopian veil of tech lifted. I thought tech represented a departure from tradition & institution where instead diversity of thought was celebrated, but everywhere I looked I saw folks from the same schools, reading the same books, and talking about the same things. It reminded me of how I felt when I started at UCLA but heightened.
When I went back to school for my senior year I was even more committed to starting a business that created more belonging, happiness, and justice in the world. I just wasn’t sure what form it would take. Then through a serendipitous introduction, I met Ben Herman.
When I first met Ben, I was beyond inspired. He had already accomplished so much in his life at the young age of twenty-eight. He was married with two kids and running a multi-million dollar recruiting search firm. On the surface, he had everything most people dreamed of. But I learned there was more than what meets the eye.
Ben was a formerly incarcerated high school dropout who was sick of watching the injustice he was experiencing in the world of recruiting and had a strong vision on how to change that for the better. That first day we met, we ended up talking for hours on end about the issues plaguing the world of job opportunity, recruitment, and employment.
It was from this moment and these inspiring conversations that I knew that this was someone I wanted to be in business with and that we could make a greater impact on the world together.
With Ben’s experience as an immigrant, recruiter & entrepreneur and my experience as a first-gen college student who wanted to change the tech industry, we started building Jumpstart.
It was clear to Ben and I that the resume served as a barrier to entry to many people. We also saw the paradox that all young people know too well - that lack of experience is often the biggest barrier to getting experience in the first place. The only people who were able to get internships were folks who could get referrals and knew the system. So much for the meritocracy that tech companies promised. This is where we began.
Acknowledging the importance of representation, before we did anything, we built an advisory board of candidates, recruiters, heads of DEI, and heads of talent to make sure we had diverse perspectives in our decision-making and most importantly, that we were building for the margins instead of the majority.
By late summer 2018, after around eight months of building, our beta testers at companies like Nutanix, Affirm, Coinbase & Cloudera were beginning to make hires through the platform. These hires weren’t just from their target schools, but they were from backgrounds and communities they had never been able to reach before.
Recruiters loved how candidates could represent themselves holistically and how engaged the candidates were. Candidates loved being able to bring their full selves to the recruiting process and share things they wanted companies to know such as their interests, values, demographics, and unique extracurriculars. At the time, we were an all-in-one university recruiting solution that helped companies target and engage candidates using filters (interests, values, demographics) other than the outdated ones they were used to, such as school or GPA.
After officially launching, our demand skyrocketed and we ended up closing over $1M in partnerships with customers like Lyft, Nerdwallet, Plaid & Pinterest in just five months. I was 23 years old, had never sold software before, and knew virtually nothing about B2B sales and couldn’t believe the traction we were already getting. This sales velocity allowed us to raise our Series A from Sequoia Capital to invest in our growth and mission impact.
Not long after, Covid hit and like everyone else, we had to transition the company to a remote world. Truthfully, I was very scared for what the future might hold for our 24 person company that was just getting off the ground. After the initial chaos of the pandemic settled down, we quickly saw that two things had become more important than ever—Virtual recruiting and DE&I recruiting, and these were the precise things we had already been helping our partners with over the last few years.
Following the murder of George Floyd, the heightened awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a nation wrestling with its institutional racism, companies of every size and every industry were assessing their role in this. Organizations who were saying “Diversity and inclusion matter to us” were now being asked by employees and job seekers, “How?”.
Consequently, demand for our product increased and we moved from being a nice to have to a must-have for companies dedicated to increasing employee representation. We ended up tripling our revenue and doubling our headcount in 2020. We placed thousands of candidates at their dream job, raised additional funding, and partnered with some of the best nonprofits & DE&I conferences in the world.
Though our partners initially purchased us to help with their university recruiting program, they were starting to use our platform for their experienced hiring initiatives as well. We were helping university recruiters build a diverse top of funnel, understand the representation of their pipelines with self-reported data, run engaging virtual events, build inclusive employer brands, and measure ROI on all these initiatives. Turns out, experienced recruiting teams needed help with these things too!
This presented an incredibly interesting inflection point for the company. We planned to start with creating opportunities and access for historically overlooked candidates entering their careers and then gradually begin to support them with their subsequent opportunities as they grew. But the market need and moral imperative for a platform dedicated to helping companies with their DE&I initiatives across the entire company was accelerating rapidly. It also became even more clear that for most companies, an internship and new grad program was seen primarily as a tool to increase demographic representation across the organization and if we expanded our product offering, we could help drive a lot more impact there.
With our mission to make the world more equitable and our platform as a tool to make that happen, we decided to accelerate our product roadmap to serve not just early career recruiting teams, but talent teams at ALL levels.
To signify this shift and begin this new chapter, we had to rethink everything from first principles. From that brainstorm, Canvas was born. It was more than just a change in our company name. Where Jumpstart began as a platform to help people jumpstart their career, Canvas could expand that journey and become a canvas upon which they paint the story of their life & career to get discovered for who they are and how they want to uniquely represent themselves.
With that we decided to close the chapter as Jumpstart and begin this new phase of growth as Canvas.
Why? Because diversity can’t wait and won’t wait. We will always serve Early in Career teams as they are such an important part of creating access and opportunity for historically overlooked groups, but there is so much more that needs to be done to make the world more equitable through recruitment that we are uniquely positioned to help with.
That’s why we want a name and brand that represents how big our mission is and what we stand for while empowering us to progress into what we’ll do tomorrow and beyond.
We’re here to shift mindsets and make changes happen now. Canvas is where candidates get hired for their lived experience, as well as their work experience. Where they show their identities, choices, and journeys. Where they get the roles they deserve and find their place to thrive.
Canvas is where companies take the guesswork out of hiring diverse teams. Where they turn targets and words into action and create the change society demands.
It’s where change is happening now.
It’s not lost on us that today is the anniversary of George Floyd’s death. As our team celebrates a tremendous milestone for our company, we can’t help but reflect on the tragedy that ultimately launched one of the most robust racial justice movements in our modern era.
Systemic issues of social injustice are deeply ingrained in our society and it would be naive and overly idealistic to claim that Canvas can change them all. But what can we help you do today?
- We can help you understand your organization’s diversity pipeline gaps and employ the tools, playbook, and process necessary to fix many of them.
- We can help you build the representative pipeline you have always wanted.
- We can help you connect with talent that was once out of reach.
- We can help you understand the diversity of your pipeline and discover your historically overlooked applicants using self-reported data, not biased AI.
- We can help you understand the biases within your interview funnel so you can improve the equitability of your process.
- We can help you connect with other companies that are also committed to increasing representation in the entire tech industry, not just their own company.
- We can help you build an inclusive employer brand that celebrates diversity and drives applicants that may have otherwise been left out.
- We can help you understand the ROI of all your DEIB initiatives to understand what is working, what isn’t, and where to effectively invest dollars.
- We can help you connect and engage with candidates authentically and directly so you can focus your time on increasing representation, not email spamming.
- We can help you run an end-to-end early career recruiting program to bring in future leaders that represent the workforce of tomorrow.
We imagine a world where diversity is the foundation of a recruiting organization and the technology it uses, not an afterthought assigned to a couple of passionate employees or a nice to have feature in a sourcing tool. Hiring talent of all backgrounds cannot be seen as a game of competition amongst companies. But instead, a non-zero sum effort in which a rising tide raises all ships. We cannot fix these problems overnight, or even alone.
Regardless of where you are from, who you love, your gender, your body, your race, your journey, Canvas is where you can show who you really are, and get hired for it.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us along the way and to the new folks just hearing about us now. We can’t wait to embark on this next chapter and journey with you all.