Elivade Introduces the First Career Platform for Diverse ProfessionalsBy Annie Forhan
Elivade Introduces the First Career Platform for Diverse ProfessionalsMeet Elivade, the LinkedIn for diverse talent. Elivade is an online career platform connecting students and professionals from underrepresented communities with employers and peers. I spoke with co-founder Leon Mishkis to learn more about the platform and Elivade’s plans to transform the way diverse professionals connect.
Elivade’s BeginningsElivade’s co-founder, Leon Mishkis, has always been passionate about finding ways to help students navigate their early career journeys. In college, it frustrated him to see friends who were not at top tier universities struggling to land their first internships and jobs, and he became interested in finding ways to make the process work better for everyone. Flash forward to 2017, when Leon started business school at Wharton. While in Philadelphia, he met Senzwa Ntsepe, a diversity and inclusion expert who leads the largest professional network for people of color in the city. From Senzwa, Leon learned about the various hurdles faced by diverse talent looking for mentorship, and the limitations this creates for them when pursuing professional opportunities. Leon saw connections between his interests and the unmet needs Senzwa described, and was inspired to start Elivade to support underrepresented communities and diversity-focused employers. Soon after this initial idea was in motion, Justin Karfo, a fellow Wharton MBA, and Maria Larrea, a Penn student, joined Leon and Senzwa to help grow the company.
Meeting Unmet Needs for Talent and Employers
A chasm exists between employers looking to bring diversity to their workforce and diverse and talented people looking for professional opportunities. As a small to mid-sized employer, engaging diverse talent at scale can be challenging and expensive. Employers typically access candidates by sponsoring affinity groups at colleges and universities, a method that can cost an additional $100,000-$150,000 on top of regular recruiting expenses when done at scale. Most companies either cannot afford this approach or don’t have the human capital capacity available to support such an effort. Elivade addresses this need by creating the first career platform that allows employers to truly engage diverse talent at scale.On the employee side, many diverse students and professionals seeking employment and career growth struggle to easily access peers, mentors, and opportunities. High-quality resources and career-changing relationships are harder to access if you’re not part of an exclusive group at an elite institution. With the number one driver of job decisions being recommendations from trusted peers, this leaves the majority of candidates at a disadvantage. Elivade serves as a community of trusted peers for those who might not otherwise have easy access to such a network.
“We really want to build this community of trusted peers that helps people who might not have easy access to peers or mentors get exposure to a more formal network…and work with partner companies that truly care about diversity and inclusion.”– Leon Mishkis, Elivade Co-Founder
How it WorksThink of Elivade as the LinkedIn for diverse talent. Students and professionals, known as Elivade’s “members”, create profiles outlining their skills and interests, and can build their networks over time on the site. The platform allows members to connect with peers, identify mentors, discuss their careers, and anonymously post career questions that might otherwise be difficult to ask. Additionally, members can join various sub-communities such as Women in Business, Entrepreneurship, and university-specific communities, that allow them to interact through career discussions and build community.Employers use the platform as a key component of their diversity recruiting strategy. They create a partner profile, post jobs, and host live events that are open to members. Through their membership, employers also gain access to Elivade’s team of campus ambassadors, who can share job postings and employer updates with their campus communities. The platform, in combination with its ambassador team, generates a high volume of qualified and relevant candidates for employers to work with during the recruitment process in a way that would be difficult to replicate using alternative channels.Elivade offers the platform to members for free, and charges employers an annual subscription to use the site for job postings and community engagement.
The importance of building community was a theme that came up throughout my conversation with Leon. Elivade hopes to grow its platform in a way that’s tailored to the needs of the communities it serves, and uses its campus ambassadors as a critical channel for understanding and engaging these communities.On-campus, Elivade’s ambassadors provide support that is tailored to their campus’ needs, including career coaching, hosting lunch and learns to answer career questions about offerings from Elivade partners, and offering application tips. Through its ambassadors, Elivade partners with university career services teams and campus affinity groups to engage students. Elivade has also pursued off-campus partnerships with organizations including Young African MBAs and the National Association of Black MBAs to engage young professionals who are not in school.Another key element of Elivade’s focus on community is its mentorship offering. Leon’s team found that undergrads, even those in programs at top universities, were very eager to connect with and get advice from MBAs, but lacked a coordinated way to make these connections. They also found that many MBA students were interested in offering support to undergrads. In this way, Elivade has become a community where every member can benefit from or give back to someone else, and mentorship has become one of the main drivers for students, MBAs, and young professionals joining the platform. The team is currently focused on strengthening this capability by developing an algorithm that matches mentors with mentees.
Increasing User AdoptionThe biggest challenge the team has had in growing the company is member adoption. While students often express high enthusiasm about the platform, this doesn’t always translate to creating a profile. Elivade has found that it is most successful in getting people to sign up for the platform when its ambassadors host live events. User retention will be critical in creating the community Elivade envisions, and it will need to continue looking for ways to keep users engaged on the platform to avoid the dropoff that plagues many platforms that depend on network effects.
Traction and Future PlansElivade launched its pilot in April, 2019 in four different cities with campus ambassadors strengthening its presence at Harvard, NYU, Georgetown, Penn, and Philadelphia Community College. Over the summer, Elivade’s team updated the platform to incorporate feedback from the pilot and made changes based on behavioral metrics. To date, Elivade has over 4,000 users with a presence at 35 colleges and universities.The team initially financed its operations through bootstrapping and a friends and family round. With the pilot complete, they are now speaking with investors to raise a seed round to focus on scaling up the ambassador program and online marketing.In order to gain traction and attract the rest of the market to the platform, Elivade has focused its initial strategy on gaining members from top colleges and universities. However, in the long term, Elivade’s goal is to become a platform that creates better career access for everyone.
“Our vision is to become the #1 career platform for any person or company that wants to engage and hire diverse talent.”– Leon Mishkis, Elivade Co-Founder