The tech startup that attracted investment from Jay-Z

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Rapper Jay-Z (along with Beyoncé above) is a featured investor in tech startup A.Team, which focuses on the search for tech talent.

Rafael Ozan fired a team In early 2020 with a simple premise: To build a high-impact product, you need a high-performance team. While many freelance platforms allow tech workers to get plenty of jobs, Ozan says he wanted to create teams of high-end contractors who could “work on much bigger things.” So far, its teams of independent workers have helped build products ranging from vaccine manufacturing programs to study implementation.

A.’s team has exited among the notable investors in the startup: Jay-Z’s Roc Nation VC arm and leadership mentor Adam Grant. Among its 200 clients, Ozan says, are McGraw-Hill, Lyft, PepsiCo and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Read more: 5 differences that C-level recruits look for.

As a Hollywood producer who gathers talent to produce a movie, A.Team’s business model is based on matching top talent with worthy projects. This means evaluating and restricting who enters your platform, requesting appropriate work from the client, and building a community through content, communications and conversations.

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Adam Grant, a management and leadership expert, is part of the investor team, as well as venture capital fund Tiger Global.

“We design the platform for those who don’t want to join a platform,” says Ozan, whose financial start-up BillGuard made it to the Forbes Israel 30 Under 30 list in 2016. He assembled a team of senior advisors and investors for A.Team, which also includes Shai Wininger, founder of Lemonade and Fiverr, SpaceX Vice President of Human Resources Brian Bjelde and former Upwork CEO Stefan Kasrel.

Read more: Applying for the under-30 shortlist in 2022

What drew NFX co-founder and venture capitalist Gigi Levi Weiss to lead $5 million in seed funding in 2020 was the promise of a new business model. says Levi Weiss, who also invested in the latest round.

Besides promising to work on what Ozan calls “advanced challenges,” team builders earn about $130 an hour and spend an average of 20 hours a week on projects. This has helped build a network of more than 4,000 professionals, with more than 500 applications per month from others looking to join, according to Ozan.

Although Ozan has not released sales figures, he says revenue grew more than sevenfold in 2021. The company makes money by charging commercial customers a fee, which he expects to earn at a rate of about $100 per month.

Startups face a shortage of tech talent

The launch of the A team comes. “Overall, there appears to be recognition on both sides of the need to reconsider the traditional model,” says Danielle Vanoff, chief strategy officer at PwC who focuses on digital workforce skills issues. “While the flexibility of contract work can be attractive in the short term, I’ve also seen people eager to connect, which is difficult when you’re constantly moving from company to company and project to project.”

With 36% of the US workforce engaged in freelancing last year, whether as a side or main activity, according to the Upwork study, employers increasingly need to engage with outside contractors and platforms to get things done — and improve their workers. This is especially true when hiring tech talent to help create new tools and functionality, notes Curtis Brett, vice president of consulting firm Korn Ferry. The challenge, says Brett, is that “a freelance worker or contractor is often a temporary solution, like first aid. What you see a lot of companies doing now is trying to be creative in how they develop their own talent.”

While independent teams can produce high-value work, the model carries risks. Besides the usual security concerns, outsourcing core intellectual property creation can raise questions about copyright and ownership, says Adam Robinson, founder and CEO of Hireology, an employee management platform.

“Having cohesive teams with a high level of trust and the ability to solve problems and build things together is really critical,” Robinson says. “If they are full-time employees, this work product is clearly company-owned. You have to be careful in your agreements with freelancers.”

Entrepreneur Focuses on Teams

Ozan says his focus on the value of the difference comes from his time as an officer in the Israeli Military Technology Intelligence Unit, where he worked in electronic warfare and cryptography. A.Team creates a community of guest users – which includes independent product creators, software engineers, product marketers, designers and more – who create “cloud-based teams” that work together on projects for 12 to 18 hours. a month at a time. Freelancers can meet their teams in co-working spaces, take workshops and courses, participate in round tables and have access to Team A’s advisory board and network.

“The problem with people trying to leave companies and choose their own destiny is that there is nothing to back them up,” Ozan says. “Fiverr and Upwork are great if you’re looking to earn extra income, but it’s definitely not the path to self-fulfillment for highly skilled, high-paid professionals.”

Vinay Minda, co-founder of Blank Street Mobile Coffee, used the A.Team team to find project managers and freelancers to help create an app and loyalty program. Minda loved the “flexibility of hiring people who are experts in a particular thing for specific projects” and having the talent of the A.Team team, which made the hiring process faster and more efficient.

If Hireology’s team model A. Robinson predicts, “we’ll start to see the proliferation of industry-specific freelance sites reaching full scale, and we’ll continue to pressure the availability of full-time talent.”

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