Tumml

WorkHands: A Unique Tech Solution to a Workforce Development Problem

workhands-415x217 copyA few months ago we wrote about Tumml, the San Francisco-based business accelerator that supports early-stage companies. What was unique about Tumml is that it focuses on companies specifically developing innovative solutions to urban problems.

So we were thrilled to learn that our friend and former NYC government colleague, Patrick Cushing, was accepted to the program. He received funding, technical assistance, and other support to launch his new venture, WorkHands.

We were even more thrilled to learn that WorkHands is the kind of technology solution that speaks to so many of our interests. WorkHands is, in short, a LinkedIn for the skilled trades—plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, and the like. It was born out of Patrick’s desire to promote the under-appreciated trades fields and to help solve the vexing public policy problems around these jobs. On the supply side, not enough new workers are being trained to replace the waves of older workers retiring from these hands-on jobs. On the demand side, employers struggle to find appropriately trained trades workers, leading to unfilled jobs and delayed projects.

Patrick knew that existing private- and public-sector solutions weren’t helping to close that gap. In San Francisco, for instance, public workforce programs have encouraged more people to enter the trades to help address the supply shortage. But public economic development programs that encourage local hiring of trades workers are falling well short of their goals due to the lack of qualified local workers.

Tools like Craigslist and word-of-mouth referrals lack the critical mass of workers and employers gathered in one central place—important for a competitive labor market. LinkedIn is too focused on white-collar jobs and doesn’t allow trades workers to showcase their certifications, or the visual fruits of their labor in ways that make sense for their industries. Customers, after all, often want to see examples of finished projects to help them judge the fit of a trades worker for their task.

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After receiving key technical and financial support from the Tumml program, WorkHands was able to relocate its team to San Francisco to work full-time on the project and establish key relationships with trade schools, employers, and economic development agencies. After a few months in beta, it launched to the public on September 10, 2013. It’s already attracted lots of attention from employers eager to post jobs, and trades workers are rapidly signing up and spreading news of the site via word of mouth—and the all-important hardhat sticker.

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Patrick and his team are hard at work to build iPhone and Android apps for WorkHands and expand the reach of the site to more employers and workers. We’re can’t wait to see what they accomplish next!

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Tumml: Accelerating Ventures that Improve Urban Living

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When helping NYU create its proposal for the Center for Urban Science and Progress, we did a lot of thinking on how institutions large and small can support entrepreneurs who are trying to bring solutions to urban problems to market. CUSP is leveraging its global reach to help promising research ventures become commercially viable. It is building on NYU’s existing entrepreneurship programs to launch new incubators, use New York City as a test bed for urban apps, and tap into the corporate know-how of other worldwide players like Carnegie Mellon University, IBM and Cisco. We can’t wait to see what companies eventually emerge from this effort.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the non-profit Tumml is launching a new incubation program to help support early-stage companies that are developing solutions to urban problems. Participating companies will receive support that includes office space, seed funding, legal services, and mentorship. These companies will be creating consumer products and services useful to cities (think ZipCar), meaning they’ll have sustainable business models and will benefit the local economy. Tumml will take an equity stake in the ventures but, as a non-profit, will reinvest returns back into the program.

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