Meet 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 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
“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 Works
Think 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.
Increasing User Adoption
The 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 Plans
Elivade 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
The business case for bringing diverse students, professionals, and employers together is clear. However, in a world where big players like LinkedIn dominate online professional networking, and many startups are vying for student engagement to achieve network effects, Elivade will need to find a way to prove its platform’s differentiation and create an experience that keeps users engaged. I look forward to seeing how Elivade’s platform evolves to meet the needs of the communities it serves.