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INNOVATOR Q&A

R.I. startup connects college students with freelance work

Adam Alpert, cofounder and chief executive of Pangea.app.
Adam Alpert, cofounder and chief executive of Pangea.app.Simon Straetker

Adam Alpert is cofounder and chief executive of Pangea.app, a Providence startup that connects companies with college students for freelance work.

Q: When was Pangea.app formed, and what inspired its creation?

Alpert: When I was an undergrad at Brown University in 2016, there was no place for students to find part-time paid work that wasn’t an on-campus job. Too many students have to choose between working in the cafeteria or taking an unpaid internship. (And most don’t even have a choice.) We saw an opportunity to create a new avenue for students to gain experience while creating value for companies that didn’t have formal internship programs.

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After graduating in 2017, my cofounder and I launched our first product, went through a series of pivots, got accepted into MassChallenge, and ultimately raised our first round of venture capital funding while hiring our first three full-time employees in the process: Tae Sam Lee Zamora (a recent grad from RISD), Kacie Galligan (a recent grad from Bryant), and Max Amendolara (a recent grad from Quinnipiac). All are now based in Rhode Island.

Q: What are some examples of the freelance work that college students perform through the company?

Alpert: Social media management is a very popular area for us. Students are on social platforms every day and on top of all the latest trends. We find that social media ends up being a great starting point to doing marketing across the board. A lot of the students who start here end up doing graphic design work, writing blogs, and even building websites.

I think one of the most interesting things students have done is create viral TikTok content for The Singing Machine.

Q: Why wouldn’t companies just hire students on their own?

Alpert: Hiring an intern through traditional methods takes an average of three months. On Pangea.app, you hire a student in less than three days, and on top of that you get access to students from more than 700 schools.

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After talking to our users, we found that managing students is sometimes more difficult than hiring them, so we built features to help with time-tracking, task-delegation, and [IRS Form] 1099 fillings. We make it possible to find and work with students who would otherwise go straight to a big tech company.

Q: Tell us about the Top Emerging Talent program.

Alpert: In January, we introduced the Top Emerging Talent program to identify the most capable and motivated students in the country. Quality is important to a lot of our clients, and we wanted to help surface the best students we have.

For our winter 2021 batch, we only selected 200 students and have already matched around half of them with employers. Students come from schools ranging from RISD to Harvard to Old Dominion, in Virginia. One of them has already gotten a full-time job out of it.

Q: Why did you choose the name Pangea.app?

Alpert: Pangea refers to the supercontinent that existed 250 million years ago when all land masses formed one big “island.” On Pangea.app, everyone is a Pangean. It doesn’t matter where you go to school or what your GPA is, we give all students a chance to prove themselves. Having equal access to economic opportunity is critical to making a more equal and unified world.

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Q: What is the biggest obstacle facing Pangea.app and how are you addressing it?

Alpert: This past year, our team grew from three to 30. Managing that is certainly a unique challenge for me. I managed similar-sized projects when I did film, but this “film” is never done. It’s a train that never stops, and it’s my job to make sure everyone is motivated, learning, and in sync so that we hit our next objective. We recently doubled our funding, and that gives us some fuel to speed the train up.

Q: Does Pangea.app have a sense of mission in terms of informing clients about standout individuals from disadvantaged or historically excluded groups?

Alpert: In 2020, we banned unpaid internships on the platform because they exclude students based on their financial background. Our Top Emerging Talent program is a powerful way to identify students from disadvantaged or historically excluded groups. Of our winter 2021 batch, 51 percent identify as female, and 60 percent identify as either low-income, first-generation, BIPOC, or LGBTQIA+. In addition, we are in the process of partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to elevate them on the platform with our upcoming product release. This will make it much easier for employers to find incredible students from diverse backgrounds.



Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.