The architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry faced a shortage of skilled labor well before the coronavirus pandemic further exacerbated the problem.
The National Association of Home Builders has tracked labor levels since 2000, and in December 2021 it reported that, nationwide, there are 410,000 unfilled jobs — the highest number ever.
As the COVID-19 crisis recedes, will more people be willing to go back to work? Tampa entrepreneur Vaishnavi More isn’t waiting around to find out. An architect by training, she created Archslate, a new kind of job-search website for the AEC industry. Headquartered at the Embarc Collective innovation hub in Tampa, it links employers to job seekers but also provides e-learning services and uses artificial intelligence to “automate” recruitment and hiring processes.
“Ironically, when I started working at an architecture firm, I realized that they struggle to get top talent from across the country to come and join the firm,” says More, 29, a graduate of the prestigious Harvard Graduate School of Design. “There is a massive disconnect in the entire ‘hiring industry.’ Employers are flooding job boards and candidates are randomly applying to every single job they see.”
Archslate, More says, tackles the problem from both sides, serving candidates and employers equally.
“Basically,” she says, “it’s a two-sided talent marketplace. That’s one of our key differentiators — not many platforms do that. With our e-learning model, a candidate can come to the platform,at any point in their career, and get trained in software and equipped for the latest industry standards, and get a chance to become a top-notch candidate.”
‘We ended up getting our first paying customer on the first day of our launch. That was a strong validation point.’ Vaishnavi More, founder and CEO of Archslate
Archslate is free for job-seekers, but employers pay a fee ranging from $299 to $549 per hire. Not only is that good value, More says, but the time it to takes to hire a new employee, can be drastically reduced, leading to even greater efficiencies.
“Traditionally, it usually takes employers about 52 days to fill a position,” she says. “On our platform, employers have filled positions in as little as three hours.”
More declines to disclose Archslate’s revenue, to date, and its projected sales for 2022, but says the firm, which launched less than a year ago, in May 2021, has worked with “hundreds” of employers and “thousands” of job-seekers.
“We ended up getting our first paying customer on the first day of our launch,” she says. “That was a strong validation point.”
Investors seem to agree. Archslate recently closed an oversubscribed pre-seed funding round that generated $700,000 — $250,000 more than its goal.
“Since the time that we started fundraising, there has been massive growth on our platform,” More says. “Employers found our platform to be quite competitive compared to some of the other more traditional platforms.”
Archslate — the name is meant to evoke “a clean slate” for the AEC industry, More says, adding, “we’re going to start the hiring automation process from scratch, because we were tired of how things are working out in this industry” — intends to disrupt multiple aspects of how people connect to employers and vice-versa. More believes it will reduce the need for employers to rely on headhunters and other costly third-party recruiting services, while applicants will benefit from training and certification in essential industry software tools, such as Autodesk and Revit, while having a place to display their entire work portfolio, not just a resume, to potential employers.
That last point, More says, is key.
“A work portfolio is super-important for the AEC industry,” she says. “Your work portfolio is your identity, something that makes you stand out from millions of resumes.”
Archslate faces the challenge of competing with the likes of Indeed.com, Monster.com and Glassdoor.com, but More says the firm is committed to exclusively serving the AEC industry, which should help its chances of success. It’s also targeting employers in key markets such as Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and, of course, Tampa Bay.
“There’s been a lot of response from the Tampa Bay area,” More says. “But we are nationwide, and in the next five to seven years, we plan to be on the path to being global leaders within the AEC space.”
To get started in that direction, More plans to quickly bulk up Archslate’s staff. It already has 16 employees and plans to double the size of its team by the end of 2022.
“We will be hiring more people in Tampa, now that we are headquartered at Embarc Collective,” she says. “We’re going to be using a lot of their resources for getting local talent.”