Entrepreneurs: A. Teams want to be a marketplace for “renting” skills rather than “buying” them

Many tech workers have quit their jobs during the pandemic, part of a wave known as the “Great Resignation.” But it turns out that some people, instead of leaving the workforce, have changed their relationship with the workforce, deciding that rather than committing to being an employee of one company, they will “rent” their skills to many people.

Not everyone works this way, says Wharton organizational psychologist Adam Grant. But for workers who want the flexibility and freedom to set their own schedules and choose who to work with a subset of the economy, working with others on remote teams is safer than being alone.

According to Grant, it’s part of a “universal human quest.” “I want to be unique, but I also want to belong.”

Grant has been interested in the team for some time. He has written several books on the data and science behind the motivations that drive people and organizations. In 2018, he met entrepreneur Raphael Ouzan, and he began to notice that many of his peers were looking to break free from rigid work structures that didn’t allow them to choose collaborators or projects. The two kept in touch.

Back then, the gig economy was entrenched, but most of the opportunities in that economy, whether working with Uber, DoorDash, Upwork, or Fiverr, involved short-term, simple tasks.

“The system is very commoditized,” Ouzan said. “There’s not much out there for people who want to pursue a craft with autonomy.”

In 2020, Ouzan helped found A. Team, a membership-only platform for companies and what they call “product builders,” or people who help develop software. Ouzan believes “cloud-based teams” can be quickly integrated into any company, no matter where they are, and represent the next generation of the gig economy.

A. Team now has 4,000 technologists and more than 200 companies on its platform. The company announced Tuesday that it raised $55 million in a round led by Tiger Global Management, Insight Partners and Spruce Capital Partners. Additional investment came from Jay-Z’s company Rocnation; founders of CAA, Apollo and Fiverr; and Grant.

“Many of the greatest achievements in human history have been attributed to a group of people, but our greatest frustration is when we work in a group of people,” Grant said. “I’ve been looking to the future of work for many years to have more opportunities, especially for people in the knowledge and creator economy, to be freelancers, but there’s a structure behind freelancers.”

Grant said the pandemic has changed the way we work, and “one possible silver lining of COVID is that we’re being forced to be more thoughtful and conscious about our collaboration.”

Product manager and designer Amélie Beurrier is one of the employees Grant is referring to. She has worked for startups and big companies like Amazon, but what she loves most is the freedom to work for herself while collaborating with others. Less than a year ago, she heard about A. Team from a friend and decided to apply for the platform. (A. The team has an application process that includes “technical interviews and algorithmic evaluations,” the company said in a statement, and members are “continuously evaluated” as they work on projects.)

Angelo Stracquatanio, CEO of Apprentice, which develops software for the life sciences, turned to A. Team during the pandemic when his company needed to grow quickly. That gave him access to “20+ engineers” almost overnight, he said.

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