As work and life have changed during the pandemic, the demand for highly-skilled tech talent — engineers, product managers, designers — has also intensified. Many tech workers quit their jobs, but it turned out that the wave of employees leaving wasn’t part of the Great Quit after all; instead, they were workers who decided that instead of selling their soul to one company, they can “rent” their skills to many.
Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, said not everyone is going to work this way. But for workers in the subset of the economy who want the flexibility and freedom to make their own hours and choose who to work with, collaborating with others in remote teams can be safer than being alone.
It is part of the “universal human quest,” according to Mr. Grant, to say, “I want to be unique, but I also want to belong.”
Mr. Grant has been interested in computers for quite some time. He has written several books on data and the science behind the motivations that drive people and organizations. In 2018 he met Raphael Ouzan, an entrepreneur who was beginning to notice that many of his colleagues were seeking to escape rigid work structures that did not allow them to choose their collaborators or projects. The two kept in touch.
By then, the gig economy was firmly entrenched, but most opportunities in that economy, whether working with Uber, DoorDash, Upwork, or Fiverr, involved simple, short-term assignments.
“The system is very commoditizing,” Ouzan said. “There wasn’t much available for people who want to pursue a career with autonomy.”
In 2020, Mr. Ouzan helped start A.Team, a members-only platform for businesses and those he calls “product builders,” or people who help build software. Mr. Ouzan believes that “cloud-based teams” can be quickly integrated into any company, no matter where they are in the world, and represent the next generation of the gig economy.
A. Team now has 4,000 tech workers and 200+ companies on its platform. The company announced Tuesday that it has raised $55 million in funding in a round led by Tiger Global Management, Insight Partners and Spruce Capital Partners. Additional investment came from Jay-Z’s company Rocnation; CAA founders Apollo and Fiverr; and Mr Grant.
“Many of the greatest achievements in human history are attributed to groups of people, but also our greatest frustrations arise when we work in teams of people,” said Mr. Grant. “I have been anticipating for years that the future of work would have more opportunities, especially for people in the knowledge and creative economies, to be independent but to have structure behind that independent work.”
The pandemic has changed a lot about the way we work, Grant said, and “a possible positive side of Covid is that we’ve been forced to be more thoughtful and more intentional about our collaborations.”
Amélie Beurrier, product manager and designer, is one of those workers Grant refers to. She has worked for startups and larger companies like Amazon, but what she enjoys most about her is the freedom to work for herself while teaming up with others. Just under a year ago, she heard about A. Team from a friend and decided to apply to the platform. (A. The team has an application process that includes “technical interviews and algorithmic evaluation,” the company said in a statement, and members are “constantly evaluated” as they work on projects.)
Angelo Stracquatanio, CEO of Apprentice, which develops life sciences software, turned to A. Team during the pandemic when his company needed to ramp up quickly. He gave him access to “more than 20 engineers practically overnight,” he said.