Plano-Based Fair Shot Network Launches Freelancer Platform for Economically Disadvantaged Software Developers » Dallas Innovates – dallasinnovates.com

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The Fair Shot Network wants businesses to know they don’t have to go offshore to find affordable, talented software developers—they’re available right here in the U.S., and ready to get to work. 

The Plano-based startup announced today that it’s emerging out of stealth to launch an on-demand freelancer network, where businesses of all sizes from any industry can hire American talent to work on software development projects. Equity-minded companies can use Fair Shot to find diverse freelancers for a wide array of challenging projects.

“Our network is comprised of talented yet underestimated Americans who mainly live in areas where opportunities are scarce,” said Fair Shot Founder and CEO Rick Cantu, in a statement. “These overlooked individuals are ready to show companies what they can do on all types of challenging projects.”

Cantu told Dallas Innovates that many businesses currently look offshore to India, Pakistan, Latin America, and Eastern Europe for freelancers who can help scale up projects.

“By hiring our talent instead of using offshore programmers, companies can support deserving Americans who have made the effort to become exceptional software developers. We have the talent you need, right here in the U.S.,” he said.

The startup says it features software developers with experience and expertise across a wide array of programming languages, frameworks, and technologies. Whether businesses need to scale up or simply meet a deadline, Fair Shot enables them to hire its developers on an hourly, part-time, or full-time basis, with no minimums or term contracts.

“Vigorously vetted” talent

Fair Shot says it’s built a platform of top talent that can meet any requirements and budget by sourcing software developers primarily from high-poverty-rate areas of the U.S. (as ranked by the Census Bureau). The network’s freelancers are “vigorously vetted through a multi-step screening process,” with only a small percentage accepted to ensure top talent is available, the startup states.

Most Fair Shot freelancers can tackle remote projects within one or two days of being matched with a client, according to the network. Businesses have the option to recruit the freelancers as well, if they decide to engage a developer on a permanent basis. 

Rates are competitive with offshore labor

Cantu told us the main reason startups, tech companies, and software developers use offshore labor is budgetary, with organizations saying, “I can’t afford to pay a developer $60 to $100 an hour.” The entrepreneur explored the hourly rates the talent on his network expected and found their rates are in line with what the companies seek by going offshore. 

“We have talent in the U.S. who are willing to work for the $20 to $30 an hour that companies are looking for, and they’ve hustled to educate themselves and to prepare themselves to be exceptional software developers,” he told us.

From venture capital-funded startups to tech companies, many organizations need to augment their staff. Cantu wants them to know that, instead of looking offshore as the first option, Fair Shot Network can connect them with that talent in the Rio Grande Valley or in Eastern Kentucky who is a knockout Java developer. The U.S. is overlooked, he says. The tech talent on his network aren’t about to pick up and move to Silicon Valley, or other big startup ecosystems like Dallas, New York or Boston.

A pandemic passion project

Fair Shot Network started with an idea that Cantu couldn’t get out of his head last year. It turned into “kind of a passion project,” according to the founder.

“We have kids who have been self-taught to code or gone to Coding Academy or hustled to get a degree in computer science,” he says. “But because they’re not in Silicon Valley or Dallas or New York, they can’t find jobs.”

Cantu noticed a major disconnect between talent and the market: “We want to get more kids into coding and computer science. But you flip to the other side—the startups and tech companies—and there’s so much work going offshore mainly for budgetary reasons.”

Last October, Cantu wanted to confirm the talent is out there to be tapped.

The entrepreneur posted a job position for a software developer freelancer in South Texas, in northern Mississippi, and in eastern Kentucky. “I wanted to prove my thesis that I can find qualified developers in each of those markets,” he says. “And lo and behold, I had several hundred applications.”

Cantu assessed the candidates. “I proved my thesis that there is qualified, highly skilled talent in these types of markets.”

In the age of remote, everybody’s more comfortable with a distributed workforce. Cantu wants his network to be the interface to connect people looking for highly qualified, highly skilled software developers for a certain budget. “I have the talent, and they’re ready to work,” he says. 

The pitfalls of using offshore talent

Cantu’s service can be beneficial for big companies and small. In terms of a startup with needs for tech talent, Cantu says, after raising a round there may be a tendency to go offshore to find somebody cheap who can do things well—and you can. But they’re on “such a wildly different timezone” and their English skills may be lacking. When security issues arise, “you’re going to wake somebody up on another continent in the middle of the night” and they may note be able to react fast enough.

Being in the same timezone is a big advantage, he says.

Targeting economic diversity

Cantu wants to target economic diversity. “That’s my first goal— to find talent in U.S. counties that have a very high poverty level,” he says. “I can find the diamonds in the rough.” 

And they’re qualified, he says. Not everybody is accepted into the network; a battery of assessment tools and interview tests help Fair Shot find the best talent available.

Cantu’s business model can be likened to an agency. “I have freelancers with different cost rates,” he says. “There’s nearly always a way to find the right person at a client’s budget.”

“Whether you’re a startup, whether you’re a Fortune 500 company—you’re looking for talent,” he says, and Fair Shot has got it.

A concept he couldn’t shake

Cantu began to conceptualize the business around the time of COVID. It was an idea that stuck in my mind, but “I put it aside because I was working on a rideshare media business plan.” COVID killed that model and he couldn’t shake the concept of Fair Shot Network. That’s when he posted the job opportunity in three markets to prove his thesis. 

Fast forward to this year: the entrepreneur was satisfied that sufficient talent was out there. Cantu’s team of three is moving deliberately as the company emerges from stealth and prepares to scale, the founder says.

An equitable difference

Fair Shot Network’s focus is unique, Cantu notes. While there are similar business models in the market, broadly speaking, Cantu’s U.S. labor target is the differentiator.

Cantu points to two players: Top Tal and Turing. They source talent globally. Turing.com has had fast growth, he notes, raising money from U.S. venture capital firms. “If you look at their Twitter feed,” he says, “Once a week they’ll highlight a freelancer that they placed… but it’s offshore talent.”

“My model is not unlike what they’re doing — I’m finding freelancers and I’m placing them with clients for all types of projects,” he says. But my focus is on being equitable and on bringing opportunities to the overlooked parts of the U.S. where talent does exist.”

Cantu is quick to point out that he’s not reinventing the wheel.

“I”m just targeting a different type of talent to place In U.S. startups, in U.S. small businesses, and in U.S. large companies”.

So far, he says, “I haven’t found somebody who’s targeting what I’m targeting, which is, let’s go outside the major metro areas—outside the tech ecosystems, outside the big tech hubs—to find the talent that’s out there.” His freelancers will work at rates “in line with what is typically paid to offshore software development—and you’re helping entrepreneurs, small business, and big businesses.” 

A lens on DEI for the Fortune 1000

Cantu plans a push to the Fortune 1000: Fair Shot Network offers staff augmentation with a lens on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

That’s a message he wants to share with VC funds for their portfolio companies who need tech talent.

“I cringe to think that we tell kids across America that a ticket out of poverty is to become a software developer. And once that kid is ready … ‘Well, sorry you’re in the wrong, zip code, pal.’”

The opportunities are there, but we’re going to offshore talent for projects that I believe should go to U.S. talent, he says. “Somebody’s got to stand up for the folks who are qualified, excellent, and going to do a phenomenal job at the right budget,” Cantu says.

“Let’s spread the wealth here, in America.”

David Seeley contributed to this report.

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