Billy Lan and Tony Liu, smiling.

Tony Liu, BCom’13 (left) and Billy Lan, BCom’14. Photography by Iris Chia

The inclusive innovators

Billy Lan and Tony Liu

Despite the breakneck speed of change in employment practices over the past generation, some customs have barely moved the needle. When Sauder grads Billy Lan and Tony Liu joined the part-time workforce in their teens, they thought nothing of using the same application process – cover letters and résumés – that their parents used when they first arrived in Canada and had to find hourly work.

But when Liu’s mother was laid off in 2018, he was surprised that the job application process she faced hadn’t changed in generations. “We're in a world where we have LinkedIn and all these platforms for white collar workers, but we don't have much support for hourly workers,” says Lan, who soon after co-founded JobGet with Liu. “We wanted to build a platform where hourly workers can easily connect with hiring managers, because they need to know where their next opportunities are coming from. If they’re looking for new work, they need to get that quickly without having to worry about when their next paycheck is going to come.”

A Grand Prize winner of MIT’s 2019 Inclusive Innovation Challenge, and earning the duo a spot in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Social Impact Entrepreneurs list, JobGet has grown from a single client in 2018 (the famous Cheers bar in Boston) to thousands of employers servicing hundreds of thousands of job seekers. By sharing their platform organically – tapping their clients’ networks for like-minded hiring managers – they’ve spread to 10 major US cities and plan to enter the Canadian market next year.

Like many lean start ups, the company has no central office, except for a shared WeWork desk in Boston. Their employees and contractors work virtually, with 50-70 workers spread across four continents.

Also in common with many of their peer companies, JobGet is trying to hit that sweet spot of creating a viable company that also serves a social good. “If you just focus on profits and not people, eventually it's going to come and bite you,” says Lan. “If you only focus on people and not profit, that's usually not viable. So we tried to figure out a business model that works for both. It's a big part of why people join our company – we have amazing retention in our employees, and a very compassionate team. I feel like a lot of that is because our underlying business model ties in with our social responsibility.”

Read Generation flex for more on Generation Z in the workplace.