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Tampa entrepreneur aims to upend the way job-seekers and companies connect

Margie Manning

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Joel Fenelon knows firsthand the frustrations that can come with looking for a new job in the usual way, scouring job boards for leads and sending out resumes and cover letters.

That’s why he created Harvest, a technology firm and software platform in Tampa, focused on workforce development.

Workforce development will be a key issue for companies going forward, with automation and artificial intelligence poised to rewrite the nature of millions of jobs globally.

Harvest is not a job placement service, although job matching is an element of what the company offers, Fenelon said. His primary focus is to help people grow into better careers as the economy changes.

“We are doing that by providing career services that help people understand the value they bring to the job market and that help companies define what they are looking for in terms of their operational procedures, that clarify the tasks and skills they are hiring for specifically,” Fenelon said. “Our software intuitively matches people through a process that’s unbiased and blind and requires no job ads or resumes. There’s no job searching and no candidate searching. That whole process is automated.”

Joel Fenelon, CEO, Harvest

Fenelon’s unique background played a key role in his decision to found Harvest. He’s a University of Tampa graduate who initially studied business, then switched to a music major and went to graduate school for orchestral conducting. He later founded two software companies.

“After my second software company, I wanted to work for a bigger company to get more experience and to expand my network. I had never really applied for a job before and it was a crazy process,” Fenelon said. “I didn’t like spending almost 40 hours a week going through job boards. I didn’t like writing 20 versions every week of my resume. I ran out of words for cover letters. And when you submit your packet and you don’t hear back, or you get a response that’s automated, you feel like you don’t matter, and it beats you down. You start to lower your standards, and ultimately you end up in jobs that are not ideal. That’s the reality for billions of people around the world today.”

Harvest shifts that process. “The Harvest way of thinking is you take an inventory of your credentials, your skills, your work history. You package the story and connect the dots and then the software will match you to positions automatically. Then you tell that story to employers that you match for jobs,” he said. “This is more about the preparation phase of getting a better job. It’s not about getting a better job tomorrow.”

Harvest has raised capital from outside investors. Fenelon said the terms of those deals don’t allow him to say how much has been raised to date.

The company has two revenue sources. Employers pay a month-to-month fee based on the number of jobs they want to fill in a given month. Job-seekers can get a free standard account package that provides access to virtual career fairs and intelligent skills analysis. There are certified accounts for $100 that verify work history, degrees and licenses and provides a one-hour curation session — a virtual meeting with a product expert who works with the job-seeker on their credentials so that when they interview for jobs they are credible. Another half-hour curation session costs $30.

Harvest had a pilot launch in the Tampa Bay area in August. Dozens of companies took part, including two Fortune 500 firms, and there were more than 1,500 matches in 45 days, with some job candidates getting multiple matches. The pilot resulted in some job hires, he said.

Fenelon has since used the Harvest platform himself, to hire 75 contractors across the company, primarily human resource professionals, who are involved in the curation process. He also has a six-person engineering team, mostly located in the Tampa Bay area.

Fenelon’s immediate focus is opening the Harvest platform to the 800,000 federal workers who are going unpaid during the federal government shutdown. Harvest will hold two virtual workshops on its “Magic Career Formula” this week for those workers who want to look for other jobs.

Fenelon said Harvest is donating between $5,000 to $10,000 in career services for federal employees.

 

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