Kado is helping pave the way for young people of color in tech
“Once upon a time…” is a phrase that has launched many stories—an auspicious start that portends heroes conquering villains and wayfarers completing quests. And there’s a fairytale beginning taking place in Utah’s tech scene right now, thanks to a startup that could elevate hundreds—perhaps thousands—of lives through opportunity, resources, and connections.
The protagonist in this story is a company called Kado (pronounced kaw-doh). Its mission: to connect students—particularly young people of color—to jobs in tech. The paths Kado hopes to clear could change the trajectory for young adults who may not otherwise have access to higher-paying tech jobs in often underserved communities.
“There’s a huge racial wealth gap in this country,” says Zachary Smith, a strategic advisor and board member for Kado. “There will be a lot of jobs in IT industries that people of color can participate in. Kado will provide both connections and upskilling, training these kids and connecting them with jobs.”
Currently, the tech field is ripe with job opportunities. According to a recent Computerworld article, Janco Associates’ analysis of the latest US Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows there are currently 3.9 million open IT positions in the United States. By the end of 2022, 191,000 new IT jobs will be added. Locally, Utah Tech Leads cites more than 6,000 open development jobs.
Kado wants to prepare students for full-time IT jobs by facilitating experiential learning as early as their freshman year in college. “From 2020 to 2025, there will be 124 million tech jobs,” says Gladymir Philippe, Kado founder and CEO. “How can we get students to get ready, to learn those jobs? Can they afford to wait for four years?”
While Kado is essentially carving out a niche, it might be easiest to think of the company as a hybrid job search/project management platform. Companies that have been vetted by Kado will be able to post micro-internships and ongoing project-based jobs, and students will be able to apply (like on Indeed or Monster). Once a match is made, the platform will also serve as a hub for students to receive project assignments and post their work, while company supervisors, educators, and Kado mentors engage with the students for feedback and modifications (like Trello or Clickup).
Kado is still in its early stages, working through development and fundraising for its seed round. While the company fills its waiting list and prepares for the launch of its app (this fall) and its online platform (early 2023), Philippe has been busy creating partnerships and supporting internship programs.
For example, the Kado team has helped facilitate internships for students of color from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for the IMPACT program at the University of Utah. The program, which brings students to stay at the University of Utah’s Lassonde Studios and work with Utah companies for the summer, started with students from Howard University. Now in its third year, Smith explains the program has expanded to include students from St. Francis University, Morgan State University, Lake Forest, and others. “We’re in talks to add FAMU, Texas Prairie—hopefully, we’ll have 60 to 70 students here next year. Kado will power this platform,” Smith says.
In 2023, Kado will facilitate another program at the University of Utah titled Crimson Projects. Darren Wesemann, Crimson Projects director, explains that the program supports experiential learning, primarily for graduate students in business and engineering. Working with dozens of companies, Crimson Projects typically coordinates about 60 projects during the fall and spring semesters. Each project involves teams of students in various activities, such as data, technology, and product management.
Kado’s development team is working closely with Wesemann to replace Crimson Projects’ time-consuming, cumbersome process for project and student coordination.
“Imagine the logistics of connecting interested students to the right projects,” Wesemann says. “It requires a kickoff call, scheduling, and a lot of administrative overview. There are all kinds of other types of programs like this throughout any university. I’m constantly rubbing shoulders with other leaders at institutions with similar programs, yet they do it on spreadsheets and emails. Kado has a nice system that will more or less automate and push all the overhead logistics onto the parties—the students and the companies. It helps connect the dots.”
Wesemann says he sees opportunities for Kado far beyond his own program. “I introduced [Gladymir] to a handful of other schools at the University of Utah,” he says. “They have the same problem I do, that overhead. I think we can get three to six programs onto Kado’s system, which is a good majority of activity that happens within the University of Utah, then open that up to other schools across the country. I think it’s a good growth strategy. They’ve got a good future ahead of them.”
Philippe is working hard to make the most of Kado’s future, connecting with potential partners from SLC to NYC—some of whom are interested in utilizing his platform for more than tech jobs. At the University of Utah, for example, Philippe confirms that he has had talks with other groups. “We will start with the law school and Huntsman soon. We got a green light from the president of the university to implement that,” he says.
Recently, Kado also established a partnership with the Refugee & Immigrant Center to connect refugee youth to tech jobs. Philippe also met with New York City Mayor Eric Adams to discuss Kado’s possible application for use cases like coordinating jobs at the John F. Kennedy International Airport.
For Philippe, Kado’s mission is personal and inspiring. As a Quebec native whose mother emigrated from Haiti, he graduated from the University of Utah and wants to pave the way for other young people of color.
The idea for Kado started when his sister called him last year, Philippe says. She was about to graduate from Yale University and asked for his help in finding a job in tech. “I called my friends; I helped her get a job in two weeks. She called back, ‘Please, can you help my classmates too?’” Philippe says. “I decided to build Kado because if I can help my little sister and help her friends, I can help other students. My thought is if Kado is built by a Black kid, maybe more POC talent in Utah—and in the USA—might say, ‘Hey, he is not from the USA and went to school at the U. He found a way to build a great platform, so we might be able to be like him, too.’”