Case Study

Giving Gen Z careers a boost; introducing Ladder

Brian O'Malley, Partner

Fall 2021

3 min to read

Seeking post-grad careers for the first time, there’s no doubt that Gen Z has been dealt a tough hand. At the onset of the pandemic, unemployment rose from 8.4% to 24.4% among the young adult demographic, and the economy has only added new jobs for Gen Z-ers at half the pre-pandemic rate. For those who have found jobs, everything has been handled remotely—from hiring to onboarding, manager meetings to networking. There is no office space, no inherent mentorship, and no peers to support growth. 

LinkedIn won’t provide that warm professional touch either. Instead of networking, the platform is now more focused on content much like other social sites. Recruiters do use LinkedIn, but with very little nuance to set the youngest job-seekers apart, it’s hard to tell which candidates to engage. They end up going to the same schools, recruiting the same people, and adding yet another statistic to the monolithic, non-diverse workforce.

Ladder aims to solve problems inherent to the Gen Z employee, 40 million of which will enter the workforce in the next several years. Starting as a newsletter to help students find the right job opportunity, Ladder’s mission resonated with this group so much that it grew into a 75,000+ subscriber community. On Ladder, young people help their peers prepare for interviews; guest speakers from tech companies join to introduce their culture; and theme-focused topic areas, such as the art of cold emailing or developing cool side projects, keep the conversations lively.

At Forerunner, we were excited by the mission, but perhaps even more impressed with early engagement numbers when we invested: Ladder’s 50% WAU / MAU ratio shows that users of the platform are highly motivated to show up consistently, make connections, and learn alongside their peers. 

Up to this point, Ladder has been a desktop platform and community. But today, the team launches into mobile to extend the experience for the most-active generation on smartphones. Ladder will also empower individuals to host their own job boards for their favorite companies, and expand beyond students to recent grads—many of which have been on the platform for some time, and wish to continue growing with the Ladder community.

At Forerunner, we’re focused on platforms that empower people. While online platforms make new jobs more accessible, there is a deep information asymmetry for people finding jobs for the first time versus hiring managers who do this for a living. In this community-oriented model, Ladder members graduate, get jobs, and come back to mentor others. This is so important because these graduates can help share data—similar to a hyper-targeted Glassdoor—which can ultimately help match the best people with the best opportunities. 

The Ladder team knows about the labor market because of Co-Founder Andrew Tan’s experience. He has been active in the workforce since he launched his first company, REV, in high school; the D2C brand donated all proceeds to the Free the Children fund for underprivileged students in China. After that, he launched Goodpoint, a venture-funded startup that scaled to tens of thousands of users while helping students connect with mentors to review their resumes. 

Goodpoint opened Andrew’s eyes to the inequality between job seekers and their potential employers, spawning the community behind Ladder. The platform’s early traction shows its filling an important niche for the growing needs of Gen Z. We are excited to help Andrew and the Ladder team realize their vision, alongside co-investors Pear, 776 Ventures, Scribble Ventures, and notable angel investors Harry Stebbings, Tony Xu, Josh Elman, and Pedram Keyani.

At Forerunner, we’ve been looking for elevated ways to connect online—and we’ve long suspected that a digital professional network would be more meaningful if built with relationships at the center. We’re excited to support Andrew and Ladder as they level up this experience for Gen Z. 

For more information on Ladder, visit ladder.to. To join the community, sign up here.

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We’re a diverse team of visionaries and veterans who looked at the VC industry and said: “We can do more.” Together, we’re redefining what VC can be — for consumers who deserve better.