Software Startups Join Forces To Help Furloughed Employees Find Work


As the government shutdown continues and hundreds of thousands of government workers are finding themselves without a paycheck, a collection of software developers has banded together to provide a solution.

Blen Corp and 1776 have collaborated to create unfurlough.us, a freelance job-posting site where tech companies can post available freelance work and furloughed workers can offer up their skills.

It started off with some of the developers at startup incubator 1776 talking about the irony of the amount of work they had to do and the newly available workforce as a result of the furlough. Two hours later there was a spreadsheet with 35 jobs in an open Google Doc, said Donna Harris, co-founder of 1776.

[Related: The Government Shutdown: 8 Things VARs Need To Know]

Blen saw the Google Doc through an email mailing and thought it would be interesting to turn it into a website. They reached out to 1776 and, using the data already collected, had an operational website up within 5 hours, officially launching at 1 a.m. EST Friday.

The instant popularity of the site shocked them.

"We published it and went to sleep," Mike Endale, principal software developer at Blen. "The morning after the site had already crashed."

So far, the website has had more than 20,000 page views, Endale said, with momentum building.

The jobs on the site include everything from data entry to coding to photography and design work .

The popularity of the website and amount of companies putting up jobs to help out those around them is really inspiring, said 1776's Harris.

"I think that's the beauty of these kinds of communities, where startups can get together and collaborate, because they can quickly get an idea into a solution," Harris said. "It's startups doing what startups do best: being scrappy and turning a problem into an opportunity."

Endale said that Blen is still working to update the website to improve its mobile capabilities and security. He said he also wants to add a mailing list feature so prospective freelancers can get a daily digest of what jobs are open to them.

"The ideal of the site, putting it together, is that a bunch of geeks in a room can be very dangerous. Let's do something cool -- and it turned out to be a very cool thing," Endale said.

Both executives said they didn't know how long the website would stick around if the shutdown is resolved, but they said they hope it has helped make some real connections between startups looking to break into government and federal workers exploring the startup ecosystem.

"As of right now, we don't know what is going to happen. ... We are very hopeful that the relationships that are made on the side are long lasting going forward. That's our best hope," Endale said.

PUBLISHED OCT. 8, 2013