How a start-up incubator is connecting new businesses with furloughed feds

October 3, 2013

Are you a federal employee who's not drawing a paycheck because House Republicans can't agree whether to agree?

To help, here's a useful tool that's bringing together start-ups and antsy government workers who want to keep their skills sharp. It comes in the form of a Google Doc:


(Google Docs/1776)

Companies from around the country can post part-time or project-based jobs on one tab of the sheet, while people looking for work can post their résumés on another tab. The system was designed in part by Tom Clark, a marketing executive at the education start-up myEdmatch. Together with 1776, a start-up incubator based in Washington, Clark posted the doc to a Facebook group for local tech enthusiasts.

Within hours, the doc had taken off. Less than 24 hours after the launch, dozens of jobs have been posted to the spreadsheet. Over a dozen job candidates — furloughed and otherwise — have listed themselves as available to work.

"Start-ups are very industrious," said Donna Harris, 1776's co-founder. Harris added that Washington is filled with talented people who now aren't being put to use.

Tim Hudak is a furloughed Agriculture Department employee who normally works on Web site analytics. A former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer, Hudak learned about the doc from the D.C. Tech Facebook group and was among the first to sign up. He's now been contacted by three employers about freelance gigs.

As many as 800,000 federal workers may be stuck at home, according to estimates — at a cost to the economy of $12.5 million an hour. If more feds take on part-time work, it could help stem at least some of the losses.

If you're a federal worker considering freelancing, you'll need to check your agency's ethics guidelines. Hudak says his employer sent around a notice before the shutdown hit temporarily waiving the requirement to report side jobs but that all other ethical guidelines were still in effect.

The doc has been so successful, it may soon be replaced by a full-on Web site, says myEdmatch's Clark. He says he's working with another developer from 1776 to launch something more polished.

Update: The folks at 1776 BLEN Corp., using 1776's data, have now hacked together a simple (but gorgeous-looking) site that makes the spreadsheet a lot easier to use. It even has a clever URL: unfurlough.us.


(Unfurlough.us / 1776)
Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post.
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