Evan Rochte graduated from college in 2011 with a degree in film production. He spent the next three years uncomfortably and unsuccessfully interviewing for one job after another.
Then he stumbled upon a fledgling Southern California start-up called MindSpark. Since 2014, he's been thriving as a software tester.
Like most of MindSpark's 35 employees, Rochte is autistic. And like almost all of his co-workers and the 3.5 million Americans on the autism spectrum, Rochte has found the job market particularly uninviting. Up to 90 percent of autistic adults in the U.S. are unemployed or underemployed, according to the advocacy group Autism Speaks.
"Getting an interview might not be the hard part," said Rochte, 32, who lives in Torrance, just south of Los Angeles. "I get really nervous during interviews. Sometimes I talk too much, and it's hard for me to be put on the spot."
Rochte was exactly the type of person Chad Hahn was targeting when he started MindSpark in 2013.
Hahn, 40, had spent his career in technology and consulting, and his wife worked with the developmentally disabled community. From his experience, Hahn knew what types of skills were useful in particular areas of the tech sector, and he found many of those very capabilities in the autistic people he met through his wife.