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Cities Startup Culture

Why a Recruiting Startup Thrives in Detroit

In anticipation of the 2013 Techonomy Detroit conference on September 17, we’re profiling Detroit tech startups helping drive the city’s re-emergence as a center of innovation.

Matt Mosher at the hiredMYway office in Detroit, Mich.

Matt Mosher at the hiredMYway office in Detroit, Mich.

With backing from Detroit Venture Partners, Matt Mosher founded hiredMYway.com in 2010. In the crowded field of online recruiting, it might have seemed an unlikely-to-succeed upstart. But as an entrepreneur since his early teens, Mosher knew how to take a fresh approach in order to coexist with the biggest names in the industry. With Detroiter moxie, he built the Swiss Army knife of recruiting sites.

Mosher believes the city of Detroit can leverage the same spirit of adaptability to become a bona fide tech player. Techonomy’s Tiffany Lin and Adam Ludwig recently spoke with Mosher about fish tanks, building alliances with the competition, and the future of Detroit.

You were a precocious entrepreneur. How did you get involved in the Detroit tech scene?

I was born and raised in the Detroit area. I’m in my early 30s now, but when I was younger there was no such thing as a technology company in Detroit, at least not at the scale there are today. I started businesses in real estate and land development when I was 17. Prior to that, I started a saltwater fish tanks business. Those development and real estate companies still exist here today, and are fortunately quite successful.

When this whole movement started a few years ago, I had an idea for the website that is now hiredMYway.com. I was able to get it off the ground through some resources that have come together in the last couple of years.

How does it work?

hiredMYway.com is a central job advertising platform for employers. Right now, you have all these different places where you can post your jobs depending on what you’re hiring for: boards like CareerBuilder or Indeed, or social media sites. We aggregate all of the best job sites into one place, and then we use data from our partnerships to tell you, based on what jobs you’re posting, exactly where those postings should go to get in front of the right audience.

What was your inspiration for creating the company?

One inspiration was just my passion for creating scalable businesses. I always had a dream to develop an idea that could benefit millions of people. Second, we got into a pretty rough economy and it made sense to start a business like this to create a more efficient way to connect candidates and employers.

Going from saltwater aquariums to hiredMYway.com is a big jump. What challenges did you face?

It’s really difficult to run a successful business, especially when you don’t know much about the space. My biggest challenge was simply trying to understand the recruiting industry. I had hired a lot of people in my other companies, but I didn’t have much experience with recruiting. It took me a couple of years to get my arms around what employers wanted and needed. We had to change our model once I understood where the industry was lacking.

How did that play out?

One of the problems I had at my other companies is that the job application process is kind of a free-for-all. Companies would post a job and get a ton of applicants, and most were not qualified. My idea was that most colleges require an application fee because they want to weed out the people who are not serious about going to their college, so we would charge job seekers a couple dollars to apply to weed out the non-serious ones. They’ll have a better chance being hired, and employers will have a more filtered pool.

The second part of that model was that employers only paid when they made a hire, whereas on other sites they actually pay up front to post their jobs. In theory, it was a good model, but we were still being compared to some of the major job boards out there, and it’s very hard to compete with people who are spending millions of dollars a year. So we decided that it was better to partner and to create a more efficient system with what people are already using.

How does that model work?

We went from being a job board to being a vendor management platform. Instead of competing against Indeed, CareerBuilder, or SimplyHired, we became allies with them. Our customers can now post to those sites through our system without having to create accounts at all these different job boards and social media sites. We look at the data so we can say, hey, this job’s better to be posted on one of our niche job boards than on CareerBuilder, or whatever it may be. We have over 40 partners.

Who are your users?

Several thousand companies have used the site, from huge players like Microsoft to mom-and-pop shops. When we started the business it was very Detroit-based, but as it’s grown, we have clients  from East Coast to West Coast and everywhere in between.

Why Detroit as home base?

In Detroit, I can be a big fish in a small pond. When you’re starting a company, getting the word out, getting the coverage from the press, it’s important to get your company to scale as fast as possible. In the cities known for tech startups, you’re just another tech startup. In Detroit, you’re only one of 20 or 30 that are hot, in front of everybody. It’s a very good place to start a company. Not only do we have the resources, but we’re able to get the scalability and coverage that we need from the press.

What do you think Detroit has to do to turn itself around?

We’re going through what looks ugly from the surface, but when you get into the guts of Detroit, it’s really booming from a private business standpoint. It’s the government that needs restructuring. You’ve got the key ingredients to bring the city back to where it was, and comparable to other great cities in the U.S. today. We have all the infrastructure, from jobs to restaurants, to bars, hotels, housing; it wasn’t there even two to three years ago. Now it’s just about getting people to realize that.

Why do you think the rest of the country should pay attention to Detroit?

There’s a lot of opportunity: from an investment standpoint in terms of real estate, and from a business standpoint in terms of starting your business and getting in on the ground floor. It’s really taking off quite quickly. If you break in now, you’ll be in pretty good shape in the near future.

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