BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
“We thought there was room for something new.”
BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
Company: Poached Jobs
Founders: Kirk Thornby, Peter Bro
One day a few years ago, entrepreneur Kirk Thornby and restaurateur Peter Bro — owner of Portland venues Café Broder, Broder Nord and Savoy Tavern — got together to talk about how hard it was to find good employees on Craigslist and other generic job sites. The problem? Email accounts flooded with unqualified applicants.
“People would post an ad for $25, and you never knew what you were going to get,” Thornby says. “We thought there was room for something new.”
That something is Poached Jobs, an employment website focused on the food-service industry. For a fee, restaurants and hotels post ads; in return they get access to a “back office,” in which hiring managers can flip through résumés “like they would through photographs in iPhoto,” says Thornby. Managers can also sort and rank applicants and add notes to profiles for future reference.
“It gives them a hiring platform, which is valuable because 85% of our clients are small-or medium-size businesses that don’t have anyone dedicated to HR,” says Thornby.
Launching in a foodie town like Portland helped jump start business. The challenge now is becoming a recognizable brand in major metropolitan areas outside of the Northwest. Not that Poached Jobs hasn’t thrived; since launching in 2012, the company has expanded to 11 cities — including Austin, Seattle and New York.
Still, growth hasn’t come easy. “We bootstrapped this thing, so growing and scaling on a limited budget has been the hardest thing we’ve had to do so far,” Thornby says. “Trying to spread your message as far as you can — you have to get pretty crafty how you spend your marketing dollars.”
Poached Jobs was one of the winners at the 2014 Bend Venture Conference and in 2015 received an additional $42,000 from the Cascade Angels Fund. The startup also secured $50,000 from the Portland Seed Fund. “[Raising money is] the hardest thing I’ve done in my career, and I’ve owned businesses since I was 22,” says Thornby, now 53.
Bro’s experience as a restaurateur gives Poached a competitive advantage. “That’s one of our secret sauces,” Thornby says. “We know exactly how the industry works. [The industry is] held together by duct tape. We know what processes are like, where the weak points are and what they need.”
Poached Jobs streamlines the hiring process for business owners. Other companies aim to improve the selection process for consumers looking for professional services. “They’re everywhere — these marketplaces that are popping up to make our lives easier,” says Matt Ehrlichman, CEO of Porch, a Seattle-based online indexing site that helps people choose, schedule and review home-improvement contractors.
“The cool thing is there’s so much pain around working on your home,” Ehrlichman says. “But now you can push a button and get anything in your home done by a professional. The trend for most industries is going to be working to make its processes as easy and simple as possible.”
New York-based ZocDoc takes a similar approach to booking healthcare professionals. The website allows consumers to shop for doctors and access their schedule in real time. Patients can leave reviews of doctors and fill out paperwork ordinarily completed in the waiting room.
Closer to home, Financial Friend — a Portland-based startup that launched last month — connects potential clients with financial professionals. Hoping to recreate ZocDoc’s model, Financial Friend verifies the credentials of CPAs, retirement planners, insurance brokers and lenders, and customers can schedule appointments directly.
“We noticed other industries moving toward a consolidated online directory with appointment booking, and we realized that there isn’t one for financial services,” CEO Brandon Rigoni says. “We want to make things convenient for consumers while we sell to businesses the transparency and trust building they can exhibit through the customer-review process.”