According to Joe Meyer, CEO and Founder of ExecThread, the majority of people face three major decisions throughout the course of their lives. The first two decisions are of the domestic nature and concern selecting a life partner, and deciding whether or not to raise children. The third decision involves determining how to make a living, which, for many, will consume over one-third of their adult lives. For Meyer, leaving the third decision to chance is, quite simply, unacceptable.
After being CEO of HopStop, a popular transit app acquired by Apple in 2013, Meyer found himself wondering about his next career move. He had verbally committed to spending one year at Apple following the acquisition, but after two years had passed he was looking for something new. He soon found himself in unfamiliar territory -- in the midst of a traditional job search, and frustrated by the process.
"The reality is, finding great opportunities at the executive-level meant searching for something unlisted, since the best jobs aren’t publicly-posted. To find the right openings you had to either be approached by an executive recruiter, or hear through word-of-mouth," Meyer said. "Both scenarios are out of your direct control, and it's a very time consuming and highly inefficient process to find these “hidden” jobs." After a few months, Meyer had made little progress and was growing increasingly frustrated. "I would get approached for new opportunities that weren't the right fit, but I knew there had to be a large number of exec-level openings for which I was qualified, and might be interested, that weren’t being presented to me by recruiters" he added. This dynamic really bothered me, so instead of trying to find a job I began focusing my time on solving the problem instead.
Meyer knew that he couldn't be the only executive-level professional frustrated by the job search process. His 'aha moment' came when he thought to combine access and transparency to job openings through an exchange of information with peers.
"Executives are consistently approached for jobs by recruiters when they're happily employed and not searching for something new. If I could open up access to these “hidden” jobs then I could pick-and-choose the job opportunities according to what is interesting and what suits my qualifications," said Meyer. He immediately saw the business opportunity, and met with a trusted software developer to discuss the idea.
"He thought it was a good idea, but it needed to be tested," Meyer said. To prove its potential, Meyer created an informal listserv and reached out to a few dozen people in his network, and proposed the value proposition to them. Two results followed.
All of the executives on Meyer's initial list wanted in, and a few even asked if they could invite their peers, which was promising. In turn, however, there was little reciprocity initially, as only a few of the initial users shared their job prospects. Meyer then made two smart changes to the ExecThread platform.
First, he removed any reference to the individual submitting the job opportunity, thereby allowing users to share anonymously. Additionally, he added more detail regarding the job openings, such as the industry, the type and size of company, etc., but he intentionally omitted the hiring company name from the job listing, however.
For members to gain access to the name(s) of the hiring company, they would first need to submit current job openings (that aren’t publicly-posted) into the network; and for each discreet job opportunity they contributed into the network, they would be able to access a job opening submitted by any other ExecThread member. “It's an incentive system – “give” a job opportunity (of which you’re aware, but aren’t interested in pursuing) and “get” a point, that can then be redeemed to access a job opportunity submitted by other members. Its simple reciprocity – a win-win proposition for executives – and a great way to pay it forward”, according to Meyer.
"From that point, the submission rate increased dramatically. We created a virtual currency of sorts that keeps everyone honest," Meyer said. With that, ExecThread was officially born, the byproduct of pent-up frustration with the current executive search process.
"I'm not willing to roll the dice on my next career move based on an inefficient process where I have no control. And ExecThread is proving that executives think the same way as I did, in that they want more control of the process," said Meyer. As validation of ExecThread’s value proposition, the company recently raised $6.5 million in venture capital funding from a few top-tier firms in NYC & Silicon Valley.
As ExecThread's membership continues to grow, the role of the executive recruiter is evolving. According to Meyer, there are two diverging opinions shared among recruiters and headhunters concerning ExecThread. While some have been very receptive & supportive and willing to partner, others have been rather adversarial.
"I've met recruiters who feel the concept is super interesting, that we're meeting needs in the marketplace, and that we could probably help one another in a collaborative effort to place the right executive with the right job. It's a receptive and forward thinking approach," says Meyer. "Others are not big fans," he added. “Anytime you do something different than the way it’s always been done you’re bound to get incumbents who frown upon such innovation; hence how most successful start-up are born”, according to Meyer.
"We're doing something different in an industry that hasn't had much, if any, change in many years. But I think it's important to remember that the recruiter is not the most important person in the process. The focus needs to be on the candidate, and that's often not the case with the traditional executive search process. I think that's why it took a candidate like myself to conceive Exec Thread. It was spawned through my own dissatisfaction with the process, and I think that's very telling."
As for what's next for ExecThread, and as the company starts moving towards commercializing the service, Meyer isn’t keen on predicting the long-term future. "You really can't predict the outcome of a startups, and it's dangerous to get too far ahead of yourself. Instead, you need to take it day-by-day and look no more than 3-to-6 months out" he said. Nevertheless, he does enjoy the roller coaster ride that’s inherent in building and creating successful companies from the ground-up.
"It's a Herculean struggle that wears you down and literally takes years off your life, but there's nothing more exhilarating and fulfilling than growing startups," added Meyer. And while never ruling out the possibility of creating another new company in a few years, Meyer is laser-beam focused on turning ExecThread into a true success. "I want this to be a company that solves real problems for real people and delivers real value. If we continue to do that then the rest will take care of itself."