Vooru: It’s like a dating site for the math crowd.
I wasn’t going to write about Andrew DeZarn’s little staffing company oddly named Vooru (short for “forward” in Dutch).
Then I saw this headline from an online finance story: “Tell your kids: Math makes money. Why learning more high school math now could make kids richer later.”
Oh, yeah, I thought. That’s my hook.
DeZarn is a math whiz (my words, not his) who has bolted his business ambitions onto a gift for numbers, creating an enviable life for the 25-year-old Cincinnati native.
He pays himself $155,000 a year, owns half of Vooru and lives in Washington’s upscale Kalorama neighborhood (home to the Obamas, the Ivanka Trumps and assorted other members of the Great and the Good).
“Basically, I golf and I work a lot,” he said.
I would have taken that life when I was 25.
One-year-old Vooru is the jobsearch version of dating sites like Tinder and Match.com. It uses data analytics to marry openings at its 45 corporate clients with Vooru’s pool of 15,000 professionals, 92 percent of whom work in the Washington region. The job candidates are collected a variety of ways, including trolling online sites such as LinkedIn. Vooru also aggressively works the networking circuit, especially the D.C. accounting community.
Vooru’s secret sauce is collecting massive amounts of data in up to 250 categories from the companies and matching it with its job candidates.
The categories include corporate revenue, employee headcount, industry type, the industry of clients the company works with, the age of its employees, the average tenure of associates, the software systems the company uses, the average time employees stay in one position and how long it takes to be promoted.
The data is then run through the job candidate pool to look for the right fit.
“We look for compatibility,” DeZarn said. Its specializes in accounting and finance jobs.
Vooru had just shy of $1 million in revenue 2016, more than twice what DeZarn and his business partner, Matthew Sutton, had forecasted.
Vooru netted an astronomical — by profit-margin standards — $600,000 after expenses, which will go mostly toward future hires and expansion.
The company has two revenue streams. It bills corporate clients 15 to 25 percent of the first year base salary of the candidate it hires. Vooru also collects a monthly fee of $5,000 to $15,000 from clients who wish to tap into its job candidate pool to quickly fill multiple openings.
“If a client said, ‘I have room for one person and I am looking for a controller,’ we will look at our pipeline and see who is in the market and see how hard it is to match that client with the candidate,” DeZarn said.
The co-owners split responsibilities, with Sutton working on business development because of his 15 years of experience in the industry. DeZarn handles the data collection and software.
DeZarn has always been good at math. And he loves it. His father works in finance for a Cincinnati law firm. His mom has been a homemaker.
“Math comes naturally,” he admitted after some coaxing by me. “It’s just the way my mind thinks. It’s the most objective field out there.”
He majored in both applied mathematics and psychology at the University of Cincinnati, where he first showed a knack for entrepreneurship.
DeZarn and some buddies started a T-shirt company that sold to sororities, fraternities, charities and special events. DAB, as it was named, threw off enough cash to cover a big chunk of his college expenses and then some. It eventually grew to 10 employees before it was sold in 2012.
DeZarn graduated in 2014 with a 3.97 grade point average and a slight chip on his shoulder.
Math, so he thought, was the great equalizer. The path to success. Its solutions were universal. If he could cut it at Cincinnati, he was acing the same math problems his peers were solving at Harvard and MIT.
Studying math “was more of a strategic career decision. I wanted to go to a potential employer, say ‘Look how well I did.’ ”
But he could not crack the wall between himself and prestigious college internships that he thought were going to Ivy Leaguers.
“I was being overlooked for internships. I knew that I was just as good as anyone,” he said. “Certain pedigree can dictate which employers you are exposed to. I hate that certain Wall Street firms only recruit from eight schools.”
He turned the disappointment into motivation when he created Vooru.
“Regardless of any school you went to,” he said, “we can put you in front of any employer that works with us.”
After graduating from Cincinnati in 2014 with two degrees, he was connected to Google through a Chicago hedge fund where he interned.
Google hired him to help run staffing operations for Google Express, which pulled items from stores like Costco, Giant Foods and Staples and shipped them to customers. DeZarn’s responsibilities included finding and training people who manned Google stations in those stores.
That led him to Sutton, who was a veteran headhunter in the region.
“I wanted to make sure what we were doing at Google Express made sense,” DeZarn said.
They met over beers at Mackeys Public House in downtown Washington in May 2015.
Sutton told him that the national employment/hiring market was a $150 billion industry with low barriers to entry. People were jumping in with nothing more than a phone, computer and LinkedIn subscription.
The federal government helped the Washington jobsearch industry become resistant to the normal cycles in the economy. Local revenue was growing.
“A bell went off after the first meeting,” DeZarn said. The old “plug and play” method of throwing a group of prospects at the client and seeing what sticks was ready to be disrupted.
He sent Sutton an email: Why not make job technology more like a dating site?
“If you are an employer and you want to find a younger version of yourself, let us show you that,” DeZarn said. “It’s the same principle as dating. If you don’t want to wait to cross paths with someone who is your type, you go to Match.com.”
Their business plan, titled “I Think We Can,” outlined what each partner would bring to the table. “Matt had 15 years of connections in the staffing industry,” he said. “I had the analytics, math, technology and start-up background.”
They opened shop Jan. 3, 2016, in downtown Washington in a time-share space. It was awful. It was dark. Dingy. They eventually moved to the second floor of a modern office building next to the Clarendon Metro, where they have draft beer on tap and host client launch parties. DeZarn walked through one of his interviews with me while on his treadmill workstation.
Sutton reeled in the first client within two weeks of their launch. It was a Shanghai private-equity firm in search of a chief financial officer.
Vooru matched the Shanghai firm with the right CFO — and collected a fee of $40,000 based on a percentage of the CFO’s base salary.
It’s a lot. But then again, it pays to know math.
Andrew DeZarn, left, and Matt Sutton founded Vooru, a job matchmaker for financial types. It’s based in the Clarendon area of Arlington.