Vooru: It’s like a dat­ing site for the math crowd.

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS - THOMAS HEATH thomas.heath@wash­post.com

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.

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