Chance meeting in Dublin leads to multi-million dollar start-up

Allan Grant hacked Matt Mickiewicz’s website; now the duo head a $60m business

Allan Grant was already on Matt Mickiewicz's radar when he strolled up to him at the F.ounders conference in Dublin in 2011. And not for good reasons. A few months previously he had hacked the highly successful crowdsourced graphic-design site founded by Mickiewicz, obtaining the contact details and mass-messaging 20,000 of its designer users.

“He came up to me and said ‘Hey, I’m the guy who hacked 99designs’.”

Little did Mickiewicz think he would be back in Dublin a year later, speaking at the Web Summit, as the head of a company he’d co-founded with Grant. But the chance meeting turned the foes into friends, and the duo ultimately decided to go into business together.

Last week, their start-up Hired. com raised $15 million in funding, giving the company a valuation of approximately $60 million. It's a good outcome for a meeting that could just as easily have ended in punches.


The funding values Hired in almost the exact same ballpark as the valuations Uber and Airbnb received for their Series A rounds, according to Mickiewicz.

Originally named DeveloperAuction, went live in August 2012. The company describes itself as a “two-sided marketplace for jobs”, empowering the best talent to explore the job market.

It pairs tech companies with employees and vice versa. However, there’s a catch. Employers are required to disclose up front all the details regarding salary, bonuses, benefits etc.

This streamlines the traditional process in which companies usually know more than the candidate, which often wastes time.

So how did it all come about?

“99designs was a marketplace that connected small businesses with graphic designers all over the world. Allan hacked the site and got the details of the designers. He then mass-messaged 20,000 of them for his own gain.

“I thought it was pretty clever and entrepreneurial of him, though I banned him from the site.”

“Over the course of the F.ounders conference and several pub crawls in Dublin I got to know him and like him.”

The two discovered they actually had a lot in common. They had both been entrepreneurs from a young age, and had started six companies between them.

Mickiewicz had started his first company at the age of 14. “It was called Site Point. It was an online magazine for developers and designers. We made money from advertising and went into printing books.”

By 16 he was closing $10,000 advertising deals between classes at high school. His next start-up – 99designs – raised $35 million in funding from Accel when he was just 27, leading to a coveted place on the prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 list.

Grant had founded web development company Webmasters International while still a college student and bootstrapped it to profitability with more than 50 employees.

He had been through the Y Combinator seed accelerator programme in Silicon Valley and founded social marketing platform Curebit.

A few months later, the two internet entrepreneurs met again, in Kennedy's Irish pub in San Francisco, where they came up with a plan to shake up tech recruitment and shape the future of job search.

“Allan had been finding it extremely difficult to recruit talent for his company so he offered to build the site. He thought it would help him hire engineers. He built the first version over the course of three weekends.”

“We went live in August 2012. We had 88 engineers sign up in our first batch. We got $30 million of job offers, which absolutely blew us away.”

It was such a success, that finding engineers for Curebit became the least of Grant’s concerns. He left Curebit to work on on a full-time basis.

The company, which was named one of the “10 hottest start-ups of 2013” by Forbes, has racked up some impressive numbers in the year and a half since it set up. It saw $2 billion worth of offers made last year, and placed candidates in over 200 companies including Twitter, Groupon, Eventbrite, Gilt and Adroll.

Mickiewicz says the typical candidate on Hired receives 10-15 offers in just seven days and an average salary of $130,000.

Unique selling point
Their unique selling point?

“We want the candidates to keep coming back to us when they want to move jobs so we spoil them. We arrange a black car/limo to bring them to job interviews. If they get hired we give them a $3,000 bonus and a box of Dom Perignon.”

As for the future, Mickiewicz says the $15 million venture capital funding will be used for geographic expansion, beginning with Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle, and then internationally.

"We hope to expand into Dublin. It is a thriving tech hub, and lots of the big tech firms have engineers and developers there. It is one of the major markets we want to be in in Europe. "