A crowd gathered after hours in the eighth-floor lobby of WeWork Detroit, a new, state-of-the-art shared office space community Downtown overlooking Woodward Avenue.
A DJ brought the beats, bartenders served drinks, and partygoers mingled, networked and worked the room. They were all there May 4 to celebrate the launch of re:purpose, one of the newest kids on the block in Detroit’s burgeoning startup scene. Entrepreneur Ryan Landau, 28, of Detroit, started the business he describes as a “curated marketplace that matches the right candidates to the right startup companies.”
“There’s a huge need for young professionals,” he explained. “We asked ourselves how we could build an online platform for technology and startup companies and young professionals to meet. We want everyone to be able to pursue their passions and be a part of something greater than themselves.”
And re:purpose was born.
Landau grew up in West Bloomfield, attended Michigan State University and started his professional career with IBM in Washington, D.C. But his first venture actually began when he was just 14 years old. In 2002, Ryan and his older brother, Andrew, co-founded Carnival Extravaganza, a concession catering company, which they later sold to a competitor.
In 2013, Ryan returned to Detroit to co-found an ecommerce business, again with his brother, thanks to help from the local venture capital community. Chalkfly sold office and school supplies before it was acquired by a Novi company. Then, it was back to the drawing board. Landau spent almost two years working with the software company Ambassador before founding re:purpose.
“The business is about six weeks old and already we have job listings from more than 60 companies from Detroit, Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan,” he says. “A couple hundred candidates apply every week now.”
What makes re:purpose different? Anyone can apply, but only the best applicants among businesses and job seekers are chosen. Re:purpose singles out those with strong professional backgrounds, the right culture fit and a meaningful mission.
Landau is looking for purpose-driven businesses and people who want to make a difference, hence the name “re:purpose” or “regarding purpose.” He operates out of the WeWork space Downtown with about half a dozen contractors, some of whom he worked with during his Chalkfly days.
“Forty percent of applicants are from Michigan but live in other major cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco,” Landau says. “They’re using our platform as a portal to find a job to come back.”
Right now, a variety of high-tech jobs are available with a host of different startups including Lunar, a Detroit-based company creating a pay-as-you go cell phone platform that aims to eliminate bills, contracts and hidden fees. They’re seeking people for their growth and marketing teams.
Opportunities can also be found at FarmLogs, an Ann Arbor-based business with a mobile app that helps farmers track and manage everything from the weather to planting seeds and more. It’s designed to help farmers become more profitable. The company is looking for a senior project manager and a senior front-end engineer.
The businesses range in size from 20-500 employees. Some have venture capital funding; most want to grow quickly. The companies pay re:purpose a $250 monthly subscription fee and $7,500 per job placement. Job seekers use the service free. Plans include launching an initiative called “1% for Education” where 1 percent of all profits will be donated to grassroots educational organizations to help people prepare for their professional lives.
“The ideal candidate is someone with 2 to 10 years of experience who has worked with a tech company, has experience with a startup and is looking to get involved in the next chapter of their career,” Landau says. “There’s a ton of opportunity.”
Landau is focused on attracting young professionals to Detroit in other ways as well. He was recently elected president of NEXTGen Detroit, the young adult division of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. He’ll be officially inducted in June. One of his goals is to get young Jewish professionals in the suburbs more engaged and connected with what’s happening in the city.
“NEXTGen is going through a reinvention period,” Ryan says. “It’s an exciting time.”
Back to business — Landau has big plans for re:purpose down the road, which include an “Uber-style” roll out, city by city, in 2018. Target markets will include Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles and more. For now, the focus is exclusively on Detroit and Southeast Michigan.
“If you’re from Michigan, we’d love to help you find a job you love. If you’re thinking about coming back and wanting to be part of Detroit’s comeback, we’d love to help you, too. For companies, we would love to help match you with some awesome talent,” Landau says. “We’re making matches every single day.”
For more information or to try re:purpose, go to repurpose.co.
Robin Schwartz Contributing Writer