Joe Meyer, WG'97, Founder: ExecThread.org
Joe Meyer, WG’97, believes that securing a fulfilling executive-level job can be grueling and ineffective, even if you’re well-connected. One month after Joe launched the invitation-only nonprofit ExecThread.org, several hundred executives have already signed on to share with one another the otherwise confidential job opportunities that have recently crossed their desks.
Joe isn’t currently looking for a job — he’s been at Apple since last July when it acquired the firm he led as CEO, HopStop, an online city transit guide offering door-to-door subway and bus directions and maps for over 140 cities around the world. He just likes to solve problems and help people. Joe took some time to speak with us on July 8 in Manhattan.
What’s the genesis of ExecThread?
Over the past decade, while serving at the director level or higher at both large and small companies, I began to realize that as your skills and experience increase your awareness of new job opportunities decreases.
Let’s say I start thinking: “Maybe I should become a CEO, CMO, COO, CFO, CRO, President, EVP or VP of another company.” How many current searches are there for one of those positions? Tens of thousands? But how many am I aware of? A handful? And who decides what job opportunities come across my desk? Not me, and often times it’s decided by recruiters who don’t know me well nor my areas of interest!
Talk to any executive who’s ever had to find a new job. They either wait for a recruiter to present them with a new career opportunity, or had to have 20 coffee meetings per month with people in their network and hope that at least one person meeting with them heard about a job that’s a perfect fit.
This inefficiency in executive search is why there’s often job dissatisfaction among senior executives. Executives make career-altering decisions based on limited information, and hence are making imperfect life-altering decisions.
Can you explain how ExecThread works?
Let’s say five new job searches come across my desk each month, all interesting confidential opportunities. The majority I’m not interested in for various reasons. A peer might also see five opportunities each month as well, but her five are likely different than my five. Chances are I might like one of the jobs presented to her, and she might like one of the ones presented to me; but she’ll never see mine and I’ll never see hers. In a nutshell, ExecThread is crowdsourcing meets executive search. It’s an invite-only network of high-caliber executives who agree to “give to get”!
Members earn a point for each new exec-level job opportunity they contribute to ExecThread, and for each new member they refer. ExecThread then acts as a clearinghouse and disseminates all the opportunities that members contribute to all other members. And when a member looks at the key attributes provided by ExecThread for a particular job opportunity (role, level, industry, company size/stage, etc.), and feels it may be a good fit, the member can request the hiring company name from ExecThread by redeeming a point.
If a member is still interested after researching the company then he/she asks ExecThread for the recruiter’s name (which costs an additional point), after which the member leverages his/her own network to get introduced to the recruiter. It’s a win-win for both the executive and recruiter alike, and best of all it is pro bono (no money changes hands). Meanwhile, ExecThread is the recruiters’ best friend because they get free curated referrals!
How has ExecThread progressed since launch?
I launched a small test in 4Q13 via email to 50 executives — not my closest contacts, but two or three degrees of separation from me — and 85% of them joined. After I nuanced the service, one-third of the executives began submitting job opportunities of which they were aware but not interested in pursuing. I brought in a technical lead, productized it and relaunched in late June.
After a few weeks we now have hundreds of discreet exec-level job listings in the system, and are up to several hundred members, with each new member invited by a current member. We continue to see similar ratios: ~85% of those invited become members, and over 30% of members contribute job leads of which they’re aware but aren’t pursuing. Additionally, non-job searching members are now contributing job opportunities that they’re trying to fill on their own teams.
You had a great run with HopStop and are now with Apple. You could be relaxing a bit more.
My dad was a father of four sons and an EVP at a large bank. He reached a point in his career when he got re-engineered out of his job and replaced by someone younger. It took him six months to find his next role. It happened again five years later, and it took him a year to find his next role. I now see the same thing playing out with my friends. The process that executives go through to find a job, no matter how qualified they are, isn’t easy — it’s kind of a maze. So I have an ambition to help executives manage their careers in a more proactive way by helping them to discover more job opportunities.
Most executives, no matter how successful they are, need more options to avoid the sort of challenges that my father faced. I like helping people, and believe it or not I think most executives are underserved when it comes to identifying new job opportunities.
What lesson did you learn from HopStop that you’re applying to ExecThread?
• Make sure there’s a true need for the service being created.
• Stay focused on the core value proposition and on exceeding user expectations.
• Invite and encourage feedback from your users, and act on their advice.
• Build something before raising money. If your v1 gets adoption then enhance it. Is ExecThread perfect? Do I have a website or an app? No! It’s email- and database-driven. But ExecThread is aggregating valuable proprietary jobs, hence why executives are embracing it.
• If your business is data-driven, then structure the data if it’s not already structured. When HopStop started we had to manually curate time-tables from each transit agency. It’s the same with ExecThread. Do you think these jobs come to me structured? No way! I’m doing this by hand (and a little bit of automation) to match the job attributes to user preferences.
How do you think the Club can help alumni to be better entrepreneurs?
I think the Wharton Club can help alumni by exposing them to alums who have been entrepreneurs and who know what it takes to be successful as a founder — similar to what we did at the recent Lessons Learned From Successes (and Failures) Leading Start-Ups event in NYC. Everyone has good ideas, but as Edison said, it’s 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.