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Q & A with We&Co

by Scott Henderson

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We took time to converse with TJ Muehleman, CEO and Co-Founder of We&Co, so you can get to know them better. Here you go.

We&Co is the LinkedIn for service professionals. There are nearly 10 million people who work in restaurants and retail in the U.S. and We&Co seeks to give them an online, professional profile that they can use to find really cool jobs.

TJ Muehleman, Jared Malan, Fred Castellucci, and Marc Mathieu. We have investors so one day they’ll technically be partial owners, too.

Westside Atlanta! We’ve had 7 offices in the last 2 1/2 years as we continue our quest to find the least expensive, most comfortable, highest bandwidth location in the city. We just moved from The Goat Farm which was by far the most exotic place we’ve ever worked. We’re now camped out at Strongbox West. We like it over here on the westside because the culture really fits us. With neighbors like Scoutmob and Mailchimp, we feel like we’re surrounded by creativity and “big brothers” to follow behind. Though we still haven’t found a good Indian Restaurant over here that’s open for lunch so we’re looking for recommendations.


The Team:
There are 5 of us:

  1. TJ Muehleman – I handle day-to-day operations and development. I’m also the current We&Co ping pong champion
  2. Jared Malan – We&Co’s visionary, he dreams the cool stuff up and makes it all look pretty. He’s also, sadly, not the current ping pong champion
  3. Fred Castellucci – He owns Iberian Pig and Double Zero and lets us test drive stuff in his restaurants
  4. Matt Kinnemore — A current GT student, Matt does analytics for us. Which basically means he’s telling me on the regular that our bounce rate is too high
  5. Courtney Robb – The newest member of the team, she keeps our customers happy

Early 2011

Funded or Bootstrapped:
Funded. We’ve raised money from local angel investors and a few up in NYC.

Price of Services:
Depends on the customer but it ranges from $70-$100 a month per location. As we add services to our offering, we are hoping to see the target price point end up around $200-$300 /month.

What Customers Get:
Our customers are paying a monthly subscription for:

  • Access to our mobile application system. With our tool, applicants can apply for jobs via their smartphone
  • Access to our Talent Rank solution. This is the central nervous system behind We&Co. Talent Rank is the system we’ve built that organizes and ranks applicants based on a number of criteria including social data, work history, location, and several other data points. Using this system, we’re able to deliver higher quality candidates to our customers in a very easy to use, intuitive system
  • A searchable database. As our user base grows, the ability to search the system for specific kinds of candidates (managers for example) becomes increasingly more useful

The Idea:
We all come from a background in the service industry so we knew we wanted to do something related to the people who work in restaurants and retail. Our original idea, an iPhone app that allowed consumer to easily thank their favorite server or bartender was a cool idea, but ultimately it didn’t have the traction to be successful. As we were thinking of how to better serve this community, we sat down w/ our co-founder Fred, owner of a few restaurants, to get a better understanding of what the biggest problem was for him as a owner/operator of a restaurant. His reply was “you mean besides staffing?”. We heard that answer time and time again as we went out and interviewed managers in the restaurant industry.

Most of our customers were formerly using Craigslist which kind of blew us away. The same system you use to buy a used couch is what restaurants were using for staffing? It also amazed us how many would-be mentors told us to run away from this problem b/c taking on Craigslist would be hard. And they’re right; taking on Craigslist is hard. But starting a company is hard. Unseating entrenched rivals is even harder. But if it were easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? You’re not trying hard enough if it’s too easy.

Collaboration Tools/Processes:
Process is kind of a dirty word over here at We&Co. Of course process makes a ton of sense when you’re a larger organization. But when you’re young and small, the ability to take advantage of chaos and creativity is key. Naturally as your company matures, you start to inject more and more deliberation and thought into what you do.

That said, the closest thing we have to a “process” at We&Co is the willingness to try anything and do it very very quickly. Most experiments we roll out are conceived, built, tested, and post-mortemed in about 72 hours. For every 5 things we try, we probably keep 1 of them. As I mentioned above, now that we’re getting to be a bit more mature and our client base is growing, we can’t just dramatically shift what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. But we still hold on to that rapid iteration culture. We like to let our customers and users tell us how they feel about something by seeing how (or if) they use something.

What’s Unique about Your Company Culture:
We’re very open with our team about how and what we’re doing. We also like to make sure our entire team, from interns on up, feel like they can talk to us about anything. Jared and I aren’t very “managerial” in that way. The hope being that folks who work on our team feel comfortable to bring ideas to the table.

As for practical things we do with culture, we do a weekly team lunch usually at one of our customer’s restaurants. We have a quarterly team outing where spouses and significant others are encouraged to come out.

And we make sure everyone’s very clear on our corporate policy that outlaws wearing nice clothes in the office.

What You Need Most Right Now:
Every early stage startup needs more money, right? So I’m gonna pass on that obvious answer.

Time. Our long term vision is to enable service professionals to be free agents, working how and where they want. We are creating a fluid marketplace where quality people can create the lifestyle they want and get the respect they deserve. Bartenders, servers, chefs, will be able to hop between different locations based on demand and need. To make that happen, there needs to be a marketplace where these professionals can advertise what they’re good at and restaurants can pull these employees in on an as needed basis. We need to collect as much data as possible about these folks so we can better segment these markets. But even more than data, we need time to make this happen. We think it’s going to take time for this model to mature, and when it does, we think we’ll be well poised to help make it happen.

Check them out at Weand.co.

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