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Published in Economic Development

Holland startup Wedge grows quickly through pandemic, leverages video for talent recruitment

BY Sunday, June 06, 2021 05:05pm

As an entrepreneur, Matt Baxter acknowledges that opportunities like the one in front of him rarely come along.

“There aren’t many moments where not only is the product valuable but the team is right, there is funding behind it and the timing could not be better,” said Baxter, CEO of Competitive Wedge LLC, a one-way video interview platform designed to streamline recruiting. “It’s literally no one else’s fault if we fail.”

Matt Baxter COURTESY PHOTO

The last 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t slowed the Holland-based startup’s hyper-growth journey. If anything, the pandemic fueled growth as Wedge built out its team and capitalized on working with clients that encountered a hiring surge.

Wedge has raised $2.6 million to date. After closing on an initial round of $1 million in July of 2020, the company raised an additional $1.6 million in less than a year from both new and existing investors.

Baxter brought on recruiting industry veteran Theo Rokos as Wedge’s new president earlier this year as the company expanded both its sales and growth teams. Rokos previously served as chief revenue officer at Job.com and was the co-founder and former CEO of video interviewing competitor GreenJobInterview LLC.

With virtually every professional industry facing talent and recruiting needs coming out of the pandemic, Wedge is aiming for fast growth.

“From the beginning, we have said, ‘Let’s grow this thing as fast as we possibly can,’” Baxter said. “Obviously getting a startup off the ground has its (share) of things taking longer than you expect. Before the pandemic, we were geared up to grow like crazy. Then, the pandemic was fuel on the fire.”

Diverse hiring needs

Throughout the pandemic, Baxter found that companies encountered talent dilemmas in three different ways: Laying off existing employees, freezing hiring, and some that were forced to ramp up hiring. This included industries related to supply chains and logistics.

Wedge found opportunity in working with those businesses that saw a surge in hiring. As the U.S. lifts out of the pandemic, the company is ready to help the other industries hire and rehire their workforces.

Many of those empty positions are hourly workers. Baxter contends that Wedge streamlines the process by eliminating the time-consuming phone screening process that leads to the in-person interview.

“You’re just trying to make sure the candidate shows up and if they can have a reasonable conversation and then move them to (the) in-person (interview),” Baxter said. “We can remove that whole thing and cut your time in fractions and then get to that in-person. Absolutely, I think in-person interviews are important.”

According to Baxter, Wedge’s work with a trucking company underscores its potential to help companies looking to hire hourly workers en masse.

“Every hourly worker doesn’t need to put on a suit and tie and go into a formal interview,” Baxter said. “Being able to do a quick pre-screening by video and have it sent over to the hiring manager makes for a really great candidate experience. The same thing applies for retail and manufacturing.”

Still, Wedge is competing among plenty of heavy hitters to connect some of the 16 million unemployed Americans with their next job. This includes ZipRecruiter Inc., which recently went public using a direct listing. The recruiting giant uses artificial intelligence to connect employees with jobs for which they’re qualified — the user doesn’t have to formally apply. Solutions like Wedge use video.

The competition puts pressure on Wedge to stand out in the market, which Baxter says is accomplished with a user-friendly interface that seamlessly integrates with other application tracking systems (ATS). 

“We’re fast-growing, there is attention on us, and we’re up-to-date tech right now, but we have to make sure that continues to be the case,” Baxter said.

On the cutting edge

Steve Lowisz has been involved in the same space as Wedge for more than two decades as the CEO of Livonia-based talent research and recruiting firm Qualigence International Inc. Lowisz invested in Wedge in the most recent round of fundraising. 

As someone who keeps his finger on the pulse of the industry to keep his own business competitive, Lowisz saw Wedge on the cutting edge of the industry.

“The résumé is outdated in my opinion,” Lowisz said. “You get a heck of a lot more value by sitting across from somebody and watching them as they answer questions and talk about themselves. To do it in volume and in scale … leveraging video to do that, I think is absolutely the wave of the future.”

In fact, Lowisz said he has interacted with companies that are experimenting with doing away with traditional résumés completely and using only video.

“You’ve got to give a guy like Matt a lot of credit,” Lowisz said. “This was kind of his brainchild, but he made the call to go out and get a (president) like Theo, who has a lot more experience and success. You don’t see a lot of startups do that unless they are forced to, and he wasn’t really forced to.”

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