The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Financial tech company looks to increase local presence

 

Ryan Jarvi/Daily Globe

PEOPLE GATHER for a casual job fair Tuesday in Ironwood held by San Francisco-based Expensify, a financial tech company. Expensify is considering opening a branch office in Ironwood and is looking to increase its number of employees in the area.

IRONWOOD - A San Francisco-based financial tech startup company is considering opening a branch office in the area, and held a casual job fair Tuesday in Ironwood to scout potential employees.

The company, Expensify, currently employs 13 full-time and more than 45 part-time people in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and is looking to expand those numbers.

"We're looking for the best and brightest talent, and we think that the U.P. is a great place to find that," said David Barrett, CEO.

He said the decision to conduct business in Michigan was "90 percent business, and 10 percent nostalgia. ... We've found the people here are great. It wasn't a hard sell."

Barrett, who grew up in a small suburb of Saginaw, founded the company in 2008 as a service for business travelers.

The company uses technology to improve the experience of expense reports, and a digital format that reads information through a photo taken of receipts, which is automatically entered into a report.

Since 2008, it has grown to serve more than 300,000 companies and more than two million users, according to a news release.

Out of those 58 U.P. employees, at least 30 have graduated from Gogebic Community College, a relationship Barrett is pleased with.

Expensify and GCC have been working together to cultivate talent in the local community for the past year and a half. In May, the company created and awarded the first scholarship program at GCC for computer science and IT majors, offering $1,000 to a freshman each year.

Barrett said the scholarship wasn't planned, "It just sorta happened."

The company initially contracted with a local engineer, which Barrett said worked out well.

"From there, each time a new position opened up, we always casually considered hiring more in the area, and again and again it just came up as the best option – as measured objectively against employees and engineers all over the world," he said. "Bit by bit we became more committed to the area, which naturally led us to Jim Halverson, lead of GCC's computer IT program."

The company has worked with GCC to create curriculum for technology subjects, of which Halverson was an integral part.

"I see the relationship with GCC and Expensify as one of the most positive things to happen to our area and to the IT program since I started teaching at GCC 26 years ago," Halverson said. "Expensify is hiring graduates from my information technology program and they're working with GCC to keep our curriculum current and relevant."

Halverson also helped connect Expensify to potential employees, including Tim Szot, who currently serves as global team manager.

"Most of the jobs offered in the area are labor-focused, so it's great to be able to give people the opportunity to work at a tech startup without having to leave the area," Szot said.

Eventually, the company began working with GCC President Jim Lorenson, and a scholarship was mentioned as something that could help move things forward.

"We were eager for the opportunity to repay the community and took it," Barrett said. "Regardless, this is just the early days of what I hope will be a long and great relationship between Expensify, GCC and the community at large."

Expensify is also considering developing a local office and is looking at different locations in Ironwood.

GCC had been allowing the company to use a room on its campus, but Barrett said Expensify has outgrown the space.

"My preference is to find an open, cheerful, inspirational place with an interesting history, right downtown where we can generate as much local foot traffic to nearby businesses as possible," Barrett said.

Though many employees are able to perform their duties from home, Barrett said the presence of an actual building allows staff to work together as a team.

David Barrett

"Yes, most of it can be done online, but given the option of doing it alone at home, or shoulder to shoulder with people you like in a comfortable and pleasing environment, the excitement around an office is no surprise," he said. "The full time office also helps us solidify our relationship with the community as well as give us big enough space for training and to continue to help facilitate a growing team."

Barrett asked downtown Ironwood property owners looking to rent to send pictures and information to ironwood@expensify.com.

The company is looking for individuals interested in customer service, software development or data entry positions.

Around 30 members of the San Francisco team came to Ironwood and will continue visiting the U.P. through Friday to connect with the local community.

For more information, visit blog.expensify.com/2014/08/14/UP-Invasion/.

 
 

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