tilr embraces data and finds their own way to scale into 20 states

In cover story, issue two, the update by jayclouseLeave a Comment

by Jay Clouse

As the needs of companies change, who companies hire and how they hire them is changing too.

That’s where Cincinnati-based Tilr comes in. Founded in 2015, Tilr automates the recruitment process by matching worker skills to job requirements.

When we talked to Tilr COO Summer Crenshaw in April 2018 for our first episode of upside, we talked a lot about their plans for growth and expansion.

At the time of our interview, Tilr had just launched in Indianapolis and Louisville. They were in a total of 5 cities across three states, and preparing to launch an additional 12 cities.

Summer told us that they planned to launch 2-5 cities every quarter with a goal of 15 markets by the end of the year. They planned to expand aggressively, pioneering their own expansion plan and not copying the capital-intensive, city-by-city launch model of Grubhub, Uber, or Instacart.

“If we look at other marketplaces that had gone before us, they were just doing city by city, and that definitely was the way that we thought we were going to go,” Summer said.

“One of the things that we realized, was that we were just holding ourselves back.”

Instead of the city launch model of many of their marketplace predecessors, Tilr worked directly with their customers to expand into new markets where those customers wanted to hire and reach new talent.

Today, Summer says that Tilr is in about 30 cities across 20 different states. That’s on the back of 300% growth quarter-over-quarter.

And that growth has been a learning experience. In 2018, Summer told us that they were focused on ensuring that both sides of the marketplace were balanced as they expanded, but that has proven both more difficult and less necessary than they thought.

“A full balance of supply and demand shouldn’t be the biggest part of our challenge,” Summer said. “And a part of that came from really leaning into the marketplace community and talking to other founders.”

As self-proclaimed “data dorks,” the Tilr team turned to their data to better understand user behavior and make decisions.

“When we have the opportunity to try something, see real time results, and make pivots where we need to, it makes such a difference.”

The team noticed that their customers were using their product in ways they didn’t expect. Rather than being the strictly on-demand platform they expected, clients have been using Tilr to change the way they approach hiring for longer-term positions.

“We were really excited to be that on-demand platform that was ‘the Uber of jobs,’” Summer said, “But what we had to take a step back and look at was that clients started utilizing us in ways that we never really thought of.”

Companies were using the platform to eliminate bias in their hiring process. And using it to hire as many as 400 employees in preparation for the holiday season.

And rather than fight or try to change user behavior, Tilr leaned in.

“To see people that literally had no job right before the holiday season and within 24 hours get them working with a four month contract making $33 an hour…that’s pretty phenomenal,” Summer said.

“We probably didn’t give ourselves enough credit for the magnitude of what the technology could do.”

As Tilr scales, they’ve grown internally as well.

Today, Tilr has around 32 employees. And Summer says that if growth continues on this trajectory, they could double in headcount by the end of the year.

But funding their growth has not been easy.

With $10.5M raised to this point, Tilr would be looking at a Series B if they pursued more funding. Which, according to Summer, is difficult to raise in Ohio.

“We are a strong state when it comes to seed rounds and pre-seed, but I think that pre-scale is a very different story,” she said.

“I think that it’s going to take time and a lot of startups really having big wins in order for us to really see some massive changes.”

So as they have in the past, Tilr is creating their own approach to scaling.

Without the benefit of time or a war chest of capital, hey are looking to tap into the existing distribution of strategic channel partners. If they are successful in scaling, Summer says Tilr can become a billion dollar company disrupting the temporary staffing industry.

And that may be just the kind of big win to spark change.


Jay Clouse is co-founder of The Up Company, co-host of the upside podcast, and author for Linkedin LearningLynda.com. Jay spent the last 6+ years as a global organizer and facilitator for Startup Weekend, based in Columbus, OH. He built and sold a ticketing company (Tixers), worked for a venture-backed startup in Columbus (Olive), and now runs an online accelerator for early stage founders (Unreal Collective).