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Recruitment firm acquires Cary startup with NC State roots


Chicago-based Hireology has acquired Cary-based referral technology startup EmployUs for an undisclosed sum.

EmployUs CEO Ryan O’Donnell called it good news.

In the deal, EmployUs keeps its brand identity and product – customers can continue to use its product as a stand alone or as part of a bundle – and Hireology will keep investing in the Raleigh concern.

The local operation stays intact and will likely grow via Hireology’s larger wallet, said O’Donnell, who will be staying with the firm after the transition.

The big value proposition? EmployUs will be able to reach more people with its technology, which utilizes referrals to fill open positions.

“It is incredibly hard to hire people,” O’Donnell said. “We’re always looking for the best ways to help companies hire people.”

He said deal talks emerged several months ago before intensifying – all due to the issues firms are having in finding quality labor.

“As the economy reopens in the wake of the Covid pandemic, employers face a new challenge: finding enough people to hire,” Adam Robinson, CEO of Hireology, said a prepared statement. “I’m excited for our customers to see firsthand how running a successful employee referral program can help build a more robust talent pipeline and accelerate hiring.”

Robinson wasn’t immediately available to talk about the deal.

EmployUs, which was co-founded by Manpower veteran Jeff Stocks and its CTO, Matt Cotter, has changed a lot over the years. O’Donnell recently described the pivot to an enterprise SaaS product to “driving off the cliff and building an airplane on the way down.”

The EmployUs story started at N.C. State, where Stocks, who at the time was board chair of the Poole College of Management, met O’Donnell.

“I was impressed with his intellectual capacity, his drive,” Stocks said in 2014. O’Donnell was also an entrepreneur, having created his own company, Pennies 4 Progress, that raised money for local public schools.

When EmployUs launched, Stocks told TBJ it would become “the Uber of recruitment.”

The pair created EmployUs on the concept that the best employees come from referrals. And the idea took off. It was one of the first companies picked for what was known as the Citrix Accelerator in downtown Raleigh. It has since solicited investments from high profile backers, including Joe Colopy, co-founder of Bronto Software, which was sold to Netsuite and later, Oracle.

Stocks, in an interview, declined to give details about the exit, but said he and other early investors were “very happy” with the financial terms. Stocks completely cashed out of his stake with the deal, as did Colopy. Colopy said he was particularly happy for the founding team. “It’s hard to get any company acquired,” he said.