New Brunswick’s Alongside is helping companies find better job candidates by simplifying the administrative tasks related to the hiring process.
CEO and Co-Founder Yves Boudreau started the company in 2013; his second entrepreneurial endeavour after launching his first business—Halation Studios—at age 19. After Halation’s closing in 2006, Boudreau spent five years in economic development, relocating to Moncton from his hometown of Bathurst. During that time, the entrepreneurial bug bit him again. Alongside was the result, and in 2015 the company was accepted into 500 Startups, one of the world’s top accelerators.
Boudreau is a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit in New Brunswick, so Opportunities NB (ONB) had to learn more. We sat down with him to discuss Alongside’s product, the company’s bursary partnership with Dovico and Oulton College, his 500 Startups experience, and more.
ONB: Let’s start with an overview of Alongside.
Boudreau: We simplify administrative tasks related to the hiring process. Our tool helps companies dramatically cut down on the time they spend creating and promoting job postings. With Alongside you create a posting once, then select which locations you would like that posting to be shown — your website, Career Beacon, Monster, etc. That automation of job postings is the front end piece.
The back end piece involves candidate management. When candidates enter the platform through a posting they are stored in our intuitive Applicant Tracking System. There’s no need to collect resumes by email anymore, Alongside does it all. It’s an all-in-one tool that’s affordable for small, medium, and large sized-enterprises.
ONB: New Brunswick has put a lot of support behind Alongside. Tell us about that.
Boudreau: The province has been very supportive from the beginning. The idea of repatriation is something everybody in NB is keen to focus on. We are thrilled to have built something that will help New Brunswick companies with recruitment, and help job seekers connect with employers. We’ve had such great early success that we now have interest in the product in both Toronto and the U.S.
ONB: What was the spark that led to Alongside’s creation?
Boudreau: After I relocated to Moncton I worked in economic development at Enterprise Greater Moncton (3+). I felt it was an opportunity to build a network and gain more entrepreneurial knowledge. I was working with the province on a career fair, and the process was so manual and redundant it drove me crazy. That was the first spark; when I saw an opportunity to improve that process I got consumed by it. I wanted to help solve those problems, so I spent eight months working on a design document. I ended up with 100 pages outlining the whole product and how it would work. We brought it to local HR managers and many were skeptical at first, but the more we showed them the more excited they got.
We realized how many companies were having these same issues with the hiring process; we had something people needed. It became clear that I had to devote my full attention this product, and start building the team that could deliver on its promise.
ONB: You were the first company from Atlantic Canada accepted into 500 Startups. How did that experience shape the company?
Boudreau: The biggest benefit for us was simply being able to get a good read on whether or not we were on the right track. Being accepted helped confirm that we were; people clearly saw the potential. Also, being exposed to people who are among the hungriest in the world to succeed really pushed us to step up our game. We thought we were moving fast — we weren’t. The pace at which some of those companies are growing is incredible. It really changed our attitude and snapped us into focus.
As 500 Startup alumni we have access to their amazing partners. We just signed on with a company they work with that will provide us free server hosting for two years. We’ll save about $70,000 to $100,000 on hosting thanks to that arrangement.
Finally they invested in us, $100,000 USD.
ONB: Before 500 you took part in Propel ICT’s Launch36. Do you feel New Brunswick has a strong ecosystem to support entrepreneurs?
Boudreau: Support has been good, absolutely. I speak with a lot of founders now though, and I have to say that not enough of us are getting on that plane and making connections outside the region. I love New Brunswick, there’s a way of life here that allows me to relax and disconnect. That said, as an entrepreneur you have to travel. By taking part in things like 500 Startups in California—and I lived there for several months—I’ve reached a point where I don’t pay for a hotel in San Francisco or Toronto. I have places to stay. Just reaching out to my batch mates made me a slew of connections. That is the long term benefit of that program.
Yes we have smart people here and a good support system, but I think our actual entrepreneurs can do more. Companies have a fear of hearing what they don’t want to hear. My advice is to not be afraid, go get that reality check.
We struggled at first too. We did a bad job explaining what our value offering was and some people didn’t get it. People that use the product love it, but we weren’t always the best at messaging and it’s something we continue to work on. Entrepreneurs should know that people are here to help. I try to give back a lot of my time for that purpose; I’m mentoring some founders now that I really believe in.
ONB: You mentioned giving back so let’s talk about the Yu Tech Sales Bursary through Oulton College. It will give two New Brunswick grade 12 students full tuition towards Oulton’s Sales and Marketing Diploma program. Why take part in this? Also, can you tell us a bit about the man it’s named after, Anthony Yu?
Boudreau: Anthony is one of the most impressive individuals I’ve met on this journey. At 500 every batch holds a mini career fair. You get a minute to pitch your company and job seekers come in to try to impress you. Anthony waited until the end to give me a resume with just a smiley face he had drawn. He said “when you revisit this pile I want you to remember me.” He stood out as someone who thought a little differently; we hired him as a contractor.
Anthony felt he learned a lot during his tenure with us and was happy to have had the experience. We owed him some money at the end but he told us to keep it and put it towards something good, like giving someone else a similar opportunity. Our product is built to help people find work, so we decided this sales bursary was a good fit with our values. It’s a good investment for us, and for the province.
We learned things as part of 500 Startups that nobody else here has. I think we’re in a unique position to share some of that knowledge with students. I know this because I’ve talked to other startups, and when we share what we’ve learned some of them are like kids in a candy store.
Teaming with Oulton was the right move; they are highly adaptable and are updating their curriculum to support this bursary. We can’t wait to see the results.
ONB: Let’s wrap with a few thoughts on how ONB and Alongside work together.
Boudreau: Your team has been so enthusiastic about what we’re doing. They talk to leaders every day that represent either local companies looking to expand or outside companies considering location here. Any time there is discussion around talent and recruitment they know they can mention local companies—like Alongside—that are here to serve as assets. This is exactly the kind of support young companies need from the public sector.
ONB has also supported us with job creation programs that led to new hires. That’s important, but I never build a company with government funding in mind. I see public sector support as gravy, another way of better leveraging the financing we receive from investors. It helps us get more mileage out of our dollars.
Moving forward, we will be able to help ONB with their own recruitment needs on top of helping other New Brunswick companies find the talent they need. We’re pretty excited about the future.
Images via Alongside.