Haas grads on a mission to match local job-seekers, local businesses

The Bay Area’s job market is saturated. Applicants slog through hundreds of ads online, unsure if a business is legitimate and even worth the time and effort it takes to apply. Employers wade through pools of applications from all over the country, and attempt to pluck out the few that seem promising amid the sludge of scams and unqualified candidates.

Maya Tobias and Ben Hamlin

Haas grads Maya Tobias and Ben Hamlin founded Localwise to support local businesses.

But two Berkeley alumni have set out to streamline the local job search by creating a site that connects local businesses with local applicants.

It’s called Localwise. It’s a virtual jobs marketplace based in Berkeley where local businesses — mostly startups, nonprofits, restaurants and retail shops — post ads looking for qualified candidates in the Bay Area, with the aim of building a stronger workforce and community. The company operates from SkyDeck, a UC Berkeley-affiliated startup accelerator.

The masterminds behind Localwise, which launched in January 2015, are two 2014 graduates of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Maya Tobias and Ben Hamlin.

Tobias and Hamlin met as students in a social impact group at Haas. “We were very interested in business with a social mission,” says Tobias. “A lot of our classmates were interested in international development and how to make an impact abroad. Ben and I were sort of unique in that we were like, ‘Hey, there’s a lot we can do right here in our local community and have an impact.’”

studentsBerkeley Startup Job Fair
Jan. 28, 2016, 5 to 7 p.m.
NextSpace Berkeley, 2081 Center Street
Free for job-seekers, $150-200 for startup tables

Both children of small business owners — Hamlin’s family ran an architecture firm out of his attic and Tobias’s family operated a balloon-printing business that her grandfather started — the co-founders appreciate the small-business lifestyle and the challenges owners face. So right after graduation, they decided to start a business with a clear mission: to support local business owners.

First, Hamlin and Tobias hit the streets to interview hundreds of local business owners about their biggest challenges. One that kept coming up? Hiring.

“Craigslist was still the main place that local businesses were using to find employees,” says Tobias, “but the trust has been completely lost in the market.”

nextspace in berkeley

Localwise and the City of Berkeley will host a startup job fair at NextSpace in Berkeley at the end of January.

In just a year, the platform has helped to fill about 2,000 local jobs and has had more than 1,000 businesses post ads. “Our applicants are people who buy into our mission — people who want to work for a local business instead of a chain,” says Tobias. “There are some employers who say, ‘I was only going to hire one person, but I ended up hiring four because I got so many good candidates.'”

In partnership with the City of Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development, Localwise is holding job fair at the end of January to connect Berkeley startups with local job seekers, building on the community’s growing reputation as a startup hub.

Tobias says the goal of the event is to promote inclusive employment. “To create diverse companies, hiring is where it happens,” she says.

The event is filling up fast, so those interested in attending should register on the Localwise website.