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For Wajam, Hiring Remains Growth’s Greatest Blessing and Burden

Montreal — With 45 employees populating its Montreal, Quebec, headquarters, Wajam can safely weigh in as a middle-market firm — one seemingly a world apart from the 10-member start-up it was only a year ago.

A lot has happened inside Wajam over the past year. As an up-and-coming player in the social search space, Wajam has over the last 12 months advanced beyond the desktop into the mobile world, allowing iPhone users to access its social recommendations.

“Our goal was to insert social content into third-party apps on the iPhone. This was not possible technologically speaking, and when something is not possible I tell my guys, ‘Let’s figure out a way to make it possible.’ The fact is there is always a way to make things happen with technology and software,” says CEO Martin-Luc Archambault, whose firm specializes in the creation of algorithms that rank the public tweets and social endorsements of friends and then displays them in all the right places (e.g., a restaurant listing that includes a friend’s social endorsement).

download“The hard part of what we do is searching through immense sets of data. To do this, we need the best engineers we can find, and the fact is that Google has thousands of engineers doing this every day,” explains Archambault, who quickly becomes focused on talent when asked to look ahead.

“If we were in the Valley today, we would probably only be able to hire a quarter of the people we have now,” says Archambault, who notes that the local region’s talent supply remains well suited for Wajam’s next chapter of growth.

Wajam’s mobile feature is currently ad-free, but someday soon the firm could undoubtedly make money by matching friend endorsements to advertisers. Through its browser integration, Wajam has already brought social search to a number of mega shopping sites, including Amazon, Yelp, and Shopping.com.

“It’s not the number of job candidates — it’s that we’re very picky,” says Archambault, who leads the firm’s product development in addition to overseeing day-to-day operations.

“We do something like three interviews per candidate. The whole team meets these people, and it’s important that we hire people who fit with our culture. By the end of this year, if we have 50 employees and they are the right people. I’ll be much happier than if we are at 75 employees and have a number of people who just don’t fit in,” explains Archambault, who privately funded Wajam through Bolidea, an incubator for technology firms that he cofounded and that has to date funded a string of neighboring Montreal start-ups.

“Montreal is an amazing place to start a company and advance into the growth phase. Once we’ve accomplished this, then definitely opening up an office in the Valley makes sense,” says Archambault, whose earlier ventures include a popular day trading community.

“When it comes to innovation, you have to ask the hard questions as you figure out a way to bypass barriers that have been set upon you,” explains Archambault, who says that while Web business leaders are often credited with having vision, being able to look into the next year is often what matters.

Says Archambault: “On the Web, you think a year ahead, not 10 years ahead, because there’ll likely be a new Facebook in the next 5 years.”

crotty headline july 15

timthumb-150x150As we advance into the second half of 2013, there are growing indications that business sentiment is improving despite nagging unemployment numbers and a shortage of merger-minded CEOs.

Cindy Crotty, middle-market business watcher and head of KeyBank’s commercial banking segment, once more shared with Middle-Market Executive the findings of a KeyBank’s middle-market business sentiment survey, which reveals that merger-minded business leaders remain a minority in 2013. Download report here. 

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