Crain’s 20 in their 20s

Matt Strauss, Founder & CEO of Solve

Matt Strauss grew up in Wilmette, where professionals have no problem networking their way to new jobs. Mentoring at tech incubator nonprofit I.C. Stars, Strauss discovered that some job seekers on the South and West sides—particularly those with criminal pasts or gaps in employment, or without housing or transportation—don’t have that ability.

Strauss found research indicating that a person’s ZIP code at birth is a major indicator of economic success. That led him to launch Solve, a software company that connects job seekers to employers and social services. Solve launched in June and has five full-time and three part-time employees. It has built a network of 125 nonprofits and corporations, 23 of which license its software. The software helps organizations locate prospective employees. The organizations can then help the prospects apply for jobs, track them through job placement and measure their success once they start working. Monthly licensing fees range from zero, for basic information, to as high as $10,000, with higher fees buying more information. Solve’s donor-advised fund, Building Together, makes grants to social services nonprofits. Strauss envisions a group of funds to provide microgrants to job candidates in need of support services. 

Partners so far include Turner Construction, which is building the Obama Presidential Center; Rush University Medical Center; the University of Chicago; Skender Construction; Clayco Construction; and nonprofit workforce-development firms Ucan, Cara, Year Up and No Veteran Left Behind. Solve and its partners have placed 130 people in jobs since its launch a year ago. “We’re really breaking down the silos,” says Strauss, who lives in the South Loop, not far from Solve’s offices at 1400 S. Michigan Ave. 

Solve has posted revenue of $100,000, with a goal of $1 million by the end of this year. It’s raised $490,000 from angel investors, among them Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of recruiting firm LaSalle Network. “How (Strauss) sees the ability for corporations to work with nonprofits is unique,” says Gimbel, noting that sites like LinkedIn ignore “the more blue-collar population” of job seeker. Strauss is “bringing a for-profit mentality to a social service endeavor.”

Next up: Expanding to San Francisco and other cities and adding 200 organizations to its Chicago network. “It’s time to change the narrative in Chicago,” Strauss says. “We need to see more opportunities and create ways to get people in the door.” 

Lisa Bertagnoli

Link to article on Crain’s website:

https://www.chicagobusiness.com/html-page/845981


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