Maria Katris, CEO and co-founder of Built In, has been laser focused on growth since the earliest days, when she and Co-Founder Adam Calica ran three markets. What a difference nine years make. Today, Built In employs over 130 people, attracts 1.7 million monthly visitors and serves 1,800+ clients and, this week, was included in Inc.’s 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America. What did it take to make it this far? Maria shares.

 

How does it feel to be listed in the 2020 Inc. 5000 list?

I’m thrilled, of course. We’re nearing a decade of this journey and it has not been easy. Personally, I’ve fielded 1,000 “no’s” from customers or investors who didn’t see the promise of our vision. It also took several years for the market to catch up to our model. But we stayed focused — and we’re now seeing the results of all this effort. The list is great validation as well. We’re in such great company and I am very proud.

 

For those who don’t know, what is Built In?

Built In is a home for anyone who sees tech as a way of life, not just a way of work. We help talented tech professionals stay up on trends and find opportunities at companies with missions they want to join. Our city-specific sites in vibrant tech hubs give readers a hyperlocal sense of what’s happening in their tech communities. Our national site expands our reach, helping users learn about tech-centric hubs across the U.S. and become better-networked, better-informed professionals, with incredibly strong tech-focused content.

 

So Built In has grown — but from where? Share how you started. 

In 2011, we were a very different company. We were a social network and local blogging platform. We gave Chicago startups a platform on which to tell their stories. Soon, we learned that startups were attracting talent just by being on Built In. It was our a-ha moment, and our first critical milestone. We saw an opportunity to fix tech recruitment, so we set out to fix it. We developed a model that didn’t exist, one that works. We use the power of content and community to help top tech professionals discover companies they want to join. 

 

What were some of your early growth milestones?

I can think of three very critical moments in the early days. First was our initial expansion outside of Chicago. This validated our model could scale and led to our first outside financing. Second, we created our first annual product package to sell to potential customers. This was version one of our current annual contract offering. This not only allowed us to bootstrap the business in the early years, but also defined our focus and annual recurring revenue. Third was the decision to leverage BuiltIn.com to connect tech professionals globally. This will define our future. 

 

What are some more recent growth milestones?

Our most recent market expansion, San Francisco, as it was the biggest market we’ve launched. I’ll also never forget the day we hit 1 million monthly site visitors. One year later, we’re at 1.7 million. And, of course, I can’t forget our Series C fundraise, which will allow us to scale. Finally, this fall we will celebrate our 10-year anniversary. It is hard to compete with this growth milestone.

 

I understand that your fundraise represents the second highest amount raised in Chicago by any female tech CEO in history.

I’d rather think about what we can do with the funds in the future, but, yes, that’s true. In 2019, we raised $22 million. From the start, I was adamant about not raising capital until we knew exactly what we were going to do with it.  I also never wanted to run a business that was reliant on outside capital to survive. When we did raise, it was because we decided: “It’s time to scale, and it’s time to accelerate product development.”

 

Does your mission still apply amid the global change? 

Absolutely. We connect professionals and innovative companies on the strength of their shared passion for tech and the human need for purpose. Our tagline is “United We Tech.” When we unite tech with talent, we get two forces that are powerful alone but invincible together. This will be true for us forever.

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