1904labs was born from a dilemma. Mike Weaver, Senior Director of IT Product Development at Monsanto, wanted to hire some of the most creative and innovative software developers in the industry. The problem was that creative developers tend to be drawn to startups instead of corporations like Monsanto.
So Weaver discussed this challenge with Sean Walsh and Jack Bader of neteffects, a talent scout and business solutions company in St. Louis.
“We said, ‘What if we built a company that would be appealing to startup-oriented people, but directed their energy toward solving problems in corporations?’” Walsh said.
That discussion led Walsh and Bader to found 1904labs in February 2016. The consulting company now hires people with startup mindsets to provide cloud-software development, data engineering problems and decision sciences to clients like Monsanto and other major companies in St. Louis. The unique collaboration between the corporate and startup worlds has so far been a success – 1904labs has already had to move into a larger office space within the CIC@CET building to accommodate its new hires.
“We do it by recruiting people who really want a startup environment,” Walsh said.
A recent blog post written by Walsh explains that 1904labs is interested in hiring people who value new ideas over status or trappings of the traditional workplace:
“In short, a “Start-Up Mind” is essentially nothing more than a State of Mind. A mind that is open to the possible and not encumbered by what has occurred before.”
The startup culture at 1904labs is fairly experimental. Each week, employees are given “innovation hours” during which they can work on independent projects, charity programs, online learning or improving the company. 1904labs also offers mentorship to employees working on independent projects – even if that means the employees will soon leave the company to pursue them.
“We just did our first company-wide survey,” Walsh said. “People love the fact that we’re so open, and that they’re allowed to talk about the things they need to talk about relative to other ideas that they’re working on. It’s a real differentiator for us.”
1904labs hopes to build a reputation based on that kind of openness.
“I’d like to, over time, be known as a place that entrepreneurs come to hang their hat when they’re between independent ideas,” Walsh said. “We’re not afraid of that because we’re always having a candid conversation.”
Being located on the Cortex campus has helped the company develop its unique culture.
“There’s just an energy down here that allows us to collaborate with other companies,” Walsh said. “You don’t have to worry about anything besides your ideas.”
Walsh hopes 1904labs can eventually develop the resources to become an end-to-end company that offers a full suite of services to clients. But until then, growing the company is the main priority.
“We’ve got our eyes fully focused on just doubling the size of the company and continuing to acquire clients in St. Louis here in the next 12 months.”
Based on the company’s quick growth and unique culture, 1904labs should have no trouble attracting more startup-minded employees.
“People can bring their whole selves to work,” Walsh said. “They don’t have to leave anything behind when they come to the office.”
*Shared with permission from Stephen Johnson, Cortex St. Louis