Ohio State students launch Helm tech talent site

Cynthia Bent Findlay
Kai McKinney, Helm

Five young entrepreneurs, some recent grads and some still students, are taking a run at serving the tech hiring market with a new platform for posting digital projects.

Helm wants to be the go-to place for recruiting programmers, says Kai McKinney, Helm’s chief innovation officer. McKinney is also a full-time student at Ohio State University.

McKinney and his cohorts have been striving to become entrepreneurs since early in their college careers, networking with the local tech scene to bring events to campus. They realized students seeking their first tech jobs and employers share a pain point: the hiring process. 

“Our initial empathy was with coders,” he says. “It takes such a long time, you don’t hear back, you don’t know how to improve.” The employers he and his co-founders spoke with say that’s because finding a candidate with good problem-solving capabilities is difficult and takes time. But students, says McKinney, often have a ready-made problem-solving portfolio built through an increasingly common campus happening: the hackathon.

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“It’s a really cool way to show how they collaborate,” says McKinney, “but then those apps they build just sit in a dusty digital archive. We decided to make that accessible.” Over the past year, the team developed Helm to let companies peruse candidates and their portfolios on a monthly subscription basis. 

Helm has support from some heavy-hitters in the Columbus tech scene, including Jeff Schumann of Aware and Robert Hatta, a partner at Drive Capital, who have helped with advice. 

They also enlisted beta testing companies: Aware, Upstart, Columbus mobility startup Mobikit and Helm launched the beta version of its site Feb. 6 and is focused on getting users to upload portfolios, kicking off an online hackathon of its own that wrapped March 6. 

McKinney says Helm is aiming at a huge market: $2 billion is spent annually on hiring entry-level positions in the U.S. Tech careers site found tech hiring in Columbus grew 38 percent year-over-year in 2019. And large job posting sites that can’t host portfolios can cost employers several hundred dollars per month.

Cynthia Bent Findlay is a freelance writer.

Co-founder/CEO: Tommy Hillyer

Co-founders: Kai McKinney, Brad Browning, Will Matz, Austin Drabik

Business: Portfolio-sharing platform for coders seeking employment.

Founded: 2019

Investment to date: Private pre-seed round.