Dayton tech business ‘crushes’ misconceptions

VR, mobile app company draws global workforce

When Neta Iser told friends she was moving from Israel to Dayton, their question was the same: “What’s in Dayton?”

Her answer: A technology company to believe in.

Dayton-based Krush Technologies creates mobile apps and virtual reality experiences that reach more than 160 million people globally, and it does so while drawing some of the best minds in the competitive technology arena to Dayton, company leaders say.

Here, Iser believes, she can achieve a decent work-life balance and send her kids to good schools, all while making her mark on the market.

“Here, it’s all about the people,” said Iser, 30, Krush director of data systems. “It’s all about the community.”

Another Israeli native, Omer Kaplan, said in Dayton he can escape what he called “the San Francisco echo chamber” while connecting with real customers.

“You actually get to meet your real users,” said Kaplan, 33, product manager for Oovoo, the video chat app that is Krush’s mostly widely used product. “This is the real market your product operates in. That’s a big benefit.”

Matt Donovan grew up in Dayton and studied computer engineering at the University of Dayton, where he graduated. Only 28, he has already spent four years at Amazon and had decided that Seattle — where he worked for the online retail giant – was home.

Even so, he recalled when he interviewed for a product development position with Krush, the opportunity couldn’t be ignored,

“Everyone I talked to had this love for technology,” Donovan said. “You could tell everyone (at Krush) had this mindset.”

J.P. Nauseef, Krush chief executive and co-founder, said it takes more than one strength to attract the 70 employees Krush has to its University of Dayton River Campus headquarters.

Since the company’s employee recruiting push really began in November 2015, the company has sold itself as being a start-up, but a well-funded one. Local billionaire Clay Mathile was an early investor.

The workplace meets Millennials where they are, with clusters of work stations and stand-up desks offset by foosball and table tennis tables, an electric light-adorned tent that serves as a “conference room” — and yes, plenty of snacks.

“I don’t like comparing it to anything,” Nauseef said. “It’s our culture.”

Krush co-founder Brian Faust said the question early on was: Could Krush hire the right people in an extremely competitive environment at the scale it needed?

“We designed the company from the beginning to sort of be a cool, neat place to work from a culture perspective,” Faust said.

The idea is to compete with “any place globally” for the best workers. He acknowledges that at times he encounters “skepticism” when talking about Dayton with someone from Seattle or Israel.

“Then when we physically get them here, the place pretty much sells itself,” Faust said.

The quality of life can be set against nearly any other employer, Krush leaders believe.

Donovan recalled how challenging and expensive it was to buy a house in Seattle. Here, he had his pick of about 50 houses, he said.

“It was a lot easier to find a house here,” he said.

“We tend to pay on the upper end of the scale of what you would tend to expect in this geographic area,” Faust said. “That’s still generally lower than what I would pay somebody in San Francisco. But because the cost of living here is so much less, on a net basis, they tend to make out a little better.”

But it’s more than quality of life, Krush managers say. It’s the work.

Besides Oovoo, the company’s portfolio includes Flinch, a social gaming “staring” contest app; Moveo, which Krush calls the first full motion virtual reality simulator built for the Oculus platform; “emotional compatibility” app Heystax and more.

It’s about using technology to connect users, said Matt Farrell, Krush co-founder.

“Our brand line is, uniting humans and machine,” he said. “And I think what that means today is very different than what it meant yesterday, from what it will mean tomorrow. At the end of the day, we’re creating experiences that will bring people closer together.”

Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, said the Dayton area has already demonstrated it can get looks from bigger companies like General Electric, Emerson and Fuyao.

With Krush, Dayton is making its mark in a different way, he said.

“This is a high-tech company in Dayton Ohio that could have chosen any other place in the world,” Hoagland said. “They’re hiring the brightest people around for their amazing leadership team, starting with J.P.”

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