Mark Michael is the co-founder and CEO of DevHub, one of those tech companies where you might have to ask him to describe what the company does so that your mom or dad would understand. Michael has not only done that with his mom, he’s gone ahead and hired her.
In a recent LinkedIn post, Michael shared an image of himself alongside his mom, Annette, saying that he had hired her, welcoming her aboard and adding, “this should be fun!”
After 22 years running her own travel business, Annette Michael wasn’t ready to retire. So now she’ll help with DevHub’s clients in the hospitality industry. Launched 12 years ago, DevHub is a platform used by big brands and/or their agencies to build websites and landing pages. The software-as-a-service company is No. 153 on the GeekWire 200 ranking of Pacific Northwest startups.
“I believe anyone can do anything, and if my mom can’t figure out what we do and be able to help sell it, then what the hell?” Mark told GeekWire Monday morning. “If you can’t tell this story to your mom then who else can you tell it to?”
Annette started TropicalTravel.net in Tri-Cities, Wash., in 1996. The agency has never been a brick-and-mortar shop, dealing with clients only via phone and email and the internet. The Michael family moved to Seattle in 2010, and although she sold the business, Annette has stayed on to help with agents during a transition period for the new owner.
DevHub employs 13 people full time in Seattle, with offices in the Fourth and Blanchard Building in the Belltown neighborhood. Annette went through the same interview process as anyone else looking to work there.
“Our interview process is kind of weird,” Mark said. “Anyone who wants to work here, we basically say, ‘Come here for a week and tell us if you still love it after a week.’ People have to like it before anything else.”
Annette liked it. And on Monday, after Mark joked that he would “scare her” by calling her into his office, she told GeekWire that she’s enjoying learning the business.
“Many — 100 years ago — I used to be a programmer,” Annette, 67, said laughing about tech experience she gained in the 1970s. “When this opportunity came, I said, ‘Mark, I really want to try it. Let me just see if I could do good or not.’ I’m looking forward to a new adventure anyway. What am I going to do staying home? Watch TV or go shopping or have coffee with my girlfriends? That gets boring after a while.”
Annette said she’s learning a lot, and she called her new boss “upbeat” and “very creative,” and said Mark is always looking way ahead.
She arrived before 9:30 a.m. because they’re throwing her into everything, and in a desire to learn more about DevHub’s project management side of things, Annette was attending a meeting in which the team goes over what’s happening.
“Remember the movie ‘Ratatouille’? Anyone can cook? I think anyone can do anything depending on how hard they really want to work,” Mark said. “Her company was actually our first client way back in the day. We were always so critical of how she ran her business. We were like 18, 19 … probably little punks, I’m sure. But it’s interesting to see her work here because one thing I can tell is she’s a very hard worker.”
Annette is already calling her travel industry contacts, trying to get DevHub more deals in hospitality. And she joins DevHub as the startup has hit full stride after weathering a decade or so of ups and downs.
“We really love what we do — and by the way, that took me about 12 years to say that,” Mark said. “When you’re broke for nine it’s kind of hard to say you love it. Everyone thought we were dead in 2010. … We make money and we’re growing. I consider us kind of like the indie label in this town. I actually feel like we can build a billion-dollar business with under 200 employees, just based on the nature of what we do.”
Since DevHub is probably not done hiring, Mark might find himself looking toward the family again.
“My dad keeps saying, ‘When are you gonna fire her?’ because he’s lonely,” Mark said about his father, Ashur Michael. “He’s like, ‘What am I supposed to do?'”