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Software recruiter creating 70 jobs in city with its first base outside US

By Margaret Canning ·

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Josh Zywien, VP of marketing at SmashFly, Glandore MD Michael Kelly and Thom Kenney, CEO of SmashFly

A US recruitment software firm has set up an operation in Belfast that will create 70 jobs, paying an average of nearly £43,000.

The city centre office, employing software development engineers and a European sales and marketing team, is SmashFly Technologies' first outside its home country.

Its software platform is used by companies including JP Morgan and PwC to identify people who may be suitable for roles in their organisation, even before vacancies arise.

Thom Kenney, chief executive of the Massachusetts-based firm, said he had been attracted to Belfast by the qualify of its software engineers, some of whom had been working in back-office operations for major firms.

He also stressed the new roles were not back-office jobs but "frontline" positions.

In the future, the Belfast team could work on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

"The type of software skills here are very similar to what we do in Boston, and the skillset matches the people we would have in Boston," Mr Kenney said.

The level of talent has already impressed him. "We have more talent than ability to hire, which is an interesting predicament," Mr Kenney explained.

While the firm believed it would initially employ 11 people, it is taking on 20, growing to 70 in future. It already employs 125 people near Boston.

With the UK's exit from the EU, Mr Kenny said he saw Belfast as a gateway to the bloc.

"I see a footprint in Belfast as a footprint in the EU," he explained.

"We'll be able to get to the EU from Belfast much more easily than we can from Boston."

The creation of the jobs has been backed by £455,000 in support from economic development agency Invest NI.

The 70 roles are to be filled over the next three years, contributing £3m in salaries when they are in place. Pay will hit £80,000 for the most experienced members of staff.

Mr Kenney said he had come across Belfast's potential as an investment location in a previous role, when his company had eventually opened overseas operations in Warsaw and Budapest.

He looked at setting up a SmashFly operation in those locations before Belfast's better skill set - and shared language - helped it win out. He had made contact with Invest NI in his previous job and established contact again in his new role.

Mr Kenney said the company's software was about more than just recruitment.

"It's important for us that we engage the talent before people actually apply to the job. People don't have relationships with jobs but with employers," he said.

He cited the example of CVS - best known as a US pharmacy chain with traditional shop-based roles, but with much more going on behind the scenes.

"We are helping CVS engage talent in machine learning and data science," Mr Kenney said.

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Josh Zywien, VP of marketing at SmashFly, Glandore MD Michael Kelly and Thom Kenney, CEO of SmashFly