Stik.com Relocates From San Francisco to Downtown Detroit

9/18/12Follow @XconomyDET

Stik.com, a website that allows users to seek and provide business referrals via Facebook, announced today that it’s relocating operations from San Francisco to Detroit. It’s the first time we know of that a Bay Area startup has decided to pick up and move to join the Motor City’s burgeoning tech hub.

Co-founders Nathan Labenz and Jay Gierak are both natives of suburban Detroit, and Gierak is a University of Detroit Jesuit High School graduate. Both attended Harvard, where they were housemates with Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook founders.

Labenz says that when they decided to launch their startup a few years ago, they looked into doing it in Detroit but there wasn’t enough of a tech scene at the time to support it. San Francisco offered the kind of environment they were looking for—at first. “Over the last few years, San Francisco has almost become too dynamic,” Labenz explains. “It’s challenging for a new company to build a core team there and keep it together.”

Labenz and Gierak began contemplating a move and put Detroit at the top of their list of possible relocation spots. They had become friendly with some of the folks from Detroit Venture Partners (DVP), so they got in touch. DVP invited them to come check out the Madison Building, Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert’s state-of-the-art downtown office building housing tech startups and VC firms, including DVP.

“We had no idea how dynamic the tech scene in Detroit had become,” Labenz says. “We were really impressed by the space and by the companies there.” With the Madison’s open layout designed to foster collaboration and cross-pollination, Labenz says it “felt like a slice of San Francisco.”

Stik offers its users a way to leverage their Facebook networks to ask for and give recommendations for local professionals like lawyers, realtors, or insurance agents. It’s free for both consumers and professionals, though there is a premium service available to professionals for a fee, which is where most of Stik’s revenue comes from. “It’s the online version of the time-tested way of asking friends which local professional they recommend,” Labenz says. “Before Stik, that hadn’t come online in any meaningful way. Because we use the Facebook platform, it makes the process much easier and faster.”

Labenz says the company’s big vision is to become a go-to source of recommendations like Yelp or TripAdvisor. “We see ourselves as joining the pantheon of great, super high value recommendation sites, but for local professionals,” Labenz adds. In the near term, Stik plans to double its team of six employees within the coming year and is actively seeking new hires from the Detroit area.

Labenz and Gierak say they are excited to be part of Detroit’s renaissance, of which tech is playing a growing role. “Detroit is really an iconic place in every American psyche on some level,” Gierak adds, noting that a “wonderful new trajectory” is being shaped by an influx of artists and innovators. “Tech is starting to creep into the conversation, and it’s becoming much cooler to be in Detroit. There is something very authentic about it, and we’re happy to be piggybacking on that momentum.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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