If you need a job, Max Alway-Townsend can hook you up. The 17-year-old is a rising senior at East Chapel Hill High and the founder of Jobalo – an app that helps high school and college students find work. The app, released in November 2016, features the four types of jobs that Max says most students in the 16-22 age range are looking for: part-time work, internships, contract jobs and volunteer opportunities, all posted through the app by local businesses. “We want to help [students] get valuable work experience, just have money on the weekends and be able to fulfill their volunteering requirements,” Max says.
As a 15-year-old, Max was lacking in pocket money and hoped to find a job, but no one would hire someone so young. After a futile search of Craigslist, Max got creative. “Basically I started printing out about 200 papers advertising me and put them in 200 mailboxes,” Max explains. “I got work that way, but it was so difficult.”
The next summer, he made the rounds and eventually found a position at Bruegger’s Bagels, but he found the process exhausting and was frustrated by how many different websites he had to search through: “I was on a lot of sites, so I thought, why not just have one platform for people my age and it can just have everything on it?”
Max started raising money, selling equity in his new company, and was able to gather $70,000 in pre-seed funding for the development of the app and initial marketing. He outsourced the app development to contractors in Bulgaria and India, while he worked on building partnerships with local businesses in Chapel Hill and Durham. Al’s Burger Shack, one of Max’s favorite restaurants, was one of the first two businesses to get on board, in addition to Cruizers gas stations. Since then, Jobalo has partnered with 70 local businesses.
Jobalo has already successfully placed about 30 students, Max estimates. He hopes to see that number rise quickly once the web version of the app is released and UNC students return in August. “Getting the web app out will be huge because that will make us so much more accessible to everybody,” he says.
Max plans to expand Jobalo to more cities once the web app is up and running. “We need to dominate Chapel Hill and Durham and prove that we can really make this idea work, and then raise the seed round so we can go into Boston, D.C., Nashville, Charlotte – just any big cities around us,” Max says. In 2018, Max starts campaigning for seed money in earnest.
In fact, Max has already decided to take a gap year before going to college. He will use the time to fundraise, strengthen the app’s base in the Triangle area and lay the groundwork for Jobalo to expand to more cities. He is still applying to colleges in the fall, and hopes to end up in a big city like Washington, D.C. or Boston.
Although he has had to give up playing football and rugby – and even an internship with local financial planner TEAM Wealth Investments – to make Jobalo a success, Max has no regrets. During the school year, Max spends 30-35 hours a week on Jobalo. On top of those long hours, he participates in several school clubs, including as treasurer of Help Feed Communicate, a club that volunteers monthly at the Inter-Faith Council Community House on Rosemary Street. In the summer, he says, he is glad to be able to work for 40-50 hours a week on Jobalo, while still finding time to relax. “During the school year, it’s hard,” Max admits. “But it’s so fun. I love it.”
Throughout Jobalo’s first eight months, Max has done most of the work himself, using contractors to do the technical components. Now, he has also brought on two interns – East Chapel Hill’s Molly Horan and UNC student Edwin Song – and has an NC State graduate student working as his chief technology officer. Jobalo also recently moved their offices from Max’s house to the Launch Chapel Hill venture accelerator space on Rosemary Street.
Max’s parents, Liz Alway and Doug Townsend, have been supportive of their son’s entrepreneurial ventures. Max has two younger brothers – Grey, 13, and Theon, 9 – who attend the Emerson Waldorf School.