Startup Wunderkind Jeffrey Hyman Shares Career Stories

A Bar Mitzvah gift is what started Jeff Hyman on his current path. The gift, a TRS-80 desktop microcomputer sold at Radio Shack back in the ’80s, was the catalyst that “hooked” Hyman on tech and computers.

With his newfound interest, Hyman began a small company with his then-17- year-old sister, performing data entry on his computer for neighbors and nearby businesses. His work was well received, planting the seeds of motivation for his career as a serial entrepreneur.

At the StartupGrind event, held at 1871, Hyman told his tale.

Since 1995, Hyman has helped to found three startups, and has been involved in high positions with a couple of companies. His first two startups were websites used by companies to recruit employees. At Dyson, where he served as the first vice president of marketing, Hyman helped to propel the company to its current form. Later, he served as senior vice president of marketing with Ameritox — a private-equity owned healthcare services company.

For the past two years, Hyman has been the founder and CEO of Retrofit. The company was designed as a weight-loss program for busy professionals who, typically, do not have the time to spend on other traditional programs, due to time spent focusing on their careers or their families. RetroFit helps keep tabs on clients’ weight through activity tracking and weight monitoring.

It is a 12-month program tailored to be easily customizable to fit every client’s schedule. It is an entirely online resource, with services conducted through computers and smart-phones. Customers receive advice and consultations from dieticians and wellness experts through Skype and video conferences. 93% of clients who use Retrofit lose weight.

“America has, very much, become this food culture,” says Hyman. “Sixteen-percent of Americans are overweight.”

RetroFit aims to curb that statistic.

Hyman reveals that there was a personal reason for the foundation of RetroFit. As he was getting older, he noticed he was gaining weight. He tried a series of diets, but all of them were unsuccessful.

After attending a weight-loss resort with his wife — where he worked with experts that motivated him to lose weight and keep it off — the seeds for RetroFit were planted.

There were not a lot of investors willing to fund his first startup, Career Central. In fact, Hyman says he was rejected at least 90 times until he got an investor. Recruiting websites were uncommon two decades ago. Despite its initial rejections, Career Central became a highly regarded online resource for corporations seeking employees, with a thousand corporate clients, during its heyday. Career Central was unique at the time for the fact that it helped to optimize hiring employees based on how well they would fit at the company — not based on their resumes.

The company was sold to Spencer Stuart in 2000. After the sale, Hyman “licked his wounds; emotional and financial” and continued forward as an entrepreneur, where he would continue to become the success that he is, today.

“Sharing values is more important than resumes,” Hyman says. He pleads to founders and entrepreneurs out there searching for their missing piece to not focus on an individual’s resume but, rather, on their talents and behavior.

He and his first cofounder were “exact opposites” but they were able to work together based on their compatible skills.

Hyman has a word of advice for entrepreneurs who are struggling with their companies, and desperately seeking their goals.  He tells new founders to never give up, even when others ridicule their ideas. “You never gain confidence… it gets harder later in life.” ❒

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