Andrew Crapuchettes found himself unemployed without a college degree a year after he moved to Moscow when the high-tech San Francisco-area company he worked for remotely folded.
A little less than 20 years later, Crapuchettes is the chief executive officer of Emsi, one of the the fastest-growing businesses in Moscow.
The company, which has more than 200 employees, saves users of its web-based software tools time and money by providing easy-to-interpret information about the job market. The products, such as Career Coach and Analyst, help companies recruit employees, college students select careers and universities develop curriculums.
“We produce billions of data points on the labor market for our customers,” Crapuchettes said. “Then we (use) ... tools ... to deliver it in a way that they can make better decisions with it.”
Emsi recently purchased the property on West A Street occupied by St. John Hardware and Implement, where it plans to build a four-story, 70,000-square-foot building to accommodate as many as 500 employees. The company expects to relocate from its present leased location to the new space in about a year.
“It’s a big jump, but we have been growing 30 percent a year (in revenue and employees) for years now,” Crapuchettes said. “There’s not one product that is catapulting us. It’s just this incremental desire to bless our customers and constantly innovate for them.”
He has also accumulated personal real estate holdings that include one of Moscow’s most iconic landmarks, grain elevators on a busy downtown corner near the University of Idaho.
As Crapuchettes’ prominence in Moscow has grown, supporters and critics have followed him closely. Some of his detractors have questioned the influence he exerts, partly because of his leadership role as an elder in Christ Church. The church has been in the news intermittently for its conservative views, most recently last spring when a UI campus ministry it supports organized a talk by a Connecticut pastor titled “Toxic Matriarchy” that drew vocal criticism from some in the university and greater Moscow communities.
A section in the church’s mission statement reads “Our desire is to make Moscow a Christian town ... through genuine cultural engagement that provides Christian leadership in the arts, in business, in education, in politics and in literature.”
A Christ Church elder, Benjamin Merkle, is the president of New St. Andrews College, which itself has acquired several downtown Moscow properties, including the former CJ’s nightclub.
In this Q & A, the Lewiston’s Tribune’s Elaine Williams talked with Crapuchettes about Emsi, his real estate holdings, his ties to Christ Church and the unconventional route he took to becoming a CEO.
Lewiston Tribune: Your top-selling software product is called Analyst. How does it help customers?
Andrew Crapuchettes: This is the product companies’ recruiters use when they are looking for software architects or any other type of employee in Seattle or any of the 42,000 ZIP codes in the United States. It tells them how many people work in a certain area with that job title, how much money they make and which companies have how many employees with that job title. I can tell them where the talent works and where the talent lives. I can tell them which employers have the most job postings for that type of employee. We have all of the degrees that are being produced in the U.S. by all the universities. If you’re looking for software engineers, we map all of the programs of higher education that would go to software engineers. That goes for any occupation, including forklift operators. By just putting in software engineers and Seattle, I’ve basically given the full universe of information to decide ‘Can I hire people here? How much do I need to pay and where should I find them?’
LT: Career Coach is another important product for Emsi. What makes it popular?
AC: Career Coach is designed to sit on the website of a college or university. Students can take a short assessment that helps them understand what they would enjoy doing and show them what jobs are a good fit. I always ask Uber drivers, “What are you going to do with your life?” One of them was a Seattle Central College student who was seeking an associate’s degree and wanted to finish with a bachelor’s in psychology at the University of Washington. He said, “I feel like if I know myself, people will hire me.” I said, “Well, that’s probably not true, because I work for a data company. Psychology is the highest unemployed degree in America.” I took him through the Career Coach app on my smartphone. He sees graphic design pop up as a career. In Seattle, you can earn upwards of $40 per hour with an associate’s degree in graphic design. He’s like “I didn’t know that was a career.” He just thought it was a hobby. He’s like “I love graphic design. It’s amazing.” He’s like, “You realize you just saved me two years of my life and $100,000 in debt?” It’s just having information that’s accessible and digestible for students.
LT: The board of Emsi is comprised of you and three employees of Strada Education Network of Indianopolis, which has a majority share in Emsi. They give you lots of autonomy in how you lead Emsi. How does that relationship work?
AC: They approve budgets, give advice and oversight, but let me run the business. They’re awesome to work with. Obviously they approved me building a huge building.
The reality is, if you are successful as a business, owners will leave you alone.
LT: As much as possible, you plan to preserve the grain elevators you purchased at the corner of Sixth and Jackson streets in Moscow. What plans do you have for them?
AC: I just really like the silos, and I’ve been blessed with enough money to be able to buy a project like that just for fun.
We put a bunch of money into fixing the roof this year on the oldest tower in the middle that is square. That one had a concrete roof beam that was digressing. We brought in a crane and replaced it with a steel beam. We remortared the roof so water can’t get in anymore.
The round one that is the closest to UI is leaning by, I think, 11 inches. I had an engineer look at it who was pretty convinced it’s not going anywhere anymore. That does make it trickier. It may have to come down at some point if it does become a safety hazard.
I’d like to see more food trucks there. I’m working on potentially a Bucer’s drive-through coffee there.
I am currently renting out the metal one as a warehouse. You have to make it cash flow so it pays taxes and utilities.
If I had an unlimited amount of money and didn’t care about returns, I would turn the metal one into a pancake shop. I would put fins and fake windows on it to make it look like a rocket ship. There would be a gift shop on the ground floor. Then in the middle would be a glass elevator. You would go up, and the whole middle would be dead black except for points of light like you were going through space. On the top floor, a restaurant would serve astro cakes, the best pancake you ever ate. You would have a view. Every child from Lewiston to Spokane would want to come.
LT: You recently acquired the McConnell Building in downtown Moscow, which houses the popular bar Mingles. You’ve said you’ll keep the existing tenants there. What upgrades are you making?
AC: I bought the building at the right price so I can afford to put $10,000 to $15,000 a month into making it better by doing things such as redoing lighting and paint. When apartments are vacant, we’re ripping out carpet to expose beautiful oak floors and upgrading appliances.
LT: Emsi is separate from Christ Church, New Saint Andrews College and your private business investments, but some wonder about the amount of influence those entities and you have on the direction of Moscow. How would you respond to that?
AC: I’m a person who (does) different things. (That) doesn’t mean they’re all interwoven. (There’s) no conspiracy. I’m just trying to make Moscow a more beautiful place.
LT: What is your role at Christ Church?
AC: I’m an elder. I try and touch base with (people who live in my parish) on a regular basis to make sure they’re doing all right and (see if there’s) anything I can pray for them about. When people have a baby or a death in the family, I help coordinate people to bring meals to them for a week.
LT: The Intelligence Report, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center, stated in a 2004 article that the pastor of Christ Church, Doug Wilson, had “built a far-flung, far-right religious empire.” How would you explain the concerns of the Southern Poverty Law Center?
AC: They’re concerned that we’re a bunch of racists. If you go to the church, you’re a racist. The short answer is ‘not even at all.’ I have lots of friends from lots of different nationalities and backgrounds that I consider very close friends. They’re just my friends. I don’t look at skin color or anything else because I think that’s completely stupid and petty to think of it that way. The short version is (someone asked our pastor if slavery is in the Bible). He said, ‘Yes it is.’ We are encouraged to stop slavery. But, ‘Is it in the Bible? Yes.’ (The Southern Poverty Law Center) ran with that.
LT: Before you arrived on the Palouse, you took a job at a high-tech company in the San Francisco about the time you got your driver’s license that shaped your career and indirectly led you to Moscow. You met Emsi’s founders, Kjell Christophersen and Henry Robison. They found you when Christophersen called looking for someone to fix his printer. They were impressed by you because you, in a single day, redid a website they had been working on for weeks. What can you share about that experience?
AC: I started working in a shipping and receiving department of a high-tech company that made computer-automated design (technology in the San Francisco Bay area). Within a year, I was running the department. So pretty quickly there was not a huge need or desire to go to college or even focus on that high school diploma, because I was earning good money. I did seven jobs for them in seven years and burned out at the age of 22. I was technical sales manager for the West Coast and Asia. I was only home on the weekends. I realized I had no friends and no life, but a bunch of money. I played some really nice rounds of golf in Japan, and I turned 21 on an expense account.
I had a couple of friends at the University of Idaho. I had read one of the books of Doug Wilson, (the pastor of Christ Church). I thought, ‘Well if I’m going to move somewhere, I might as well move there.’ At 22, it’s not a big life decision. I was single. I had money in the bank. I realized I could buy a house for $140,000, instead of where I was in California where that same house would cost you $600,000 or $700,000.
LT: What impact do you hope to have in the long term on your adopted community?
AC: About 10 years ago, my wife and I took a walk downtown. We thought if we’re blessed enough to have resources, what would we like to do? The answer is, we’d like Moscow to be a more beautiful place. So if we buy buildings and dump money into them so that they’re really cool, that will make Moscow a cool, beautiful place.
We have five kids. We’re trying to raise them well and grow the business and bless as many people as possible. We were at 17 employees at Emsi 15 years ago. (I made a presentation to the staff. I said,) ‘If we can be really successful, we will have more restaurants in town, because when you have more income than you need, one of the things you do is you go out and eat.’ One of my great joys in life is eating. Hopefully Emsi’s $1.3 million a month in payroll is driving great restaurants in town.
Williams may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2261.