Paradoxos officially kicked off Wednesday with more than 300 job seekers gathered under a big tent on Main St. and Corcoran St. that serves as headquarters for the second annual festival celebrating tech and more in Durham.

Unlike a traditional job fair, attendees at Jobs Under the Big Top heard company pitches from HR directors and CEOs about why candidates ought to consider working for their startup.

“I’ve been very interested in the startup scene in Durham,” said job seeker Josh Hensley. A business development professional, Hensley was particularly drawn to Smashing Boxes, Automated Insights and Shoeboxed, all of whom pitched job seekers at the event.

“I’d definitely accept an interview,” said Hensley, “This event gives me a nice foundation and allows face to face contact with great companies.”

He pegs his chances for follow up as likely. He came to the event with a game plan, and having already conducted research and outreach to companies that piqued his interest. This event could be a catalyst for his search.

“I hope it is a springboard for a more in-depth conversation,” said Hensley.

Looking to Hire 310 …

In total, the 11 companies that pitched to the audience are hiring roughly 310 jobs, said Chris Heivly, who introduced the format of the event a half hour later than scheduled. T

he sunset over downtown Durham’s five points intersection prevented the projector from adequately displaying the program and the company pitches, so organizers pushed back the start time.

The only effect was that job seekers were able to openly network for a bit longer, and to enjoy the free hot dog provided in their event registration (also free).

The event is the brainchild of Heivly, co-managing partner of The Startup Factory – a new company accelerator – and also one of the driving forces behind the launch of Paradoxos. It’s the seventh Big Top even that he’s run, and the sixth in Durham. (The other was in St. Louis through a partnership).

In addition to live events, Heivly also manages the Big Top job board, which boasts more than 360 open positions for Durham’s top tech startups.

“This is a great source if you want to work in one of the tech companies around here,” said Heivly in front of the audience.

Making the Pitches

Ryan Beckland, CEO and co-founder of Validic, was the first to pitch. The company currently employs 17 people out of their downtown Durham headquarters. Two new hires start on Monday, and the company plans to hire at least 15 additional positions by the end of 2014.

“This was definitely worthwhile,” said Beckland, though participation wasn’t cheap.

Heivly charges a sliding scale for participation – based on the current number of employees a company has prior to the event. Validic paid $1,000 to participate, said Beckland.

“It’s not cheap,” said Beckland, “but if we hire only one person, it’ll be worth it.”

The company, which aims to connect medical health data through mobile networks, is searching for UI/UX designers, sales engineers, developers and business development professionals.

“We need the people,” said Beckland.

Four other Validic employees participated in the event, and between them, they talked to at least eight qualified candidates that they planned to invite to apply for their open positions.

Validic is one of the smaller startups to participate. Larger companies Netsertive and Bronto also participated.

Bronto is expanding, yet again, said Joe Colopy, CEO and founder. The company, which took over additional space at American Tobacco Campus in November, employs more than 200 employees.

“Ninety percent of our workforce is in Durham,” said Colopy. There are sales teams deployed in Sydney and in London. The company is hiring for positions in all locations, though most of them will be for positions in Durham.

In all, the company plans to make 65 hires by the end of the calendar year, Colopy explained. So what’s the company’s focus in the next few months?

“Hire, hire, hire,” said Colopy, “grow, grow, grow.”