What’s Next: The Monster Dilemma

November 20, 2007

By David H. Freedman

For business owners plagued by a dearth of candidates for key job openings, the Web was supposed to provide an ideal solution. Job-search sites like Monster.com (NASDAQ:MNST) can put postings in front of millions of applicants instantly. And newer business-oriented social networking sites like LinkedIn provide similarly fertile recruiting territory, supplying access to the contacts of thousands of people. On the other hand, anyone who’s actually tried to hire someone through the Web knows the truth: You post an ad and are immediately flooded with hundreds of resumés, many from people whose backgrounds are wildly inappropriate. So much for the Web making things easier. It’s enough to make you long for the days of print newspaper ads and snail mail.

But just as technology created the problem, newer technology aims to solve it. A new generation of hiring tools promises to screen out inappropriate applicants, allow the suitable ones to put their best foot forward, and even hunt down good candidates who haven’t applied. As these new services get better at these tasks, they may well change the balance of power in the job-recruiting industry and could even redefine the way we think about jobs.

A shot at diverting a river of weak applicants is the chief advantage offered to employers by Protuo, a Woodstock, Georgia-based start-up that launched its service in January. Protuo isn’t only a job-listing site; it also forwards its clients’ listings to some 270 established job-listing sites, including Monster. But applicants can’t respond to a Protuo posting unless they spend seven minutes or so filling out a survey that asks about experience, skills, workstyles, and job preferences. Employers can customize the survey by choosing from a wide field of prepared questions or by adding their own, and they specify which responses get a candidate’s resumé past the screen. Has the candidate managed a technical project? Is he or she willing to move? The approach is modeled, to some extent, on the sort of compatibility gauging one encounters on a matchmaking site like eHarmony, notes Jennifer Gerlach, Protuo’s co-founder and vice president of marketing. Gerlach went through the dating process on eHarmony just to research the technique. “I learned a lot,” she says. “And I met some very, very nice people.”

With online job postings sometimes pulling in more than a thousand applicants, the ability to winnow the flood could mean the difference between being able to retain control of the hiring process and having to bring in a professional recruiter–at a typical cost of $30,000 for a midlevel hire. The time and expense of dealing with a huge influx of resumés is all the more frustrating because much of the flow comes from online applicants who indiscriminately bombard hirers with resumés. You can try a keyword search on the resumés to narrow things down, but applicants have learned to load their resumés with them, often by pasting in phrases from the job posting. Even LinkedIn has suffered from inflation, as many users aggressively build networks of people they don’t really know in order to make themselves appear better connected. “There’s no value in a lot of these contacts,” says LinkedIn user Chris Knudsen, who heads business development for podcasting company Podango in Salt Lake City. “It can just be someone whose card you got at a trade show.” (A LinkedIn spokesperson commented via e-mail: “Anyone can join the LinkedIn network; however, the quality of your own personal LinkedIn network is the responsibility of each individual.”) But a well-designed survey, contends Gerlach, allows users to skim the cream.

Fred Donovan, who runs Donovan Networks, a seven-employee computer network security firm, has been flooded with applicants responding to previous postings to Monster.com and other online job boards. He is currently conducting a Protuo search and likes what he’s seen so far. “I can specify that I want to see only resumés from people who say they have 10 years’ experience in negotiating sales and are familiar with the software development process,” he says. “I’m seeing a small, better-qualified subset of the applicants.” There must be something to the idea. Other hiring sites, including Market10, Jobster, and Taleo (NASDAQ:TLEO), are introducing their own approaches to automated candidate screening. And Monster is doing the same, making available–for a fee that adds about 20 percent to the cost of posting a job–the ability to direct applicants to a questionnaire designed to rank the suitability of candidates.

Sure, candidates can try to game these surveys by being less than truthful. But Gerlach insists that surveys can be designed to stymie such people by asking questions that don’t have an obviously right answer–such as whether the person prefers to work independently or in groups–and by warning candidates that they can be rated as overqualified. Protuo, which costs hirers $44 to $295 a month depending on the number of jobs they’re posting and is currently free to job seekers, also offers applicants a chance to do more than post a resumé. The firm invites users to create online portfolios that can include whatever documents, photos, videos, or other material that best represents that person’s career to date. (Monster is currently testing a similar capability.)

ZoomInfo, in Waltham, Massachusetts, takes a different approach. It assembles profiles of potential job candidates from all available online data, whether or not they’re looking for jobs. Starting with the same techniques that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) uses to gather Web data associated with a person’s name, ZoomInfo adds the significant additional step of crunching the results to pull out the most relevant information, weed out data referring to other people of the same name, and assemble a professional profile. ZoomInfo has an R&D team of 35 working on the technology. So far, the company has assembled some 34 million profiles, and as far as I can tell, most of them are fairly informative and accurate. (Check out your own name to put it to the test.)

But somebody has to pay for all those scientists, and that somebody is you. The company charges $5,000 a user per year for the ability to dig up personnel profiles by company or industry. It sounds like a lot, but ZoomInfo’s COO, Bryan Burdick, notes that if you get the right candidate for a single vacancy, the price is one-sixth that of using a recruiting firm. The company also offers less expensive, more limited searching capabilities aimed at smaller companies, as well as free access to searches on individuals. Many major executive search firms, along with some 500 other corporations, already use ZoomInfo, claims Burdick. “I can find personal information, professional backgrounds–and, sometimes, damning evidence–on tens of millions of people without having to go through 1.5 million Google hits on each one,” says John Boehmer, managing partner at executive search firm Barlow Group in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Boehmer is quick to point out that as ZoomInfo-like services get better, and more companies get comfortable using them, corporate hirers won’t need professional recruiting firms like his to turn up candidates. “It’s commoditizing the front end of what we do,” he says. “Eventually, everyone will know where everyone is and how to get hold of them, so we won’t be able to charge for identifying and contacting candidates.” Search firms will still be valuable for assessing candidates, he contends, though he acknowledges that new e-hiring systems could eventually eat into that end of the business as they get smarter and have more online data to work with.

For that matter, it’s easy to imagine the not-all-that-distant day when online tools make it so easy to find people to fill a specific slot that the notion of permanent jobs becomes irrelevant for many positions. Why hire a manager for years when you can find a new one with exactly the skill set needed for the precise tasks at hand? That’s not necessarily bad for employees: Think of an economy where top employees are constantly being sought out and bid over by companies that recognize them from their Web trails as the perfect short-term solution. And talented employees would be just as smart about whom they choose to work for–using similar services to weed out companies that aren’t good matches for them. You’ll want to treat those people well. If you don’t, and they post that fact online, it could haunt you for a long, long time.


How to Pitch InformationWeek

November 19, 2007

Circulation & Readership
InformationWeek’s audience consists of 1.6 million CIOs and business technology managers and staff found in more than 250,000 locations: 45.6% live in North America, 27.3% in Europe, 20.9% in Asia, 3.8% in Latin America, 2.4% in Africa and the Middle East.

440,000 IT professionals alone read the magazine each week. It’s first in reach to CIOs (107,000) and technology buyers with the biggest annual budgets ($250,000 to $1 million). 72.8% of the readers are IT executives and senior staff; 27.2% are in business management. Their average annual spend is $45.7 million.

Editorial Coverage
InformationWeek is much more than a weekly print magazine. It’s “at the center of our business technology news gathering and analysis,” says Preston. The style and tone are practical and detailed. It’s the publication to which industry professionals turn for subjects, such as vertical industries and IT.

Sections include:
o In Depth (their take on the latest business technology topic)
o News Filter (how top stories affect readers)
o News & Analysis (cover story)
o Tech Portal (security, software, wireless, mobile)
o High Five (business professional’s insights)
o IT Confidential (industry trends and events)
o Down to Business (urgent issues)
o Personal Tech Guide (useful tech tools)

Special issues: The magazine fields more than 20 research studies every year. Topics include: salary survey, information security survey, CIO agenda, mobile and wireless and business intelligence.

The Web site gets 1.4 million unique monthly visitors and 300,000 weekly enewsletter subscribers.

The five newsletters and their circulation:
o InformationWeek Daily: 100,000
o This Week on InformationWeek: 55,000
o InformationWeek Between the Lines: 100,000
o InformationWeek’s Outsourcing Newsletter: 30,000
o TechCareers Report: 15,000

How to Pitch InformationWeek – 10 Tips
Tip #1. Familiarize yourself with the magazine
Acquire some knowledge of InformationWeek’s content and the focus of the reporters you contact. Indeed, lack of knowledge about the publication is one of Preston’s pet peeves. “Build relationships with reporters. Don’t just blanket them with the same messages you send everyone else.” And don’t think of your query as a pitch. “Ideally, you are not selling something to us; you are providing information that we want.”

Tip #2. Provide contacts
If you have a product you would like InformationWeek to review, provide a few consumer contacts so reporters can get feedback from them. Offer as much detail about the technology and its manufacturer as possible. Avoid industry-speak; describe concisely the characteristics of the product, its purpose, price and audience.

Tip #3. Keep it simple
Keep your information simple and straightforward, yet fascinating enough for a case study. They don’t accept embargoed material. They prefer to take “an end-user enterprise perspective.”

Tip #4. Send an email
Most editors favor email. If you must leave a voicemail, clearly state your name and phone number. Don’t ramble (i.e., don’t wait until the system cuts you off).

Tip #5. Craft subject line
Write succinct yet meaningful subject lines that don’t include the words “press release,” exclamation points or all caps. Then, customize your plain text pitches to the journalist’s coverage.

Tip# 6. Don’t send attachments
Don’t include email attachments, especially unsolicited ones. Do include the following bulleted points: what, when, who, where and how.

Tip #7. Limit number of slides
If you send a PowerPoint presentation, limit it to five slides.

Tip #8. Target your queries
Check InformationWeek’s editorial calendar to better time your queries.

Tip #9. Contact the right reporter
Send your story leads directly to the reporter who covers the beat or technology you’re involved in. You can find a list of reporters, beats and contact information here:

Tip #10. Identify time zones
Consider time differences when contacting them. Not everyone is based in New York.

Contribute to InformationWeek
Staff writers and freelancers produce most of the magazine’s content. If you want to freelance, send an email to the managing editor/features.

InformationWeek does not publish unsolicited articles; make sure a story is approved before you spend much time on it. The magazine does accept opinion columns, however. They like to hear your perspective on relevant issues.

Also, consider the Lightning Post — the site’s discussion forum. It connects readers to editors. They don’t promise to answer you, but they do promise to read your message. “Because of sheer volume, we may not respond to every query,” Preston says.

Press Kits
Editors prefer emails to press kits. Always include contact information and a product summary with whatever you send.

Meet Preston and Other Editors
Preston says you can meet the magazine’s editors in any of their offices. They are even available at “the principal’s site, if the principal and story is compelling enough.”

Editors attend various conferences and trade shows. The major one: InformationWeek500, a three-day show at which the 500 most innovative business technology users are named.

Source:Marketing Sherpa

Building a Better Algorithm

November 19, 2007

by Margaret A. Starvish

The three largest search engines, Google, Yahoo and msn, account for the vast majority of U.S. searches, but that hasn’t stopped dozens of startups from trying to stake out their own claim to the market.

Venture capitalists also don’t appear daunted by the odds. In the first quarter of this year, they’ve poured nearly $135 million into vertical and social search startups alone, according to Dow Jones VentureOne.

Why? One reason investors are bullish on vertical search firms is that they fill needs not being met by any of the other major search engines. And there appear to be some pretty curious needs out there.

Consider some of the new niche search engines:

Reva Health Network bills itself as “a database for the medical tourism sector” and lets users comparison shop for things like heart transplants and breast reductions on several continents.

Then there’s Gloomedia, which is working to create a database, glootv.com, of products from every new episode of the top 60 TV shows. Those products are available for purchase, which means users can dress themselves head to toe in the clothes Oprah wears, and watch her while sitting on the same chair she uses on TV.

For people who spend more time with their Xbox than with their remote control, there’s Wazap.com, a games search engine with 84,000 different sources for gaming information that got its start in Japan (where it’s the 144th most popular site, according to Alexa) and recently landed $11.9 million in funding.

Social search startups are also clamoring for investor dollars.

Lijit.com, a Colorado-based startup, secured nearly a million dollars in funding from a pool of investors, including a personal investment made by Mobius Capital’s Brad Feld. The site, posits “What if searching on the Web worked the way it did in real life?” – essentially through a complex network of personal information gathered from people you trust. Lijit translates this into a technology that “connects the dots” between personal information available on sites like Blogger, MySpace, and del.icio.us.

Baynote bills itself as a pioneer in bringing social search to business. The company’s chief technology officer has a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction from Stanford, it got Series B funding from Disney, and customers include eBay. Baynote’s technology tracks how users get to a site like Macy’s and looks at where they go once they’re there – eventually aggregating that data so that when a consumer goes to search for a T-shirt, the search engine automatically knows if he wants one from Hanes or from Calvin Klein. According to marketing and product management director Mike Svatek, this approach has increased sales from 30 percent to 50 percent for their clients. “Our growth rate is extreme,” he adds.

Then there are the search engines that are neither vertical nor social. Mahalo, which was launched in late spring by entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, uses actual people instead of algorithms to provide results. “Maholo combines human touch and technology in a way that reduces the search term to an intelligent framework,” says former Excite CEO George Bell.

Bell’s also a fan of Powerset, the natural language search startup headed by an enthusiastic Barney Pell, who likens searching to breathing and says his technology will help people breathe easier. Powerset is still in development, though Pell hopes to launch soon, and while he’s not saying he’s looking to compete with Google directly, he did note that “people are afraid to say that their technology could scale that big. We’re not afraid to say that.”

While Pell remains one of the few people willing to make such a sweeping statement, most believe there’s money to be made in the tiny space not occupied by the big engines.

What will the market will look like a year from now? It depends on who you ask.

“I think we’ll see the emergence of some very successful vertical search engines,” says Indeed.com CEO and co-founder Paul Forster. “There are still a lot of categories of specialized information that people have barely begun to think about indexing and making searchable.” Forster also feels all this activity will result in a greater number of viable avenues for search marketing.

Tom Wilde, industry veteran and CEO of EveryZing (formerly PodZinger), a multimedia search engine that can find keywords in videos, is less certain: “Very few [of the new search engines] have a great insight into discovering [and] processing content, making it more usable in a really unique way.” Perhaps the most realistic view is that of Spark Capital’s Todd Dagres. When asked who he thought would succeed from the multitudes, he responded, “Whoever does a better job building a better algorithm.”


Start-Ups Mine Database Field — Nimble Software Helps Make Sense Of Information Tide

November 18, 2007

By Don Clark

Most databases are based on technology that originated 30 years ago. But change is in the air.

A mob of start-ups have been developing variants of the software, which provides the equivalent of filing cabinets for corporate information. Customers say the offerings are generating faster answers to questions that require sifting through huge volumes of business information


See more here


Evaluating Tech Startups: The Risks And Rewards

November 15, 2007

By John Foley

Tech startups are enthusiastic about the prospect of selling to businesses, and rightly so. Opsware, VMware, Salesforce.com–they’re just a few recent examples of startups that hit it huge, whether through buyout, IPO, or organic growth. Venture capital firms are pouring money into promising early-stage tech companies–$1.1 billion went toward 187 software deals in the third quarter, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association–and Web 2.0 has everyone thinking again about all the business possibilities on the Internet. The pieces are in place.


See more at http://www.unitedbit.com/

On Digital Telepathy

November 15, 2007

From TechCrunch:

San Diego based Digital Telepathy has changed direction from strategy-public relations to services, with a new model that will appeal to anyone who has ever wanted or needed a hand at getting their startup ideas off the ground.

The Biz in a Box service isn’t for those already in the industry, or those with a lot of experience, although Digital Telepathy also offers services for existing startups looking for advice on taking their business to the next level. I know when I was previously involved in a startup it was difficult to know where to start, and who to get advice from. Even when you do find someone it’s often not a cheap experience either, the consultant I dealt with previously charged 6 figures to basically guide us in the right direction, without providing any development services.

Digital Telepathy’s approach (From Digital Telepathy’s website)

We believe that great ideas must be executed quickly and efficiently. A grand vision requires laser-sharp focus and steady momentum to fuel its drive. That’s why all our products are delivered in 90 days or less. A short timeframe aligns the team with the project and forces out the true essence of your concept.

Our unique process enables us to simultaneously execute the strategy, design, and development each and every day from the start of the project. We understand that a web app is never truly finished. It can always be refined, improved and scaled. So we watch over our apps on a monthly basis, providing innovation management for new features, marketing campaigns and revenue potential.

Online Business Design

Have an idea that you’re itching to get to market? Well, we’re sorry to say that waiting longer won’t make your itch go away. The thing about great ideas is that they are nothing without execution and whether you do or don’t execute on them now, somebody else will. So, don’t test the water before jumping in. Instead, take the leap and turn your idea into a high velocity business opportunity in (almost) no time flat.

Proof of Concept and Idea Innovation: You have a great idea. But before you elope and go get married to it, it’s a good to do a background check and make sure your friends on the web are excited about it. So, we’ll knock your idea around, ask all the right questions, and then make sure we dress it up to stand out on the big day.

User Experience Design Rapid Prototyping:The funny thing about users is that they only use when it’s easy, fun and/or useful to do so. So, if you are going to build something, stop for a second and allow us to listen to your users. We’ll then throw some design ideas on the wall and then prototype and refine those ideas until they are brilliant.

Test Driven Web Application Development: Would you wait until the second story of your house is finished to make sure that the cement in your foundation is dry? Well, we wouldn’t either and we think building web apps that way doesn’t make sense either. Instead we use test driven development built in Ruby on Rails and enable you to see the process every step of the way.

Buzz Creation:Why wait until your app is finished before you start talking about it. Instead, we’ll dress it up sexy and take it out on the town to steal some glances and get people talking about it. That way, when the clothes come off and it’s naked for all the world to see there will already be a long line waiting there to catch a glimpse.

Cultivate Your Business

You had a great idea and you acted on it. But, great ideas need to grow and to do so takes being faster and more innovative than the industry. So hop in and make sure your vehicle is ready for the ride and then put the pedal down with all of the latest technologies and techniques. After all, winning means driving faster than your competitors, not just keeping pace with them.

Allow us to be Honest with You: We take a detailed look into the current state of your business to find your strengths and weaknesses. Through careful evaluation, we discover the key ideas that will deliver the greatest opportunities for your business. What you don’t know will hurt you.

The Cultivate Engine: Each month, dt’s unique process of innovation management will evaluate your business to unlock its full potential. The Cultivate Engine keeps your campaigns on track and generates new ideas that distance you from the competition.

Strategy Not Services: Anyone can offer marketing services, but who offers ideas? Cultivate is real growth for your business. Our philosophy is to provide insight and identify opportunities to help achieve your overall business goals through innovation, not just marketing services.

Growth You Can See: With fresh and innovative strategy, the right implementation partners and the will to improve, there is little that can stop your business from being the best in class.

Comment from TechCrunch:

The Biz in a Box service isn’t for those already in the industry, or those with a lot of experience, although Digital Telepathy also offers services for existing startups looking for advice on taking their business to the next level. I know when I was previously involved in a startup it was difficult to know where to start, and who to get advice from. Even when you do find someone it’s often not a cheap experience either, the consultant I dealt with previously charged 6 figures to basically guide us in the right direction, without providing any development services.

Snapshot of “Biz in a Box”

Revolution Online Money Transfer Service Pits Itself Against PayPal

November 14, 2007

By Antone Gonsalves

Startup Revolution Money, an online payment service that’s up against EBay’s popular PayPal, launched on Thursday as a new alternative money-transfer service.

The company’s Revolution Money Exchange service enables subscribes to transfer money from their bank accounts to each other. People interested in the service, which is available at no charge, must sign up through the company’s Web site.

See more at http://www.unitedBIT.com