Guns ablazin’ @ iTalent Start-up Shoot-off

HR, Maren Hogan, Marketing, Recruiting, Social Media

Okay so organizer and behind the scenes guru Evy didn’t call it a shoot-off per se, but I like to imagine myself in the wild west as often as possible (but with less pillaging of indigenous people and more baths) so I’m keeping the title! As you might know from this post and this post, I was recently at the HRDemo show in Las Vegas, for which I have huge amounts of respect. We all know we’re there to be sold some piece of technology or service, so let’s just own the demo right? Read more about why I dig it here:

The iTalent competition is run by Saygent‘s Evy Wilkins, who started HR & Tech SF and is basically an hour in which each startup is given 5-10 minutes to demo their product and answer questions before getting a raw score from the judges and a popular vote measured by applause (via iPhone). The energy in the room was palpable as 7 startup founders gathered to share their best stuff…fast.

In the employee engagement category, we had SF based Wednesdays, which is a simple concept designed to get employees out of their silos. Perhaps the concept was too simple for many of the judges, who’d spent the past two days being wowed by technology. However, when Hugh Olliphant began answering questions, scores went up as folks realized that something as simple as lunch could really impact an organization’s effectiveness. And Wednesdays has the stats and testimonials to prove it!

A little bit team building, a little bit wellness and many beanie babies to get the audience involved, ViveCoach was the most demonstrative of all the demos. Judges and attendees alike were invited to try out the service right there online and compete in a wellness challenge. Basically, ViveCoach’s premise was that employees should choose their own wellness challenges to be passionate about. The cute sloth mascot didn’t hurt matters at all. While the technology seemed to be there to back up the site, wellness is typically seen as an outlier to tech and recruiting and since the majority of the players were either social recruiting or ATSs, I think this hurt their overall score.

We’re not in Kansas anymore….I remember a few years ago when everybody made fun of social recruiting. It was a waste of time, it wouldn’t work, it was illegal. If there was an argument to be had, people slapped it up there. The online freaks were set apart from the big billers until the recruitosphere turned into its own little Venn diagram and the two began overlapping. The fact that we saw three funded social recruiting platforms, two based on Facebook almost exclusively at this competition was a shimmering reminder that….I was right.

First up, BranchOut (please note: I work for BraveNewTalent, which competes with Branchout on some levels, I tried to be extremely objective and fair then, and I will do so now). Branchout was a special guest of the iTalent show and did a great job with their presentation, even showing off up and coming features. For those that don’t know, BranchOut offers to power your facebook network to connect you with high-profile companies. It’s an idea and a company that a lot of folks in the recruiting space have embraced, citing Facebook’s now 700 million users as the largest talent pool out there. While BranchOut nabbed high scores from the judges, it didn’t grab the top spot.

Work4Labs also believes in this premise, but is going about it in a different way, created branded Facebook pages and customized advertisements specifically for companies. The Parisian import also offers a referral engine and of course (as has now become standard in this space) shows you the folks in your Facebook network who work at your company of choice. Of all the social recruiting solutions, Work4Labs seems to boast the largest stable of recognizable clients, but that didn’t seem to impress the other judges, as its scored was dinged for not being more recognizable in the space (Side note: Work4Labs, while not recognizable, offers significant technology that is on par with some of the coolest software out there in this space. My thinking is that perhaps clients want someone who provides glistening tech and then backs off to let them use it?)

Finally, in the social attraction space, InternMatch. Probably the hippest from a design perspective, this Seattle based startup helps interns nab a job at the right company. And while its revenue model charges the company, they do it with pride, being the only intern company that offers a “no-match, no-money” guarantee. This company definitely has the marketing chops and innovative campaigns to keep it moving and grooving until its big launch in September, but when judges learned it was only for the west coast it may have hurt scores, despite some dizzying stats like 27% referral rate from users. It’s nice to innovation in that space though and InternMatch seems to have solid tech, comprehensive company profiles and like I said, absolutely hot design.

After all has been said and done, the ATS is not dead, in fact, it nabbed the two top spots in the whole competition. It makes sense, it’s a pretty indispensable part of the process for now and further, for most of the judges, it’s the easiest to evaluate (known vs unknown) but we were blessed with two amazing competitors to watch.

Technically speaking: Dan Arkind of JobScore knows the space, he knows the people in the space and for ten years he’s been hard at work creating the world’s best ATS. It searches, it scores, it saves, it rates and finally, it shares. And it’s free. JobScore has been providing this service to hundreds of clients for years under his unofficial motto: “No sales, just service”. What really blew the judges away and nearly landed him the very top slot were the incredible analytics! I mean this is reporting you should have to pay for and there wasn’t a single question the judges asked that he couldn’t answer. We all gave him a killer score and he got plenty of applause. In fact, Craig Fisher (who loves cool tools and has been recruiting for some time) whistled…twice.

For passion, you can’t beat the French. Jerome Ternyck is the CEO of SmartRecruiters, a free and easy ATS and this isn’t his first rodeo. He used to own Mr Ted and sold it to pursue the adage he uttered in the opening of his presentation “It shouldn’t be this hard to hire people”. Fellow judge Jessica Miller-Merrell called SmartRecruiters the “wordpress for ATS” and she’s right in the sense that you not only get typical free ATS postings, a jobsite that’s customizable and attractive, a jobs widget to put anywhere you like and access to all the top job boards with absolutely no additional fee but it’s all dead simple. From his quick, simple demo to his pleas that by making hiring simpler we could and SHOULD reduce the unemployment rates in this country, he hooked the judges with his showmanship, his artistry, and most importantly the simplicity of his product. I will be writing more about SmartRecruiters within the week, but if you haven’t already heard of it, you need to take a look. (also Ternyck did a little bow at the end, gotta love that!)