David, Goliath, & Industry Disruption w/ SmartRecruiters

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By now, many have heard SmartRecruiters’ huge announcement that they’ve secured $5M in Series A funding from top-tier VC firm Mayfield Funding to aid in their crusade to disrupt the Recruiting Industry’s job technology as we now know it.   From being likened to the iTunes of the Recruiting Industry to ‘David’ in a David & Goliath comparison; CEO Jerome Ternynck & his team are once again creating quite the buzz.

That’s right… this isn’t the first time.

I met Jerome back in July of 2011 at a #TNLive unConference event in San Antonio.  Jerome was speaking, quite passionately, on how it’s time for a change in SaaS within the HR/Recruiting Industry & this concept of #zeroUE …  striking out the “un” in unEmployment & how SmartRecruiters was set to aid in the initiative to get more people back to work & improving their careers.  He told me that his first step was to get the conversation started; that we needed to start somewhere… and why not now?  Why not us??  In all candor, at first I thought the whole thing was a little Utopian … how can one man, one company, one service really take on this behemoth Goliath that is Unemployment??

But he did.  Within days of that conference, the #ZeroUE movement gained an impressive amount of momentum on Twitter & the Social Media Streams; popping up in chats, tweets, LinkedIn Groups & status updates from many of those “in the know” within the Recruiting/HR Industry.  Conversations were happening everywhere; the status-quo behavior of skipping the uncomfortable conversations had been disrupted as conversations on what we could do to positively impact the situation began taking place.  Groups got together to look into tax-credits for employing the unemployed; volunteer workers joined movements to educate job seekers & aid in their career search initiatives cropped up all over the United States.

Jerome not only popped the ‘Goliath’ that is unemployment with his own slingshot; but taught an army of people how to aim with their own slingshots, as well.  Talk about disruption… did he end unemployment?  No, of course not – but he brought awareness to an issue many were used to turning a blind eye to because they didn’t know where to start.  It reminded me of something said by Robert Kennedy:  “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events; & in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”  

Perhaps the #zeroUE unEmployment initiative itself will not be the history bender; but just maybe the result of what SmartRecruiters‘  “Free as a Model,” Next-Gen SaaS does to the HR Technology space will be.

But what does “free as a model” mean & if it’s free… how is it like iTunes?? After all, while it doesn’t cost anything to download iTunes software; the number of receipts I have in my gmail account would beg to differ with the concept that iTunes is truly “free.”   The iTunes platform is really just a portal that allows us to buy content; unless I do, it doesn’t do me a lot of good… right?

Not so with SmartRecruiters.  First off, SmartRecruiters is really an all-in-one easy to use platform that combines free social software and best in class third-party services, such as: free job sites, access to paid job boards, social networks, assessment services, background check services, and even RPO services. There’s a data aggregation function across all users to help individual businesses make smarter decisions in sourcing and selecting the best candidates their jobs… wherever & whatever they happen to be.

Sounds neat; but, I decided that the best way to understand what their offering was all about was to take it for a real test-drive.  So, I signed my company, M3 Talent Consulting, up & within minutes I could see this was really very different from any ATS system I’d worked with before.  I was able to create a job posting for a Sales position I’m working on for a client; add candidates I already was aware to the applicant tracking system, & create a career site within literally minutes.  All free. 

Now, their career site is basic & yes, there are a lot of “add-on” service options that do cost money.  But it’s extremely plug-&-play … and you don’t have to use it.  No, it’s not likely the right solution for a company with a fully developed program with all the bells-&-whistles in place.  What it is, however, is a fantastic solution for tens- to hundreds-of thousands small- to mid-sized businesses who’ve yet to really develop their Recruiting technology program or are operating under the burden of expensive, cumbersome ATS systems.  I’ve always believed that information is often best from the source when it’s available; so listen to Jerome explain the ease of SmartRecruiters:

There’s a whole lot of awesomeness going on here & it’s my opinion that SmartRecruiters really does have the ability to positively disrupt the status quo belief that ATS systems:

  1. are complicated
  2. are expensive
  3. are time-intensive

If it didn’t do anything more than that; that’d still be more than enough to make me think that Mayfield made a smart decision in backing them.  However, think of the wider-spread implications of their success in converting companies over to their system and freeing them from the burden of their current costly set-up:  Cost-per-hire goes down; time-to-fill shortens… could this allow for more people to get hired?  More importantly, would it force other ATS & SaaS providers to rethink their pricing & product strategies to be more user-friendly??  If so, maybe that could be the ‘history bender’ that Kennedy alluded to in his 1966 speech for our generation… well, at least for the HR/Recruiting Technology Industry.

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