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Regional Offerings
(June 21, 2001) A couple of weeks ago, we pointed out the "under the radar" emergence of a large network of regional help wanted sites. The operation, which uses spare radio advertising inventory to drive traffic, partners with clusters of radio stations around the United States. While it is probably best understood as a method of turning excess inventory into money, we think it highlights the degree to which novel businesses remain to be formed in our neck of the woods.

We received a number of notes about the company at the heart of our story. Boastfully, RegionalHelpWanted.com claimed to be the "inventor" of the regional niche job board market. While the claim is absurd on its face, we were tickled to get notes from three or four operations who claim to be the premier online job board criticizing the hyperbole.

Other correspondents noted that RegionalHelpWanted.com added clutter to the marketplace making it more difficult for them to sell their product. We received critiques of the underlying business model, arguments about relative effectiveness, pleas about quality differentiation and thrashing about objectivity.

It was a surprise hornet's nest.

While the overall industry seems temporarily stagnant and cash flow problems (not sales, mind you, the timing of payments) are starting to worry a number of the large players, our industry is exploding with innovation and opportunity at the grass roots level.

We were recently contacted by a firm called RecruitmentBox (the technical arm of InvestmentPositions.com). In spite of their evasiveness and arrogance, the little company is on to something important. They are offering performance based operation of a Job Board In A Box product with the potential for financing from their backer, PlanetZannet. This approach, we provide the technology and the mojo while you provide the elbow grease, is interesting enough to spark a shift in the revenue flows of the entire industry. We've long believed that the next wave of franchised services (the largest threat to old school companies like MRI) will be Recruitment services built around a job board in a box approach.

While it certainly feels to some that the industry is contracting, in the aggregate, there is significant growth. Old school ideas about consolidation and industry control have little productive value in an industry this early in its infancy. With no barriers to entry and precious little proof that branding works, the established players are discovering that being early isn't enough. Profound innovation is both possible and required. The business idea that sits still will be the roadkill.

Before it's all over, there will be a number of regional networks, each with a unique business model. Why not? We sit in a huge marketplace that is historically fragmented and liable to simultaneously grow, consolidate, fragment and decentralize. After all, the internet is fundamentally about personalization. We've always imagined billions of electronic recruiting sites. In that scenario, just about anything is possible.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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