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DEMO Conference

(September 22, 2005) Everyone gets myopic (limited vision); it's the human condition. Good managerial performance depends on discovering ways to clear up the crap that accumulates and prevents clear sight. Our visit, this week, to the Demo Conference was just the right prescription for failing eyesight. We owe a particular debt of gratitude to the folks at H3 who funded the trip.

Demo, as you might remember from an earlier article, is a launch-pad for new technologies. Each invited company (70 out of 500 or so who apply are chosen) gets 6 minutes to tell an audience of about 1,000 about the their new business/product. The audience includes VCs, innovators, journalists the companies themselves.

Attending means getting completely saturated in buzz, ideas and optimism. Of 70 companies, only four were even vaguely related to our space (H3, SimplyHired, Green Array and Success Factors). The kind folks at H3.com let us watch their entire process from presentation prep through booth duty. It was like being in our own little HBO documentary.  Being this immersed in a non-recruiting world was an incredibly useful experience.

We've written about SimplyHired ( a jobs vertical search firm like indeed.com or WorkZoo) and H3 (a contingency referral firm). Both Green Array and Success Factors are automated organizational scorecard services that, most interestingly, do not address the impact of recruiting on organization or project performance. We'll get to them in a later article.

Most important, we think, is a critical question. At a time when so much innovation is happening in the rest of the world, why is so little happening in the Recruiting and Staffing industry. While we are fascinated with vertical search and referral systems, they hardly seem like the "next big thing". Good things, indeed. Profitable things? At least the referral stuff will be. RPOs shift things around a bit. But transformative or new? (You'll enjoy Jeff Hunter's recent rant on the subject.)

At Demo, we saw:

  • Clever software that eliminates the requirement for a laptop
  • Tools for building real communities of interest and portals (not rehashes of direct marketing software)
  • Bedside, wireless radios that integrate Internet Radio and network ipod playlists (with really loud alarms)
  • Search integration tools that are able to independently discover new search engines and query multiple place simultaneously.
  • Really new and useful approaches to search (using non-lingusitic tools)

Increasingly, the technology market is characterized by individual choice. That is, the markets are getting smaller and smaller, the products infinitely more customized. The major trends seemed to be:

  • Niche Technology
  • Further Disengagement from IT, user managers are the audiences for the products
  • A deeply serious anti-enterprise software bias....ERP is dead.
  • Individual emphasis in a social network context.
  • IT moves from philosophy/policy to Subject Matter based execution.

Everyone we talked to at the conference easily grasped the Recruiting Market's challenges and needs. The concept of communities built on value delivery and candidate databases that record and measure experience over time were the kinds of things being discussed around the conference. It definitely was not another rehash of the ERExpo.

The only flaw in the conference was the degree to which is was a show for white men. Although the conference host is a woman and the single best presentation of the day was delivered by a woman. There were relatively few women at the event and almost none in positions of influence. There were, however, many more women than people of color.

Don't forget to check out the blogs on bert.

- John Sumser

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