Wednesday, March 30, 2005

news blast

Buzz is building... news links below:

a scene to remember

This morning most of our 42 employees huddled together in our Pioneer Square offices (Seattle) to watch the webcast of our commercial launch in San Diego. Our CEO, VP of Marketing, and VP of Sales introduced Jobster to the industry with a lot of excitement.

We all sat and watched our company leaders forge us as an agent of change in the industry today. We watched them introduce our passion of the last year- to create a new service that will reinvent how Internet recruiting should work. It was pretty flipping cool to look at the faces of each Jobster employee as they saw their part of the service mentioned- PRIDE, EXCITEMENT, OPTIMISM.

Being the first employee of the company, this was extra special to me. I joined this company with nothing but a ppt deck and an impressive entrepreneur- now CEO, Jason Goldberg. Every hire, every milestone we have achieved has been personal for me. I took such a leap because I had faith in Jason's story- as a hiring manager at Microsoft, I also believed in the industry gaps, and was convinced there had to be another way. That better way is now...

The most powerful thing they talked about was our more than 40 enterprise customers already using the service. Not only that, this message was driven home masterfully by video testimonials from Boeing, T-Mobile, and Expedia- and also an in-person visit from Sean Huurman of BearingPoint- all talking about how Jobster is changing their recruiting landscape for the better. Sean talked about actual results that the company is experiencing with their first campaigns.

Jobster is for real, and this industry will never be the same. I will post the recorded webcast when it is ready.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

what is the deal?

when I first signed up with Netflix so long ago, I thought they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. Our entire neighborhood in Snoqualmie Ridge had Netflix and the subscriber base was growing exponentially. I didn;t buy stock, but as I watched it grow 10 fold & more, I wished that I had.

One thing that I CANNOT understand is how it took Blockbuster nearly 2 years to respond to Netflix competitively?? It seems that it is too little too late.

goal realized

Doing the start-up thing has had a few short-term negative effects on my personal life. Aside from missing time at home, I have also found that I go longer in between catching up with my pals. One of my pals is Poppe. He and his wife Jenn live in Kirkland with their beautiful 2 year old daughter, Natalie.

Tonight we spoke on the phone, after nearly 3 months. He had some great news- he was promoted to an 8 state territory sales manager for his franchise finance organization. His team is one of only a handful of financiers in the United States that back franchise chains like Quiznos, Applebees and the like. Great great news for him and his family.

More than anyone else in our circle of friends, Poppe has been chasing his career goal with maniacal focus for nearly 7 years. I remember driving up the Green River valley on our way to go kayaking and he was talking about the role he was working toward. That was before I graduated from college (he was a year ahead of me).

He may not say it, but it may have been frustrating to see some of us in technology industry move up quickly- continually adding a new job title to our resume and often changing jobs more frequently than most would be comfortable with. Unlike high tech, the finance world has a very structured career path; you put in your time in the trenches for a long time. For those that do their time, the payoff is big for them and their career, and can surpass the level of any tech person with the same time in service. Poppe is living that now.

Good on ya Poppe, good on ya.

true customer centricity

I have had the pleasure of working for a handful of companies over the course of my career, all of which at some level claimed to be "connected" to their customer. What I also know is that unfortunately the louder a company shouts about being customer centric, usually the less they really are.

Customer centricity is not the VP or CEO visiting a customer's management team or taking them out to lunch on occasion - although that can be part of it. I also think that true customer centricity is REALLY, REALLY hard to implement from the top down. It can and has been done, but it can oftentimes feel very superficial and "fake" from the customer's perspective.

Jobster has this one right so far. We continue to learn how to do this better. Here are some reasons why I think we are on track:
  • Our roots. The Jobster story started with recruiters and leaders in the recruiting industry. While in the concept stage, our CEO Jason Goldberg spent a lot of time understanding the gaps that existed in the industry from people that were living it. As we grew and began to define a sourcing solution, we spent months upon months sitting with recruiters at their desks and living their day with them. My job was to work with recruiters every day as we defined and refined our ideas.
  • Our service. Still working with customers today, I often say that Jobster was built for recruiters, by recruiters- and I believe that firmly. If we ever showed a prototype to a recruiter or recruiter manager and saw blank stares, we took it to heart and went back to the drawing board. When you look at recruiters in the industry that are great networkers, the Jobster service was architected to help ALL recruiters reach that level.
  • Our track record. Since late Sept 2004, some version of Jobster has been in use by customers and partners. In that time, feedback has poured into our team about how to make the service better. As the person who passed that feedback to the product team, I can say that all of the most important feedback will be introduced in version 1. We don't say we listen to customers, WE JUST DO IT.
  • Our people. We have had the luxury of hiring the best and the brightest in the Seattle area. Part of it was based on our buzz. Part of it was based on our customer traction. A lot was based on the story. The bottom line is that we have hired and continue to hire people that are passionate about doing the right thing and making sure we delight customers with our service. Everyone here takes it personally when a bug is found. This team cares- top to bottom.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

just finished the letter last night

Finally finished & sent the letter of rec for Griffith today. I wish him well.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

always been that type of person

Ever since I can remember, I have loved making lists and checking off things as I complete them. There is some great feeling of accomplishment that comes with it.

Yesterday and today, I spent most of my time installing 2 closet organizers, a pantry organizer, a under sink pull out system, and a permanent baby gate. What a great feeling!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

the reflection of a week

This week was unlike most in my recent memory. While my 18 month old son continues to amaze Bobbi and I will his daily advances & discoveries, it was also a week when she was as sick as I have ever seen her. The first 13 weeks of pregnancy are rumored to be tough, but this took the cake for me. I spent most of my time home - writing off a work week for all intents and purposes.

It was also a tough week because as my time and focus was required at home, the collective time and focus of my company was rallying toward a goal of launching our service commercially. It is hard to watch the company go one way and you go the other, especially after being such an integral part of every step up until now.

It is only short-term- my family needs me now and they come first. I will get back in it when the coast is clear.

Friday, March 18, 2005

the mad march has begun

Jobster is ramping heavily for our commercial launch on 30 March 2005 in San Diego. Very exciting to see a 35+ person company completely and utterly focused on a single goal. Keep your eyes out for us...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

not if, but when

I have mentioned over the past few days about how well things are going with customers...

Sitting in a senior leadership meeting today, I blurted out that I have turned the corner to not "if", but "when" for Jobster.

Does it uncover passives?... of course! Are recruiters finding talent beyond the normal reach of a referral program?... yes!

My mindset is FAR PASSED the question of "IF." So many companies are telling us how they are finding great people using Jobster. Not only that- but passive people. Not only that- but high quality people that do not require a resume...

on Martyman, for a sec

Marty and I started working for Jason almost 1 year ago. I say working for Jason, because at the time, there was no company yet- only a concept that Ignition Partners had full faith in, thanks to Jason's ability to paint a picture of an industry in need.

I mention the Martyman because is he one of the most under-rated pioneers in the recruiting industry that I know of. He was a key participant and designer in one of the first ATS products, defining an entire software sector. I can go on, but take my word for it that he has had a major impact.

On Marty for a sec- It has been 12 months, and I love this guy. I love him because, in joining Jobster, he continues a career-long passion of adding value to the life of a recruiter through technology innnovation. I love him because he values personal relationships above all else. I love him because he has the grounded perspective to keep us all honest. OH- Did I mention that he is the primary builder of the recruiter experience in Jobster? Rightly so...rightly so. I will be the first to tell you that Marty will remain quiet about his history, and is content to be one of a handful of smart people behind the Jobster service. Go Marty.

Let me get back on track -my point is that Marty told me the other day that my new hobby of blogging was a form of marketing & not my true thoughts. Of course, I argued with him incessantly about how that was NOT true. We have constructive arguments all the time about Jobster- but they continually challenge me to be more customer-centric.

I admit that I only write what I want people to read about... is that marketing- or is that just plain human nature? I only share what I want others to read- true for sure. But that approach is not blog only- that is what we do for anything.

Readers of this blog: I COMMIT that I am only writing about REAL things on my mind. I am only writing about things I REALLY care about. I am only writing about things that I REALLY think about. No BS here.

While I believe that Jobster is the Google of the recruiting industry (Shhhhhh! don't tell anyone I think that- it is not yet been approved by my Marketing VP!), I am not going to use my blog to build anything up beyond the plain facts. Marketing- Shmarketing!

dot dot dot. enough said.

thoughtful investor

Martin Tobias, a venture partner at Ignition (principle backers of Jobster), had a great entry about raising money for your venture. He spent some time to talk about examples when ventures should NOT raise VC money.

Having started my career as an analyst for a smaller VC firm, I have always followed the new venture scene. Prior to Jobster, I had several opportunities to join early start-ups, but never felt overly compelled about the business opportunity in front of them. Obviously that was how Jobster was different and why I joined as the first employee.

Today, I do spend some of my free time chatting with my colleagues and friends about ideas they are hatching- it is exciting to be a part of this, and hope that I can lend some insight into how to do it right.

Martin's entry struck me, because I had just been talking to some guys about their early stage venture, and if raising VC money made sense. In their particular case, I told them to hold off, because their planned revenue model seemed to suggest that they could grow organically to a certain stage.

Not only that- but I asked them point blank why they wanted to raise money, and they did not have an answer- which to me means they are not ready for money yet...

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

today I had the opportunity

Today I had the opportunity to talk to one of our favorite customers. Other than developing and marketing some of the most memorable and functional athletic shoewear ever known, they are also a great bunch of people with a real passion for finding great people to fuel their growth.

As part of a team that is delivering a new service or technology, you wonder when that moment will come when you can begin to talk about other customer successes. That time had come and passed a few weeks ago.

But today, I found myself with so many examples of customer successes that I had to choose which ones to talk about. I actually was tripping over which one to highlight. Can you imagine that I already have a "library" of success stories to pull from and we are only in pilot?

Take this fact and combine it with a Jobster team that is fully commited to taking customer feedback to further refine our service in future releases, and the future looks bright for Jobster.

Monday, March 14, 2005

from "solutions" to "delight"

My team just renamed itself the Customer Delight team. For a while prior, we were the Customer Solutions team, which made sense at the time. Jobster is moving into a critical ramp-up phase now, where we will be adding up to 50 customers per week during the several weeks of launch activities- so it is important that we establish our identity early.

Delight.... this is a great word my CEO has been chanting from the 3rd floor since day one. I was slow to adopt this, because I was worried about my group being mistaken for a fancy cake frosting. It has grown on me now. Delight is a strong word, and rightly so. It sets a high bar for how we want every customer to feel when they use our service or talk to us. Delight doesn't mean we met a customers expectation or left them satisfied- it means that we exceeded their expectations. I now see what our boss is saying- our goal is to exceed the expectations of our customers at every turn. If we want to truly help our customers reinvent how great recruiting is done in the industry, why would we shoot for anything less?

Oh, if you are wondering, we will be adopting a theme song - " rockets in flight, Customer Delight. Cu-u-ustomer Delight"

mail spam is killing me

Just having moved recently, I had the lovely pleasure of changing addresses for all of my bills. That went fine- and I was reminded of how much I pay in bills every month...

What was the most painful part of moving is the sudden in-flow of junk mail in the first few weeks. Investigating this phenomenon a little further, I found that there are a number of ways in which spammers can get my mailing address:
  • Change of Address. The US Postal Service is a willing participant in this little scam. Of course, mail spam is a great thing for them, bringing is what I can only guess is millions of dollars per year.
  • Record of Purchase. Public record also does its part by plastering it out there for maillist builders to grab and steal.
  • Mortgage "Partners." My mortgage company, First Horizon gave me a disclosure form saying that providing my name to partners would only occur in cases where they are jointly selling something. Well, now that I have counted my 150th Horizon related peice of mail, I am more than annoyed.

What I have trouble understanding is why email spam is getting so much attention when in fact we have a much larger problem with mail spam. Email spam is easy to delete in bulk, and no one gets hurt. REAL MAIL spam overloads your mailbox to the point that you cannot weed through to find the mail that really matters, such as bills and personal mail!!!

Of course no one with any authority in the government would ever touch this, despite the millions of trees per year that are being wasted...

Friday, March 11, 2005

St. Helens still at it

My good friend, Jason Sommerset, sent me a picture of Mt St. Helens. He was on a trip the other day and could not figure out was this strange formation of clouds were. Link through his name and you can get a glimpse.

I was 7 years old when it blew for the first time...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

pinch me

I am just going to come out and say it: JOBSTER IS WORKING!

Nearly 30 companies are set up and running as of today- and they are finding prospects and hiring them as we speak.

About a year ago, 5 or 6 of us sat in a borrowed office next to our borrowed cubicles at Ignition. We had ideas, we had theories. Now fast forward 12 months and here we are- commercial launch is weeks away and pilot customers are clamoring with the success they are seeing.

Somebody pitch me.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Ruh roh, Raggy!

Sorry if the Scooby Doo reference has you on your heels. I have only been doing this blogging thing a short time, but I am finding a great deal of satisfaction in writing things down. Publishing to the web in the form of a blog adds an element of unknown that I find very inviting - who will be surfing blogs and come across this? How might what I write enrich someone with another perspective?

I am starting to wonder if this is the next phase of the Internet, and perhaps that most valuable phase yet. I am not talking dollars, I am talking value to society.

One of the most interesting books that I have read in the last 10 years was Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death." The basic theme is that discourse in American society has been plummeting, and that innovations like the television have further eroded things. Neil also takes special note of a time when presidential candidates like Lincoln and his opponents would stand on a tree stump and talk for hours about real substance - things they believed in- no spin, no evading true answers. Also, taking note of the dairies and written discourse of the time, Postman makes the leap (not sure I am there yet) that this time, the mid to late 1800s, was the pinnacle of literacy for America- something that may never be seen again.

My point here is that blogs may represent the impending return of discourse in America, assuming that Postman's view is with merit. Even the media machine, in all of their hype and self-announced importance, have acknowledged the power of thousands of interlinked blogs on the Internet, to such important events as the Asian tsunami. Not only that, but I seem to remember reading that a blog recently uncovered a story that sent some news execs packing in recent months? Could there be a wave of relevence here?

At any rate, at least I can say for sure that blogs represent the return of my written discourse-for anyone willing to read what I have to say...

the new new thing

I am in charge of rolling out our company's service to our customers. Our customers are recruiting organizations within some of the most well known brands in America.

What we have built is truly a new new thing - built directly from feedback by recruiters dating back to my first days on the job-so you could say built for recruiters, by recruiters.

That being said, I am spending much of my time thinking hard about how we help recruiters make a shift and see the proactive nature and also how every use of Jobster is a value building activity. I wonder if there is an analogy for compounding interest in a bank account?

Then there are the plain facts (at a more tactical level) that Jobster will help recruiters find great people that they would not have previously found, and probably passive talent at that.

Let me give a real example; as users of our early versions of the service since Sept 2004, we are beginning to see a critical mass with each incremental use of the service. Economies of scale are at work for us as a company using our own service. My goal is to get our customers to that same point of scale & critical mass.

How will we do that? Good question- we are learning every day :-)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Dan G. from left field

So, an old Army colleague randomly found me the other day and sent me an email. I am still not sure how he found me- it has been almost 9 years since I out-processed. As my Sgt Major at the time said, "We gonna give you a ham sandwitch & a road map- and put you out da' Army." That they did.

Turns out that he is looking to rejoin as a JAG officer. I had questions about why a practicing lawyer would do this, but I will get to that later. The point is that his military record from the time we served together has a blemish. Don't get me wrong, he had an honorable discharge- but without getting into the details- attached to his record was something that was completely false and misleading to any third party reviewer.

Dan has spent the last few months tracking down Army buddies to write letters to the Dept of the Army JAG Corps and "testify" that no such situations/issues existed. He even found my first company commander, Captain Slaughter (yes, that is his real name- straight out of G.I. Joe comics). Now Colonel Slaughter, he also wrote up a memo and had an amazing memory of both Dan and I- which was impressive. I told him I would absolutely write something up. Knowing how the military works, I guess it is no mystery how once sentence on someone's record can screw him over.

Glad to do it, Dan- let's see if we can't get this squared away and "put you back in da' Army."

master of none - just let me contribute

Regardless of where life has taken me, I have always taken pride in being a generalist. I am not a soldier, an analyst, a product manager, a developer, a home builder, or anything else by trade. At first I thought that this was because I started out my adult life as a consultant (a.k.a big 5 workhorse)- but that is not it. My father was quick to remind me that this tendency goes back to childhood. Experiences like the Army only honed this skill - instilling focus on the objective at hand and being willing to get your hands dirty.

The jury is still out about whether I will look back and wish I could say I was a a master of foo, or an expert in blah. Right now, what I would like to be able say with certainty is that my "utility player" approach to business may be what is making me a valuable team member. Not only do I get to do a lot of cool & new things, but I will never get bored...

Monday, March 07, 2005

yes...yard dart

The great thing about yard darts (prior to being outlawed of course) is that as a kid you would muster everything in your being to hurl these metal, pointy spears into the air- usually with no inkling of where this flying projectile may land, or how far it would go.

This seemed to fit my career trajectory up until March of last year. I tried the consultant thing and the big company thing - only to find out that these were lousy tosses of my yard dart. I learned a lot along the way, no doubt.

In March of 2004, I came into contact with Jason S. Goldberg, former Clinton White House aide, T-Mobile Director- a guy who dropped everything to hatch an idea that he had. Sure, the fact that he and I had several meetings on location at Ignition Partners offices (Jobster's early backers) surely helped matters. He had a great powerpoint deck & a hell of a pitch that spoke to me on several levels. BUT, at the time he was a one man show- no other employees, no real company formed at the time. That said, there were many reasons why my cushy and promising career at Microsoft was the place to stay. Nevermind that my wife and I had a 3 month old newborn!

I remember distinctly what Jason said to me that sealed the deal. He told me a story about the Oklahoma City bombing, that horribly tragic event that very abruptly erased the popular American view that terrorism only happens outside our borders. Jason was the top aide to Clinton's Chief of Staff, who was traveling outside the country. Jason found himself, at a very young age, running the Administrations response to the tragedy, including the coordination of the President's visit to the site. Can you imagine?

His point in telling me this story was to say that he had reached the pinnacle of his professional career while in his early & mid twenties. His realization was that very few things he could do going forward would come close to the challenges of that experience. In what I would soon learn is "classic Jason" style, he vowed not to let that fact stop him from trying. Jobster is a company he has been building ever since. I guess I am not sure anymore that his pinnacle is truly behind him.

For the first time in my career, I feel like I have truly hurled my yard dart into the stratosphere with some sense of purpose- joining Jobster, an emerging Internet services company in Seattle. The great thing is that although I know not exactly where this will land, the experience itself will more than make up for the ambiguity of it all.