Five start-ups compete before a convention of HR thought leaders.

By Brent Skinner 
Every start-up tells a story. That’s the idea behind HRO Today Forum’s 2012 iTalent Competition, sponsored by Oracle in cooperation with the StartUp America Partnership. Five companies—JobEscrow, The Good Jobs, MyNextGig, Kapta Systems, and Degreed—hit the stage to give a 10-minute pitch before a plenary audience and panel of HR technology experts, industry advisers, and investment analysts. The competition focused on HR, recruiting, and talent technologies that are creating job growth and helping businesses recruit, hire, and develop employees. 
Before the audience, a panel of eight judges, including myself, observed five presentations as Master of Ceremonies Kevin W. Grossman, chief marketplace evangelist for, fielded questions and oversaw the succinct, honest, and relevant answering of them. Although there was only one winner, these start-ups and their founders propose to bring remarkable value to the marketplace.
MyNextGig was one of the two job boards in the iTalent Competition. A jobseeker looks for their next place of employment at MyNextGig, and as the nomenclature there suggests, that jobseeker is not necessarily the traditional kind. One benefit for MyNextGig is the ability for candidates to express themselves and, presumably, their qualifications in the most cutting-edge ways possible. For instance, the company markets itself to this new breed of jobseeker by touting that they can interview online, via video, with hiring organizations advertising jobs on the website. The environment embraces many of the social media and other new tools that, we hear, have transformed or promise to transform job seeking. Whether or not all this apparent punch wrapped up in one job board translates to viability is unclear.
JobEscrow’s innovation is that it ties contingency recruiting to retention and thus removes a variable that heretofore has stymied organizations or dissuaded them from attempting to build equity in their employer brands. Employers who opt into JobEscrow’s system have made a decision not to pay contingency recruiters in one lump sum at the point of hire. Instead, the fee, which both parties agree on, gets placed in an escrow account and is paid in increments. Payments begin upon the hiring of the recruited talent but should the new employee flee the position before the several months of incremental payments have run their course, the hiring organization keeps the remaining amount of the fee; the contingency recruiter keeps only the portion already paid.
Additionally, and notably, JobEscrow offers a service whereby a company may place in escrow money to be paid to any contingency recruiter who places an outplaced employee in a new position. It’s a nice touch that works to halt the deterioration of perceived employer brand at a critical, traditionally contentious point along the employee lifecycle. “One of the major themes of the HRO Today Forum was about job creation,” says Ken Winters, co-founder and CEO of JobEscrow. “Unfortunately, many organizations are still laying off employees, which is why our outplacement service provides recruiters the opportunity to receive a monetary reward in exchange for helping place those laid-off employees.”
Pushback from contingency recruiters is likely. Many have a tendency to think that they operate outside the mutual responsibilities of an otherwise holistic circle of hire-to-retire talent management and would balk at the notion of losing any portion of their fee according to whether or not a new-hire becomes a new fire. But JobEscrow reports strong demand from a sizable contingent of companies that have had it with the old model of contingency recruiting. One has to wonder: Contingency recruiters may end up having to adopt the business model where the business is.
The education section of a resume, and even a LinkedIn profile, has become a perfunctory afterthought. Stating education credentials on a resume has been straightforward and staid for a long time: Name the institution and share the degree(s) and, possibly, G.P.A. you earned. Yet the same fast-paced, online experience that has given us LinkedIn and sites like it begs for an education to mean much more than a degree from an accredited college or university.
“Our fast-paced, technology-driven world demands we learn more, faster, and from an increasing diversity of sources,” says David Blake, founder of Degreed. “‘Harvard’ is no longer enough. Degreed validates and scores users’ lifelong education, from all sources, both formal, like Harvard, but also informal, like professional development, conferences, online courses, etc.”
The market might not be ready to assign translatable value to education as an aggregate of traditional and nontraditional learning. But that isn’t deterring Degreed, which seeks to turn the afterthought of an education credential into a thoughtful exercise in creativity for Millennials and others grasping for a new way to share and quantify their educational credentials. Users can mix, match, and add together seemingly disparate elements of their education and the training they’ve engaged in, and Degreed quantifies these groupings with scores and as together encapsulating additional “degrees.”—i.e., additional areas of expertise backed by rhyme and reason.
Kapta Systems
The runner-up this year was Kapta Systems, whose technology embodies the next step in thinking about performance appraisals—an aspect of talent management that needs its next step in thinking fast. Precisely because they are annual, annual performance appraisals weigh down managers’ ability to engage with and inspire their teams. Until recently, the raw ingredients necessary to transform those dynamics have been out of reach, but with advances in social media technologies, ecosystems that emulate those that employees use and like outside work (i.e., Facebook) are accessible to human resources and line managers.
Kapta, whose solution comprises these elements, markets the product to SMBs, and some judges wondered whether or not such companies would go for or need the level of performance management capabilities that Kapta offers. Counters Alex Raymond, founder of Kapta Systems and an entrepreneur with more than 12 years in the HR technology field, “Based on our research and feedback that we got at the HRO Today Forum, talent management is really turning into a priority for small and medium-sized companies around the US. They are realizing the value in building systems and processes to support the development of their employees.”
The Winner: The Good Jobs
Co-founded by Anne Nimke and Betsy Rowbottom, who first worked together at Pinstripe, The Good Jobs aspires to provide the most enterprising of jobseekers (i.e., the most motivated and savvy) with “the good stuff.” Matching technology is expressed graphically with badges, which jobseekers select or receive according to a straightforward questionnaire. These badges represent the various characteristics the jobseeker is looking for in a future employer (e.g., “corporate social responsibility,” “high pay,” “fun place to work,” etc.). With their badges in hand, jobseekers are able to filter their searches according to these preferences. And these job descriptions are multidimensional and data-rich—not the traditional, staid job descriptions that tend to pollute the job-seeking experience.
The Good Jobs can market itself to hiring organizations as a source for better-matched jobseekers, and The Good Jobs itself is a destination where jobseekers and hiring organizations alike market to each other with aplomb. The experience is pleasant. One concern is that The Good Jobs is, yes, a job board. Job boards’ days have passed, some say. But if any job board is going to survive an environment replete with social media and ever more exact personalization, it’ll be The Good Jobs.
Check out the July/August issue of HRO Today to learn more about The Good Jobs, winner of the iTalent Competition.

Tags: Enabling Technology, HRO Today Forum APAC, HRO Today Forum Europe, HRO Today Forum North America, HRO Today Global, HRO Today STA, RPO Staffing, Talent Acquisition

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