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From Zero To One Hundred Million: TheLadders.com CEO Marc Cenedella (Part 3)

Posted on Friday, May 28th 2010

SM: What did you do after you left HotJobs?

MC: I took some time off and traveled around the world. That time was good because it let me refocus. That was when I made the decision to come back as an entrepreneur and do something in the online recruitment industry. The challenge was to find the right niche. HotJobs and Monster were well established, and in their industry your value was based in part on the volume of users. I realized that I could not just start up an online job board and expect to succeed.

I took some time to think about my time at HotJobs. Recruiters loved us because prior to that, they only had newspapers. Now they had unlimited space for ads that ran for 30 days. We also sent them ten times as many resumes. For a select set of recruiters and clients, however, sending them more resumes was not a good thing.

At the same time that I was thinking through all of those issues at HotJobs, the United States experienced a mild economic downturn. My friends from business school started calling me asking where to find VP of marketing or finance jobs. I knew that those were not the types of jobs that you put on HotJobs because when you take a really good job and make it easy to apply to, everyone is going to apply to it. Those jobs need quality candidates, not quantity.

That is when I realized that my next venture should do something with high-end job sites. Recruitment advertising is at the end of the day an advertising business. Econ 101 says that when something is abused because it’s free, the one thing you can do is charge for it. That makes people use it more wisely. The thought I had was, “What would happen if we charge the job seeker?”

I had the idea to collect all the $100,000-plus job listings and put them in a newsletter. That newsletter could then be sent out to subscribers via e-mail on Monday morning. Subscribers would have to pay $25 for the service. I called Alex Douzet, who worked with me at HotJobs, and told him about my idea. Alex thought it was a great idea, so we teamed up and were off to the races.

SM: What time was this? When did you actually launch the company?

MC: I launched the site in August 2003. I had gone out and talked to a bunch of software developers to see what it would cost to get a basic version of my concept up and running as a website. I was told it would be three months and $30,000 to build a prototype. I had been around long enough to know that a prototype works only when you are in the conference room. That was too much money for what I was trying to do, so I went out and bought $39 worth of programming books and built the site myself in three weeks.

SM: Did your site crawl the other job boards looking for the $100,000 jobs?

MC: No, we collected all the job listings manually. We would build that list, and then I would write a script to have those e-mailed to active subscribers every Monday morning. Alex and I would get the jobs collected by 1 a.m. on Sunday night, I would have the newsletter written by 7 a.m., and by 9 a.m. I would get the newsletter and job listings e-mailed out with my script. It was a very manually intensive process. I used the site as a method to reach out and gain interest and also as the engine to do the e-mailing, but I actually did each scripting element myself.

This segment is part 3 in the series : From Zero To One Hundred Million: TheLadders.com CEO Marc Cenedella
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