Published: 6:51 p.m. Sunday, March 27, 2011
Six years ago, Union Square Ventures had to work hard to persuade Indeed.com to take its money.
The New York venture capital firm, known for its early investments in Twitter and Zynga, wanted to invest in an online job site and determined that year-old Indeed was the best candidate.
“We tried to make the investment quickly, but they are very good entrepreneurs, and they are very self-sufficient — and they didn’t really need us,” said Brad Burnham, a Union Square partner. “We introduced ourselves and spent the next six months trying to convince them that we could be helpful.”
The company’s founders — Austinite Rony Kahan and his business partner, Paul Forster of Stamford, Conn. — ultimately came around, accepting $5 million from investors including Union Square and The New York Times.
Today, Union Square’s bet on Indeed — which develops products in Austin and handles business operations in Stamford — looks like a promising one.
From the company’s offices on North MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1), Indeed’s engineers have quietly built a top job website that works like Google. Indeed is an aggregator; its search engine scours the Web for job listings on thousands of websites, including job boards, associations, newspapers and company career pages.
Job seekers search for listings on Indeed’s home page, which has a similar look and feel to Google’s home page. Users type in two things to get started: what kind of job they want and where they want it to be.
Clicking on a job listing takes you directly to the website where the position is posted, including leading sites such as CareerBuilder and Monster. Those sites offer additional services for employers and job seekers beyond simple postings. (The American-Statesman is a partner with Monster for online job listings.)
“Our focus has always been on simplicity,” said Kahan, Indeed’s chief technology officer. “Doing things simply is more difficult than making it complex. We’ve always said just think about what’s best for the job seeker, and everything else will follow.”
Indeed.com had 50 million unique visitors worldwide last month. Its biggest direct competitor is Simply Hired, a Mountain View, Calif.-based company that has raised $22 million from investors including IDG Ventures and Fox Interactive Media.
Indeed, which generates revenue by pay-per-click advertising, doesn’t disclose financial information, but Kahan says the company has been profitable since 2007. Sales doubled in 2010 over the previous year, and are on track to double again this year, he said.
Indeed’s advertising customers include General Dynamics, Newell Rubbermaid, Nokia and restaurant holding company Brinker International.
Now the company is gearing up for new growth. It currently offers its service in 53 countries and 24 languages, and is accelerating its global efforts, with the opening of its first international office in London in next month.
Burnham says that building a global busiiness is Indeed’s biggest challenge.
“They’ve got a wonderful product, and they’ve executed so well that they have defined the market for job search,” he said. “But what happens with any U.S.-based business model innovation is that people in other parts of the world look at that and implement an alternative.
“There are clones of Indeed now popping up all over the world,” Burnham said. “Fortunately, Indeed is very good at going in and overtaking the copycat competitors.”
Meanwhile, Indeed is expanding its product line with the recent launch of Indeed Resume, which allows job seekers to post their résumés on its site and matches them with recommended jobs.
As it pursues new markets and adds products, the company is bolstering its recruiting efforts. But Kahan says hiring has become increasingly challenging.
“It’s unbelievable how tight the market for good tech talent is, and getting anyone with consumer expertise is more difficult,” he said.
The company has 230 employees, including 90 in Austin, and is seeking to fill 30 openings here, mostly in development and product management.
Its emphasis on engineering has helped recruit top developers from companies including Google and Trilogy. Its perks help, too: Lunches are catered on Tuesdays and Thursdays; a large kitchen is stocked with snacks, soft drinks and beer; yoga classes are offered; and a game room houses a pingpong table and video game console.
The company has relied heavily on talent from University of Texas, bringing in engineering interns and hiring them when they graduate. But with more tech companies courting students this year, Indeed recruiters visited schools, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Rice University, to find this year’s 12 interns.
Jeanmarie Rust, who oversees the company’s recruiting efforts, says Indeed’s secret weapon is how quickly the company adds features to its site. Every Thursday, employees gather to officially launch the latest offerings.
“For a lot of interns, you can spend months working on code that no one will ever see,” Rust said. “Here, they say, ‘I get to develop this really cool product, and in two weeks millions of people are going to use it.’ It doesn’t get much cooler than that.”
firstname.lastname@example.org; 912-5955?Lori Hawkins covers startups and venture capital for the American-Statesman.
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