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This week I attended the 2015 HROToday Forum in historic Philadelphia, PA.

I’ve got two or three posts in mind based on the last few days of meetings and presentations, but I’m going to start where the event ended. With the 2015 iTalent Competition for technology innovators focused on talent.

It’s a competition format we’re seeing more and more of, emulating the competition at TechCrunch’s Disrupt or  “demo day” at the end of a tech accelerator process, or TV’s Shark Tank. It’s a quick presentation from selected tech vendors in front of a panel of industry expert judges. Here, six vendors have seven minutes each to pitch their company and product to a panel of judges that vote, along with the audience, for the vendor they would most likely invest in. The idea is that while everyone sees product demonstrations and hears tech vendors pitch why they should use their product, this is an opportunity for many in the audience to hear how and why the vendors feel they will be a success – how they will generate revenue – and how they see the competitive market – industry trends, etc.

The master of ceremonies for the competition was Matt Charney, Partner and Executive Editor at the Recruiting Daily properties. During the competition he likened iTalent to a pitch that vendors would give to venture capitalists.

While the format emulates competitions normally associated with startups, this is clearly not a start-up competition, but a competition to highlight new product innovation. Other than one vendor in the competition, which was founded in 2014, these vendors have all been at it for a while and have already raised millions of dollars and built revenue streams to varying degrees.

The entries in this competition reflect several trends we’re seeing in the talent acquisition segment of HR technology: employment branding, recruitment marketing, recruiting data analytics, usability enhancement via consumerization, and products being built on the salesforce.com platform.

The products in this, the fourth annual, competition were:

SkillSurvey, Universum, Jibe, Greenhouse, Clinch, and Lumesse (Talent Objects).

My quick thoughts on each of the vendors:

Universum Global

This year’s winner was Universum Global for their soon to be generally released Iris product. Universum has been surveying students and new graduates for their career and job preferences since 1988 – for 27 years. They have more data on student preferences and employer brands than anyone I’m aware of. They’ve built a successful employer branding and consulting firm based on this deep research. Their Iris product is a stand alone SaaS product, that customers will purchase on a subscription basis to track candidate behavior and engagement related to the customer’s employment brand. It’s a social listening and measurement tool that has been tailored for the HR and Talent industry.

SkillSurvey

SkillSurvey offers a cloud based suite of products that provide data driven insight into the hiring process. They inject automation and science into the reference checking process that provides new insight into critical hiring decisions while simultaneously extending the candidate pool with a promise of quality. They launched in 2001 and have been extending their products in new directions, and in support of high growth vertical markets, ever since. Skillsurvey’s presentation was crisp and on point. They have clearly been studying the recruiter and the market, and have gained a deep understanding of both. Their products are very interesting, and can be useful for direct employers and staffing firms alike.

 

Jibe

Jibe was presenting their new take on their growing suite of products, the “candidate experience platform”. While the tag line is new, I couldn’t tell from the presentation if any new features supported the direction. Candidate experience is definitely a hot button in the world of recruiting. It was one of the most discussed topics at the HROToday Forum in the sessions I visited, and recruiter social streams are constantly abuzz on the topic. The success of the CandE awards underscores this. Jibe’s products are a suite of products that include a talent network, an employee referral solution, job posting/distribution, recruiting analytics, and a mobile job apply tool. Prior to this presentation, I’ve noticed Jibe’s recent focus on “data driven recruiting”. It wasn’t clear to me whether the new positioning reflects a pivot for Jibe or a forthcoming product focus. Jibe presented their differentiating feature, or “secret sauce”, as the ability to integrate with ATS systems and providing an improved candidate experience layer above the ATS.

Greenhouse

Greenhouse is a rapidly growing applicant tracking system that launched in 2012 with the promise of a better way to hire. With an intuitive and consumerized interface, leveraging collaboration and predictive analytics, Greenhouse leads the hiring team down the path of a more data driven candidate screening and selection process.  They have achieved high-growth as a new HR tech vendor and have a customer list that reflects high growth as a defining characteristic. “High growth” is a buzz term in market definition for emerging companies in the SMB segment (small to medium sized businesses) that normally have fewer than 5,000 employees.

Having raised more than $25 million in VC since 2012, Greenhouse is no stranger to the VC pitch. During the Q and A session with the judges, Greenhouse CEO Daniel Chait talked about going “upstream” with larger customers and the challenges that this brings to bare with regard to the product interface as more features are added in response to a question from judge Elaine Orler. Greenhouse will have to balance the promise of simplicity and speed made to existing customers with features that tend to be more driven by compliance and scale in larger companies. This balancing act hasn’t been executed well by the firms that have tried it before Greenhouse.

Clinch

Clinch touted themselves as the “Hubspot for Recruiting”. What they presented was a content marketing system and email engine to drive candidate nurturing campaigns and increased engagement. It’s not clear to me if the analogy to Hubspot ends there, or extends to the kind of focus Hubspot has had on educating the B2C and B2B marketing communities inside and outside of their interface on content marketing. Also not clear was whether Clinch extends into CRM as Hubspot does in their sales platform. Clinch was founded in 2014, is headquartered in Ireland, and is an interesting new offer amidst the flurry of recruitment marketing tools and platforms we’ve seen get traction over the last few years.

Lumesse Talent Objects 

Lumesse presented the Talent Objects suite of products. Talent Objects is built on the salesforce.com platform and consists of: Recruiting, Performance Management, Rewards, Succession Planning, and Learning. This presentation was focused on the recruiting capabilities of the product. They stressed the ease of use, scale, and mobile capabilities. Lumesse reinforced that this suite of products was targeting the salesforce.com customer base, leveraging their existing investment in the platform. The decision to develop on the salesforce platform is a strategic move with an interesting upside for the HR customer. I’ve written a lot about Salesforce and their moves in the HR technology market, you can see a Salesforce in HR Tech.

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