Interview with David Sickmiller (44score)
44score is an application that helps jobseekers organise their job search, keep track of applications, networking and reminders.
I interviewed David Sickmiller, 44score founder to find out more. This interview is the fourty fifth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to David for the interview!
How would you describe 44score in under 50 words?
44score is a tool for jobseekers to organize their job search. Users can track online apps, networking, and to-dos. Because our browser toolbar integrates with job boards and employer websites, much of the record-keeping is automated. By being organized, our users find better jobs faster.
What was your inspiration for founding 44score?
I started business school in 2005, and before any classes started, we were individually invited to come in and get started on our resumes. That gives you a sense of the priority given to the job hunt. While looking for a job, I became well aware of how horrible it was! Just considering application forms, the data entry takes forever because they need to be perfect, they often time-out or error-out in the middle, and recruiters rarely call back. I saw an opportunity for technology to improve this, and I paired up with a classmate, Jonathan Brown, to found Career Liaison. We developed what was essentially a universal application form that was sold to employers as an aftermarket ATS upgrade. After learning more about the technology and the market, we pivoted to make analytics software that measures the effectiveness of job postings. This is a successful business that has since been acquired by JobTarget.
Now I am returning to the original problem — that the job hunt sucks for jobseekers — and looking to apply the learnings from my last startup. I think a lot can be done to make jobseekers more effective. When it comes to online applications, when recruiters call back a month later, people often can’t remember the contents of the job description or which version of their resume was submitted. This can be solved with technology. On the networking side, jobseekers generally don’t do enough of this or they forget to follow through, causing opportunities to drop on the floor. In sales, the solution for this is to use a CRM like Salesforce.com, and I think adapting a CRM for the job search could make a big difference in helping people land jobs.
How did you come up with the name?
The name 44score is designed to stand out from the clutter. The recruiting world is filled with “job-this” and “career-that”, yet some of the most successful sites do not follow that pattern, such as Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn. Also, 44score is a name that most people should be able to spell after hearing it. Finally, it has a positive valence; jobseekers should look forward to scoring their next job.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing 44score?
The most technically challenging parts is definitely the browser toolbar that integrates with employment websites. The problem is that is a territory that is not well charted. By contrast, everyone and their brother has made a database-driven website. That popularity means that any time you have a website programming issue, Googling it will turn up dozens of pages written by people who have already run into the problem and found the solution. There is significantly less documentation on browser toolbars, and simply none on employment websites. This makes the work more difficult, but I think it is also a sign that we’re building something with substance.
How long did it take to put together 44score?
The business was started at the beginning of 2011. We ran a private beta in the fall, ran some marketing tests, and did a soft launch with the placement fee in December.
The toolbar works with Firefox and Internet Explorer. Any plans for Chrome?
We are definitely porting the toolbar to Chrome — we have had a lot of recent registrations from Chrome users and don’t want to disappoint them. I expect it will be released this month.
Do you have any new features in the pipeline?
Yes! I have lots of exciting functionality packed into the product roadmap.
You have quite a background in web development, consultancy and startups. What motivates you?
Seven years ago I went to Haiti for two weeks to help on a charitable construction project. I really enjoyed it, as I got to know some great people and loved the adventure of being in such a different world. At the end, though, it struck me that if one’s goal is to construct a building in a third-world country, having me take two weeks off work to fly there and try to lay block is not the most effective way. Considering the skills and wages involved, it would have been much better (though less fun) for me to spend those two weeks doing web development in the US and just send money to Haiti where I’m sure it could have paid for several talented laborers.
I would like to have a net positive impact on the world. I believe I am uniquely qualified to found 44score and that is the most impactful thing I could be doing. Here’s why: Regarding the technical qualifications, I understand not just general web development but am also intimately acquainted with employer applicant tracking systems. On the business side, I have studied marketing and been through the entire life-cycle of a successful startup. The potential impact is huge. Our country has 13 million unemployed and a GDP per hour of $59, which means that helping them land work just two weeks earlier would increase economic output by $61 billion!
What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?
I wish that five years ago I had known just how many people are willing to help if you just ask them. I definitely received valuable advice and key introductions while working on my last startup. However, for 44score I am talking with people at least quadruple my earlier rate, and that makes everything else go faster too. Fellow entrepreneurs are especially keen to share their insight and provide advice.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
For a long time, people organized their job search with pen and paper. With the introduction of PCs, many switched to spreadsheets. Over the past several years, various individual programmers looking for jobs have “scratched their own itch” by building jobseekers CRMs. Typically after the programmer lands their next job, the website stagnates and eventually goes offline. One website that has outlived the typical lifespan is called JibberJobber.
Despite the fact that online job search organizers have been around for some years, I read a new blog post last month recommending jobseekers use spreadsheets, with no mention of online alternatives. The month before that, a prestigious university’s blog also recommended a spreadsheet. With at least 20 million active jobseekers in the US, online organizers should have millions of users, but they don’t. Something must be wrong. Could it be an awareness problem? Is there a lack of compelling features? Do existing business models fail to balance user adoption and revenue?
At 44score, we are looking to crack this nut by innovating in both the product and the business model. We think a lot of potential users are put off by the laborious data entry involved in keeping records. We’re fixing this by having our software automatically collect the data wherever possible. On the business side of things, we are the first to implement a placement fee — jobseekers pay nothing while they look for work, but after they land the job, they pay a flat amount. The goal here is to accommodate the fact that most jobseekers are cautious about spending money while also establishing a good source of revenue to fund continued marketing and development. Have we found the right combination? We’re getting positive reviews, but the jury is still out.
Finished reading? Check out 44score!