In this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Martin Lenz of Jobiqo, a job board software platform. Martin’s dual background in computer science and project management has helped Jobiqo grow to over 50 employees and dozens of countries in the past 5 years. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter discover how Jobiqo went from customizing everything for every customer, to focusing on a more product-oriented approach while still investing heavily in their search technology. Jeff also talks about government regulation of classifieds and job boards, while Steven focuses more on the authoritarian control of news in some places.
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0:00:37.1 Jeff Dickey-Chasins: Hello everyone and welcome to JobBoardGeek, it’s the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the Job Board Doctor. I am your host. And here with me today, I have the inquisitive, Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter, he’s the co-host. Hey Steven, how you doing?
0:00:55.2 Steven Rothberg: I am good. I’m ready for my quiz, Jeff.
0:00:57.9 JD: Quiz. Curiousness. You look kinda like a little chipmunk going back and forth there. [laughter] Yeah, didn’t think I’d say that, did you? Today, we’re really lucky because we have with us Martin Lenz of Jobiqo. He’s going to be talking about where he came from and what Jobiqo is all about. But first, I wanted to chat just a little bit about something that I saw in a couple of different places, most recently in the AIM Group, and this is about what’s going on in Russia. And no, it’s not actually about the war per se, but it’s about what’s going on in Russia’s Parliament. They are opposing an amendment to essentially clamp down on classifieds internet advertising and oddly enough, outdoor advertising as well.
0:01:42.2 JD: And this is kind of, [chuckle] as they say in the article, the proposal seems to have a poor understanding of how the ad market actually works, which doesn’t surprise me since they’re politicians trying to get involved. But it sort of raised in my mind a desire to talk to you about it because we’ve seen on both sides of the Atlantic, an interest in regulating both social media but also our industry, the job board industry, for various reasons. And historically, in North America, it’s been very lightly regulated if at all, and GDPR in Europe was really the first attempt to get in there and start putting some teeth into what’s going on with… For example, with Google.
0:02:23.9 JD: Google has paid millions and millions of dollars in fines. Facebook has too. I think I just saw recently that Google’s paid some more. And we have a bunch of job board folks that are up in arms about this as well. Jobindex is up in arms against Google and has raised complaints to the EU about what they do. And so this sort of raises the larger question for me of what we can expect in our industry about this kind of regulation. Sometimes, I get asked by my clients, “Oh, I’m gonna be operating in the EU, what should I do about my privacy regulations?” I just say, you know, “Follow the rules from GDPR. Don’t break the rules, and you’ll be fine. If you break the rules, then you’re gonna get sued at some point. Someone is gonna… A competitor or someone else is gonna go after you.” In the US, it’s a little fuzzier, it’s hard to say what’s really gonna happen, but I guess, Steven, what’s your take on this particular range of issues, particularly since you are a recovering lawyer?
0:03:25.5 SR: Well, I’d like to say we’re fully recovered, but as we both know, recovering is probably more accurate. So I hadn’t heard of this until you sent the AIM Group report article to me, and I thought it was really interesting. My take on it was a little bit different. I don’t disagree with you that it has a lot of privacy implications. My take on it was that it was a reflection of the rise of authoritarianism, and that this isn’t really an issue about Russia, this is an issue that many, maybe most countries are struggling with right now, with the rise of far-left or far-right authoritarians, that they are threatened by the media. Unlike an individual that you can throw in prison, you can have killed, you can inject with plutonium, any number of bad things, you can’t do any of those things to a media company. But what you can do to control a media company is to control their revenue. And so my read on this is it’s an effort by the state of Russia to further control their media companies.
0:04:29.1 SR: I don’t really see it as a privacy because of the inclusion of things like billboard advertising. Nobody’s going to a billboard and typing in their personal information, unlike an online classifieds kind of site. So in this country, we just endured, I think is the best way I can describe it, a president that repeatedly called the media, enemies of the people, and repeatedly called for them, pretty mainstream outlets like CNN, to be shut down. I don’t think it’s a far stretch to go from that to what the proposal is in the Duma, in the Russian Parliament. In fact, I think it’s a smarter approach, if you’re gonna control the media companies, calling them the enemy of the people is not as effective as cutting off their revenue streams, or at least controlling their revenue streams. It’s very dangerous and very scary that one of the world’s largest and strongest countries is potentially going to control its media that strongly. And yeah, it absolutely has been done before, without a doubt.
0:05:38.2 SR: If you’ve got… If you’re trying to do things that you don’t want people to know about, you don’t want the media talking about it, that’s for sure.
0:05:45.3 JD: Well, we’re talking about it but I’m not sure how many people are actually listening to it right now, but anyway, to go off into another direction, a more cheerful direction, a more entertaining direction, I want to welcome to JobBoardGeek our guest today, Martin Lenz of Jobiqo. Hi, Martin. How are you doing?
0:06:00.8 Martin Lenz: Hi. Good. How are you? Thanks for having me.
0:06:03.4 JD: Yeah, well, we’re glad that you’re here. I wanted to start off by asking you how you actually got into the job board industry, because I’m pretty sure that you were not trained from birth to be someone that was going to be running a job board software company. Am I right?
0:06:19.7 ML: It’s a long story, but I will try to keep it short. Yeah, thanks a lot for the question and thanks again for having me. So I actually, I have a computer science background, so I used to be a developer and I started working as a web developer in the early 2000s like when there was a big excitement for the dotcom bubble, or just around the time when the dotcom bubble happened, and I programmed basically all kind of platforms. We built our own news portals and content management systems and so on, and by doing that already in 2007, I met the founder of Jobiqo and I worked together with him. So at that time, I was a developer and he was actually running job boards in Central Europe. It was a graduate job board for different kind of like niches in the… Like for different kind of graduates and apprenticeships. And I was basically building a solution for matching and taxonomies and semantic system. So at that time AI was not such a big thing as now, but we already started with building the first principles of what we now see also in our solution.
0:07:32.5 ML: After like a year of working with Klaus, so his name is Klaus, I decided to start in a large corporate to grow a lot of experience. So I was going to Accenture, which is now one of the largest IT consultancies and management consultancies in the world. Because of my time back at the job boards, I was actually deployed very quickly to the labor market space. So I was consulting governments all across Central Europe in how to build job boards and job matching platforms. So it kind of stayed in my zone, but I was not only focused on that. But I was basically collecting a lot of experience in like how to scale up and run large teams and do all kind of software integrations and migrations, so all kind of, maybe boring stuff for the web community.
0:08:23.0 ML: But it actually happened that I was spending some time in the US, actually in New York City, when I did an MBA studies, like post, so called post-graduate studies. And I kind of, I kind of felt, “Okay, there is something more I need to do.” So I was taking a lot of entrepreneurship classes and tech innovation classes. Met a lot of new people, and I was getting back to Austria in early 2016, and Klaus, the founder, he reached out to me and said, “Hey, how are you? Welcome back. You wanna talk?” And he actually showed me what he built over the last couple of years. And I said like, “Wow, that’s amazing.” And then he asked me, “Well, you wanna join?”
0:09:07.4 ML: So it was a process of about like one year of due diligence and investing and doing… Like finishing projects with my old employer, and it’s now exactly five years ago that I started with Jobiqo and we grew the company from six people to now more than 50 people. So we are trying to help businesses all around the world to run job boards, and we, we are more motivated than ever to do that, and I think… I’m always like, I think Jeff, your resources, your blogs, they were always one of my first go-to pieces when I started to investigate like where’s the market at. And recently you sent a newsletter and on the newsletter I found a comment from me back from 2017, and I felt it was quite accurate where the market was developing, so it was quite funny to see that.
0:09:58.5 SR: One of the things that has just… I’ve always been struck by Jobiqo is, is all of the conversations that I’ve had with you personally, Martin, and other people and your clients, current clients and former clients is you have this… It seems like it’s embedded in your DNA to be very collaborative, very consultative, whereas some of the other, let’s call them job board in a-box solutions, it’s more of a, “We’re a round hole, you’re a square peg. You need to become round in order to fit into our infrastructure.” It kinda got me to thinking when Jeff arranged for you to come on to this podcast that I suspect that Jobiqo has, almost like a matrix of like, “What job boards are a good fit for us. New, long-term job boards, small, medium, large.” So for the listeners, if they’re running or thinking of creating a job board, they just launched a job board or they’ve had one that’s been around for years and years, or they’re very small or very large, like what kinds of job boards are a good fit for… For not just at Jobiqo, but just outsourcing the technology.
0:11:14.6 ML: Yeah, absolutely. So I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, but we always considered ourselves as being trusted advisors, so especially… So Jobiqo is a… We would call it a high touch software solution, so it’s very powerful, and there comes a lot of responsibility with using such a powerful platform, so we always had the aim of like, we wanna make sure our customers really can do what they want to do with the platform. So who is our perfect customer? So I would say organizations that want to scale their business and actually it doesn’t necessarily need to be a business case that you have. You can also have a service case. So we’re typically working with newspapers, publishers, associations, universities but we also work with non-profit organizations, so you could also have like a service case.
0:12:06.3 ML: But we found our sweet spot, especially with the newspapers and publishers of this world, and media brands who want to adapt quickly, and who want to drive change in the market. So basically we are working very closely with our customers, so it’s not a solution where you just enter your credit card and then you do everything yourself. So there’s a lot of knowledge that you can find in our FAQs, and onboarding and so on. But still, we like to work together with our customers. We are kind of excited of what our customers are doing, and we are now running job boards in 20 countries globally, so we also need to have this core interest in understanding what the difference are.
0:12:46.1 ML: And you started… You started the podcast with talking about regulation and maybe compliance, and what we figured out quite quickly, there are… We’re a software company headquartered in Austria. We have people in across 12 countries working with us, but we immediately figured out, well there is not this just one way of running a job board. There is different ways of running a job board, and one of the reason is also compliance. Like there’s different compliance regulations in different markets, so you need to be adaptable and you need to understand what the customer really needs, and you need to guide the customer in like how the customer can use the platform to someone’s advantage.
0:13:24.9 ML: So this is why I think we always focused on being trusted advisors and also learnt how to say no. Like there is so much you could do with the platform because it’s flexible, but over the time we learned focusing more on our product and a product market fit. So this is really something… We call it the product-led growth of the company. And we were getting better and better. But we are learning and learning, and I learned from you, like I learned from Steven’s presentations, not just in the US, but also in Europe about how programmatic will change the market, things like that. I think as long as you always have one part of your brain on the learning and one part of your brain on finding the right solution, because you also need to tell the customer, “Well, maybe it’s better like this and that,” but don’t stop listening. This is kind of how we’re growing the company, and this is how I believe our customers value a lot.
0:14:19.9 JD: Martin, I’m kind of curious, one of the things that has historically set Jobiqo apart from a lot of your competitors, it’s the fact that you guys are open source. Can you tell me why did you guys decide to do that, and how do you think that benefits the customers?
0:14:35.6 ML: Yeah, so basically, we built on open source platforms, but the majority of our stack that we now have, we built in a proprietary way. So for example, our search and match technology, it’s a proprietary solution, but it’s integrated. And we used the open source platforms as an accelerator for building what we wanted to build. And it also goes back historically a little bit because we used to be more like an agency, like a software agency. So we used to work with customers just on demand and whatever the customer needed we would just build it on top of the open source stack. Now we’re more and more transitioning to a real product company, and we did this… We started with this shift basically four to five years ago, and we’re doing very well. So we basically see ourselves as a software, as a service product. It comes with a lot of core features, but also more and more ability to configure and sometimes also customized to the needs of the customer.
0:15:35.7 ML: So they really… Our customer can really drive change in the market or be successful in the market because our customers also have competitors and they wanna try out new products, things like that. So this is how we evolved, but changing this mindset from just doing everything, like just the customer says versus thinking about a good product, it took us a long way. Because it’s a diff… As you said in the beginning, we’re very guiding our customers, but we also… We wanna help our customers. So if a customer has a request, we wanna fulfill the request, and I think that’s actually a great thing. So first of all, this is a great thing. You also need to think about the overall picture. And this is basically the product and the product offering you have, and the product offering evolves over time. So job boards are slightly changing, I think there is yet not that revolution, so at least I didn’t see it yet.
0:16:30.2 ML: I think it’s a quite incrementally changing market, so maybe we can talk a little bit more about that in a minute, but other than that, I think we’re now on the right way of changing the way people find jobs online with our platform. So we never… We have never been a very outgoing company, so we always like to be the tech guys. And by doing this, by doing this, you sometimes miss the opportunity to start a conversation. So I would say we’re starting conversations more often than we used to do like five years ago, and that’s a good thing.
0:17:04.7 JD: So, you touched on this, and so why don’t you expand a little bit. What do you think is going on in terms of the evolution of job boards, because I’ve been talking for a while about how the concept of the traditional job board that’s just out there, and they’re… All they do is they offer a paper post and a simple search, and that’s it. That… I don’t see that much anymore with startups, even simple startups, they tend to be what I call a hybrid model, where they’re offering a couple of different things. They often offer things that go a little bit deeper into the hiring process than the traditional job boards did, but I don’t know, what’re you seeing, Martin?
0:17:41.3 ML: Back in 2019 we started to sum up a little bit of different business models that we see in the job board space, we called it the job board model playbook. You can download it on our website, but basically it also… There’s the… We’re also talking about the hybrid model that you just said. I think it depends a little bit on which market geographically you’re looking at. If you simplify it a lot everything comes from the US, goes through the UK, and then it may end up in Europe or the rest of the world. And there’s things adapting quickly and that there’s things adapting very slowly. So I think the market changed dramatically in the US, if you compare it to what happened actually in Europe. So we were more concerned about integrating and complying with the GDPR than to think about new ways of business models on job boards.
0:18:35.5 ML: So I think we’re… I think it’s a good thing and an important thing to empower the individual and think about things like GDPR, but at the same time it kind of got us thinking more about that, more about the compliance part, less about the new business models. And it really depends. So we have customers that are still in the very traditional print-based advertising world. And you try to find integration to the online world, and you basically integrate your print ads to the job boards. So that’s one part of what we do, but then we have customers who backfill millions of jobs, who wanna run only programmatic ad campaigns, wanna drive clicks on every single job and have a very short turnaround time in getting new content on the site. So it’s very data-driven, it’s very volume scaling. So this is what we see more in the US, and I think this is the current… The current step in the evolution of the job boards. If you think more about what can you do with the data, what can you do with what you see, what is happening on your job board. Explaining recruiters, what is actually a good KPI to look at?
0:19:46.1 ML: How many clicks do you wanna have on a job, how many applications, what’s the cost of application, what’s the cost of hiring? I think looking at those KPIs, it becomes more and more obvious that this is important, but it takes time to really make the end users of your products understand that this is actually important. And why is it that way? I think recruiting is a very people-savvy industry. So it’s all about getting in touch with people and working with people, so it’s not just plain tech. And if you think about that, it also means that it takes… The processes take longer, you take your time interviewing someone, you interview many candidates for a job, and after a couple of weeks, at least in Europe, you make a selection and then you want to hire someone and you wanna make these people stay. Well, and if you now come to a recruiter and say, “Well, there’s this new performance-based ad and I can get you a much better cost per click or cost per application,” it’s overwhelming. Because three months from now, a different provider could have the leading cost per application than now.
0:20:51.6 ML: So it’s a very quickly evolving market, it’s all about digital marketing and how… Just look at the cost per… The CPCs and the CPMs that you get on Facebook, for example. You need to really dive into this topic and make yourself familiar with it, otherwise you’re just overwhelmed. And I think that’s the reason why still it takes longer than expected to… For especially also for programmatic ads and performance-based marketing to establish in the recruitment advertising market and the recruitment industry itself, but it’s there. So there’s an anchor there and everybody knows that you need to think about that, and systems and platforms need to be able to handle that. If you can solve every problem in the market with that, we don’t know. So there’s use cases that work very well with programmatic, high-volume recruitment and large-scale advertising. Perfectly well. And then you maybe search just one specific person in an area where there is almost no talent, so maybe it’s easier to find a different way to get to this candidate.
0:21:57.5 ML: And I see this as the fun in like working with our customers. So what’s their idea to help employers find people? What’s their idea to… How do they want to approach the candidate? Do they just want to have the newest content every day? And you have 1,000 new jobs every day or 100,000 jobs every day? Are you actually establishing a relationship and trying to engage with candidates? And that sounds so simple, but it’s not easy because most of the job boards think transactional. So you get a job ad and you drive a click or a conversion, and that’s it. But what is the engagement with the candidates?
0:22:36.0 ML: So this is, I think, something that is missing. And as soon as we have this challenge solved, I think that also performance-based marketing in our space will grow much faster because there’s more trust, and solutions and products like that. I think there’s a big… Still a big fear of automation, machine learning, AI, so when I’m at conferences talking about that… There’s also a big fear like would it replace all the human beings in the process and what is… If the machine is biased and things like that. So I think there is a lot of fear still, and concerns around this new tech, but it’s continuously evolving.
0:23:15.3 JD: It’s been the story of all of our lives that you can worry about the tech, you can embrace the tech, but it kinda doesn’t matter. The tech’s just gonna keep growing and expanding, but… Well, listen, Martin, I think that’s probably a good place to leave this conversation. We’re running out of time, but I really appreciate you coming on the podcast, and if any of the listeners wanna get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
0:23:38.2 ML: Best way is to go on www.jobiqo.com, that’s J-O-B-I-Q-O.com or download our playbook on jobiqo.com/playbook. And people can always reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m very responsive on LinkedIn, kind of a LinkedIn addict. So type in Martin Lenz on LinkedIn and Jobiqo, you will find me and can connect with me. And so I’m happy to connect with each and everyone who wants to have a conversation.
0:24:04.8 JD: That’s great, that’s great. Well, well, thanks again. And Steven, if people wanna get in touch with you, how do they do that?
0:24:11.1 SR: You can just shoot me an email, email@example.com. And Martin, I wanna really thank you for bringing the conversation at the end back to the human. Because whether it’s duration-based, whether it’s resume or CV searching, whether it’s programmatic, whatever it is, at the end of the day, this is a business about helping people find great new jobs. And it’s hard as a job board operator to remember that at times, but the more you remember that, the better your business will be.
0:24:41.3 ML: Yes.
0:24:42.4 JD: Words of wisdom from Steven Rothberg. I said he’s inquisitive, but I believe he’s gotten philosophical at the end of the show. So anyway, that’s it for this episode of JobBoardGeek. Be sure to subscribe via RSS feed or Apple or Spotify or whatever. And again, my name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, I’m the Job Board Doctor, and I’m glad that you’ve been listening to the only podcast that focuses on the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s it for today. See you again next time.