The Name May Be Fishy, But This Site Could Hook You A Winner

Jan 26, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Here is a project for GrouperEye: Explain the name and develop a marketing plan for the site. What’s in it for you is $100 and a shot at an internship.

That’s the premise behind this new site with the odd name that has nothing to do with fish. In fact, confesses founder Ted Williams, “I wish I had a cool story about snorkeling and looking into a grouper’s eye when the idea went off in my head, but the name was chosen to be unique and memorable. Sure, a lot of people think it is dumb and it may make it difficult for us to market ourselves, but it fits with our strategy — create a remarkable experience.”

Simply put, GrouperEye allows companies looking for interns to offer a sort of tryout without making any commitment other than to award a $100 prize.

Cookthink is a case in point. The cooking-oriented website figured its recipe search tool was sufficiently unique that it could be licensed to others. But the small company didn’t have the resources to hire a marketing firm. So it turned to GrouperEye, offering $100, lunch with the founders, and virtual internships for a 1-3 page summary of a licensing business plan.

The deadline for submittals has not yet passed, so we can’t say how things turned out, but Cookthink co-founder Chip Brantley likes the concept.

“I like the environment that GrouperEye creates for recruiting,” Brantley wrote in an email. “We’ve used other websites for recruiting in the past, and it all feels the same. If GE (GrouperEye) can get good people, then I think the way the site’s set up will draw a lot of companies because of the format; you can learn a lot more about a student on GE than you can through a resume or even phone interview.”

That’s the idea, says Williams, who previously launched a video production firm mostly for fun. “Students receive the chance to get noticed for a job opportunity, cash, experience, and a tangible portfolio. Companies receive access to top talent, an employee screening mechanism, original ideas, and buzz.”

Intended to help employers find top students for their internships, GrouperEye doesn’t have to be used that way. Razume, a user-mediated, resume-building site, is looking for a plan to increase participation on its site. The best plan wins $100, but no internship. Razume, however, is the exception and getting great ideas on the cheap is not the objective.

Williams, only a year out of business school himself, said the inspiration for GrouperEye came from discussions with his friends who lamented the difficulty of getting noticed by companies. “You can ask any college student and they will tell you the system is dumb. Unless you have close to a 4.0 or know wealthy people who can hook you up with a job, finding a job is the wild wild West,” says Williams. “Companies need to discover and hire the best talent. Students need a way to get noticed for their ideas and originality.”

There are other sites for students seeking internships. Craigslist is probably the most widely used, but MonsterTrak, Experience, and are also popular. None, however, takes the competitive tryout approach that GrouperEye does.

GrouperEye charges $199, which includes the $100 prize money. Eight employers have so far taken the plunge, including Motley Fool, the investment advice site. Williams says the company now needs to sign up both employers outside the Washington, D.C. area, where it’s based and expand to colleges and universities nationwide.

Up to now, he tells us, he’s focused on developing the product. “We firmly believe that the best marketing is creating a product worth talking about. Therefore, we have spent the majority of our time creating an experience worth talking about. We are just now making the switch from product-focused to marketing-focused.”

“Everybody loves the concept, but whether we can take this love and translate it into success is yet to be seen.”

It’s a challenge all right, but Williams knows right where to go for help. He posted his project to GrouperEye.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.