Job search engine Jobs2Careers launched ipply in August 2016. The app, native to both iOS and Android mobile devices, promised to help small businesses manage their applicant pool without the necessity of an applicant tracking system. The solution smartly integrated with Craigslist and applications driven from the popular classifieds site.
The company seemed excited about it. It even made hats. “ATSs have written small businesses off,” said Thad Price, current COO at Jobs2Careers at launch. “We think that state of mind opens the door for us to pursue a tremendous opportunity.”
Cracking the small business recruitment market is a tremendous opportunity, indeed, but ipply isn’t going to be the Jobs2Careers product that does it. The company shuttered the product. There was no official announcement, but it was most likely killed off in the last six months. The page promoting the app still lives, but the links to the app on the AppStore and Google Play go to broken pages.
“We shifted resources to On Demand Talent to enhance our value prop to customers,” explained Price when asked what happened. “We still believe there is a huge opportunity to help micro-businesses hire more effectively, and have some ideas to leverage our learnings to improve ipply and connect our services.”
It was a clever product. Small businesses such as local dry cleaners and car dealerships, already posting jobs on Craigslist, could use ipply to scour their email account and pull applications into the app. No more scrolling through that Gmail account to manage candidates. There was also a simple screening tool.
The solution was also free, which Jobs2Careers hoped would expedite adoption, and it also served as a potential lead generator for the primary business. Getting a certain percentage of small businesses using the free app to boost a posting or two on Jobs2Careers for greater exposure would increase revenues. If a small company became a bigger company, well, that’d be the cherry on top.
Clever doesn’t always work when selling HR tech, however. “I fear scaling this solution is going to prove incredibly difficult,” I wrote when reviewing the product at launch. “My experience with small businesses is they mentally shut off anything that requires learning a new skill or potentially adding time to their already busy life. For most, throwing an ad up on Craigslist and going through emails is comfortable. It’s not broken.”
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Penetrating mom-and-pop businesses is also incredibly expensive, and Jobs2Careers didn’t seem committed to the task when it launched the app. “We won’t commit salespeople to call on small businesses,” Price said in 2016. “We’ll be focusing on education through partnerships,” he added. “We’ll connect with state and local Chambers of Commerce to get the word out about our service and how small businesses can benefit from hiring smarter.”
The major challenge in conquering SMBs? “Shifting a behavior of micro-businesses,” said Price. “They are entrenched in their current process.” Indeed. Changing human behavior can be a real Everest.
I won’t fault any company for throwing new products at the wall to see what sticks and what doesn’t. And I won’t criticize them for quickly moving on from projects that aren’t working, which seems to be the case with ipply. It should, however, be a lesson to them and anyone else thinking they can succeed in the SMB market that it isn’t easy, and it isn’t going to be cheap.
When asked if penetrating small businesses was a fool’s errand, Price said, “Depends on value, focus, and functionality. The one thing every small business needs is candidate flow. Native applications have the opportunity to improve this. However, regardless of how great your hiring work flow is, if you don’t have candidates, there’s little value.”