Optical/IP Networks

Startups Team Up on Recruitment

Recruiting top talent isn’t cheap: So how do startups compete against the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), monster vendors with monster recruitment and branding budgets?

Eighteen startups in Massachusetts have found a way: joining forces.

They've formed a group called the HR Connection. The group, which includes such companies as Équipe Communications Corp., Tenor Networks Inc., PhotonEx Corp., and Network Engines Inc., was formed about a year ago by Joann Hyde, director of human resources for Équipe, and Janice Gordon, vice president of human resources at Network Engines.

The group’s purpose is to provide pre-IPO startups with a way to get more marketing and recruiting bang for their buck. Run collaboratively by HR directors from the member companies, the group meets once a month at Équipe’s offices in Acton, Mass., to plan promotional events and discuss ways of marketing their companies to potential job candidates.

One of the more successful things the group has done so far is an advertising campaign with Boston-based WBZ radio, a CBS affiliate The deal the group negotiated allows for each of the participating companies to have at least one produced radio advertisement, which is aired to thousands of listeners across 34 states, on a rotating basis during rush hour and during Bruins hockey games. The deal also includes co-sponsorship opportunities for events like the Boston Marathon and the Head of the Charles crew regatta. As a group, the companies were able to negotiate a year’s worth of advertising for $30,000 per company -- a great rate for the package, considering a single advertising spot that runs about two weeks would have cost each company about $24,000, says Gordon.

“There is no way that we could have purchased this package on our own,” she says. “When you think of the marketing budgets that Cisco and Nortel have, they can advertise during the Superbowl. We can’t do that, but together we can leverage our buying power and brand ourselves at events like the Boston Marathon. That gives us huge exposure that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”

The group also organizes their own recruiting events that they normally would have paid a third party to put on. Among their joint endeavors have been job fairs and salary surveys. “Salary surveys can cost up to $10,000 a pop,” says Hyde. “We’re doing it ourselves for nothing.”

For most startups, where the human resource department consists of only one or two people, sharing ideas with counterparts at other companies often becomes as valuable as the money the company saves on recruiting and marketing events. For example, the group brings in guest speakers to talk about developments in 401K plans and employment law.

The HR Connection is sponsoring a job fair tonight in Westford, Mass., at the Westford Regency Hotel. For more information go to www.hitechstartups.net.

-- Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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