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HR Technology Column

The Talented (and Popular) MrTed

Recruiting software vendor MrTed has established a major presence in Europe and China during the last 10 years but has never managed to crack the U.S. market. Now it's looking for vendor partners in the United States, which is finally making it very popular here.

Monday, January 11, 2010
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I am ashamed to admit that, for at least seven of its 10 years in business, I've held a grudge against European recruiting vendor MrTed for not properly punctuating "Mr." in its name.

Absurd, when you think about all the nonsensical capital letters -- my old friend Esther Dyson and I always called them "endocapitals" -- and portmanteaus we've tolerated in the software world without complaint: PeopleSoft, SuccessFactors and lots of others. (Did you know Microsoft was earlier named "MicroSoft"?)

But I own four different editions of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, so I take traditional English grammar and punctuation very seriously. Yes, right to the fuddy-duddy level.

Then about a year ago, I discovered that my grudge was just another example of my "ethnocentrism," a label globalist Karen Beaman rightly pasted on me during her interview on The Bill Kutik Radio Show®.

MrTed is a UK company, and the Brits properly don't put a period after "Mr." So, even though CEO Jerome Ternynck is French and moved MrTed to the UK, I've given it up.

During all the time I was looking elsewhere, he's made MrTed a recruiting software power in Europe and AsiaPac, with about 200 enterprise customers in more than 100 countries. His largest markets are the UK, Germany, China and France, with an average company size of 25,000 employees.

In September, the Chinese Talent Association, essentially the country's centralized recruiting authority, chose MrTed to build a nationwide online talent-acquisition system to be used by 3,500 recruiters and more every day. IBM will host it.

Plus, 14 months ago, he launched a kind of free SMB product called SmartRecruiters, whose fees are largely paid by revenue splits from its integrated partners like job boards and background checkers.

It has 2,000 customers, with about 70 percent in the United States. Like a major competitor, the Taleo Business Edition, SmartRecruiters is based on another product and not the enterprise system's code base.

But an expert familiar with small company recruiting systems told me: "It rocks! It truly is WYSIWYG -- what you see is what you get -- and you get a lot for free. They are starting to separate some features from free to a small monthly subscription. Their product fits right into my own small business's suite of Web 2.0 applications: customer relationship management, paper-free invoicing and my accounting books."

Then on New Year's Eve, the enterprise product, MrTedTalentLink, became Cloud 9, its latest version, though its SaaS-based customers can stick with the old product.

In addition to a new user interface, Cloud 9 has upgraded the technology from Cold Fusion (which Vurv used) to Java. It will feature a variety of Web services to integrate external applications: job posting, assessments, background checking, etc. Plus it allows Twitter-like updates on candidates.

In the future, the company hopes Cloud 9 will allow integrated finding of candidates on LinkedIn and Facebook, and offer dynamic updating of resumes already in recruiters' hands, like Jobfox does today.

This all sounds so good that I am constantly plagued by the question: After 10 years of trying, why has MrTed failed to sell a single U.S. company for its U.S. operations?

Sure, it has lots of foreign operations for U.S.-based companies and some U.S. operations for foreign companies. But not a single sale to any company based here for its operations here.

Rick Vigilis is the latest executive to take on this seemingly thankless task. After years with Taleo and then doing recruitment-process outsourcing with Hewitt, he has been in charge of North America for MrTed since April.

"Smarts, money, people?" he wonders in answer to that question. "Whatever the reason, the new strategy is partnering with existing U.S. vendors, letting them white label the product [use it without MrTed's name on it], then sell the company in three-to-five years. Although we may have our first direct U.S. company shortly."

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With recruiting being one of the two big honking apps bookending the talent management suite (learning is the other), there has been no paucity of interest in MrTed among vendors that don't have recruiting and may not want to write it, at least for now.

The interest is compounded by how few large-company recruiting vendors have stuck to their knitting and not expanded into talent management. Peopleclick is another.

It feels like every time I've visited an HR software vendor's office since July I've bumped into Jerome. Of course, I haven't, but Vigilis mentions Saba, Workscape, Plateau and Workday as potential partners currently in active discussions. Perhaps a partnership will have been announced by the time you read this.

But how does MrTed partner with multiple vendors when the intention is to be acquired by one a few years from now? Where would that leave the others?

"We're still working that out," Rick says.

Whatever happens, MrTed will finally be entering the U.S. market in a big way. I wonder if the company will finally add the period?

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is co-chairman of the 13th Annual HR Technology® Conference & Exposition in Chicago, Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, 2010. You can comment on his column at the Conference LinkedIn Group , which has open membership. He is also host of The Bill Kutik Radio Show ®. He can be reached at bkutik@earthlink.net .  

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