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Nigeria’s rapidly growing online job search market

When you start talking about online employment sites, you’re likely to mention global behemoths such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, both originating from the United States. Or perhaps you think about the UK’s Reed.co.uk or India’s Naukri.com. But with the success of these online career sites as an example, Nigerian entrepreneurs are finally keying into the online job search market.

Today there are probably over 100 online job sites in Nigeria, all offering to match employers and employees, but with different business models and technical functionality. Some of the most popular online job sites in Nigeria include Jobberman.com, CareersNigeria.com (which I helped start in August 2007), and NigerianJobHub.com, while across the wider continent, popular African job search portals include FindAJobInAfrica.com, ZebraJobs.com and WazobiaJobs.com

All of these sites have one thing in common: they offer job seekers and employers an opportunity to fulfill their employment needs. But some do it so much better than others.

Upside

Some of these online job sites were launched to try and emulate the success of the leading job search engines. Their success can be measured in terms of the great value they provide to job seekers, recruiters and advertisers.

In terms of revenue, it is very clear that globally, it’s a winning proposition. In 2009, CareerBuilder’s revenue was estimated at US$542 million, with its sole source of revenue being paid job ads, banner ads and affiliate programmes. According to Wikipedia, “CareerBuilder.com is the largest online employment website in the United States, with more than 23 million unique visitors each month and a 34% market share of help-wanted websites in the United States.”

Downside

However, online job search engines have witnessed a great deal of criticism. According to Wikipedia.com, in August 2007, “Monster had numerous leaks that resulted in the loss of millions of customers’ data to identity theft”, and received a lot of criticism for this.

Monster later announced new security measures to prevent this happening again, but in January 2009 there was another large scale leak at its UK-based site in which, according to Wikipedia, “demographic information of up to 4.5-million people was obtained by hackers”.

Nigerian Story

Obviously, the job search market in Nigeria is overly saturated, yet potentially lucrative. It has grown exponentially over the last two years, mainly due the recent economic recession that hit the banking industry and other sectors so hard. As a result, it appears that a new online job site is started every other week, mostly built with the same web applications.

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with using these applications for job sites, but when they are not used correctly or integrated with the right functionality, it can makes it very frustrating to search and find the right jobs.

One of the biggest problems is that so many of the job sites are merely a replica of others, and even copy content directly from other job sites without any differentiation strategy.

With all of these seemingly stereotyped situations, are there any success stories? The answer is yes. According to Ayodeji Adewunmi, co-founder of Jobberman.com, the most intuitive job search engine in Nigeria: “The job vertical is a very large and interesting problem…[yet] for us, it has always been about having a kick-ass product and making customer acquisition central to our business. We are excited about the opportunities and possibilities of making a difference in this space…the entry barrier is low but the critical mass barrier is tough”.

Adewumni is philosophical about the competition, saying that he thinks “the competition makes it interesting, makes it fun, keeps the juices flowing, and it helps us raise the bar…because educating a market is a very expensive proposition”.

On revenue generation: “We are already generating revenues from paid listings and banners,” he says. Though he didn’t give exact revenue figures, he predicts that Nigeria’s online recruitment industry would be generating US$10 million in revenues in the next 5 years.

Case Study 1: Jobberman

Launched in August 2009, Jobberman.com is a job search and career development web site that provides next-generation recruitment solutions in Nigeria.

  • Co-founded by Ayodeji Adewunmi, Opeyemi Awoyemi, Olalekan Olude and Faisal Chohan, Jobberman received seed funding for an undisclosed fee in January 2010 from L5Lab, which owns a 50% stake in Jobberman and another 50% equity in Smart Systems Limited.
  • Jobberman.com has a business model which includes advertising (premium ad sales + ad network), licensing (building SaaS portals for corporations) and subscriptions (premium services for users like resume services, interview mockups, distribution of resumes to head-hunting agencies, etc).
  • In less than one year of launch, Jobberman has posted over 4000 jobs, over 1000 companies listed, over 50, 000 users and a database of over 10, 000 CVs.

Case Study 2: Identified
Identified.com is a new recruiting tool that, according to its Facebook page “provides an interactive online platform for candidates and companies to communicate, connect and ultimately find jobs, transforming a candidates existing social network into a professional recruitment tool”.

  • Identified.com was founded by Adeyemi Ajao, founder of Tuenti.com, the largest social network in Spain (recently acquired by Telefonica for $99 million), and Brendan Wallace, a Princeton University graduate who worked at Goldman Sachs and The Blackstone Group. Both Brendan and Adeyemi have experienced the pain of on-campus recruiting, both as candidates and as campus recruiting representatives at their respective companies.
  • Since an estimated 90% of students spend an average of 90 minutes per day on Facebook, the guys at Identified realised that their friends and contacts on Facebook could help land them a job.
  • They specualate that a student with 500 Facebook friends who uses Identified can have 40 000 potential connections at over 3 000 companies.
  • Although Identified.com has yet to finalize its revenue model, it has completed a seed financing round of US$1.5-million from a diverse and distinguished list of angel investors, including Eric Schmidt, Bill Draper, John Glynn, Alexander Tamas, Chamath Palihapitiya, Sky Dayton, Joel Peterson, Fadi Ali Ghandour.
  • In its first month of operation, Identified.com attracted over 6000 users.

Final Thoughts

These two case studies show that an online job search idea with a unique value proposition can be hugely successful and rewarding. As Ayodeji noted, it involves a lot of discipline, sticking to the plan, iterating, getting things done, gaining traction and building a critical mass. And it is interesting that there are other potential ways to monetise online job sites beyond Google ads, paid jobs, contextual or banner ads.

Still, I’m dying to see a niche job search service (perhaps SMS-based) dedicated to people looking for jobs (freelance or part-time) based on their locality. This service could come in handy especially for nursing mothers. It could be called Jobalize or Jobocality, even Jobspot.

I imagine that listing a job vacancy for a school teacher in your street or locality or within a distance (in km or miles) might pay off, rather than looking for the same position across the whole city or state. [A good example is SimplyHired.com] Hopefully, if the user gets the job, your service would have solved a need, added value and reduced stress-related issues such as traffic.

Meantime, if you’re thinking of starting an online job search site for emerging markets, I would advise you to really look at ways to differentiate your business strategy, especially if you’re relying on Google Adsense for revenues. You are probably sailing into an over-crowded space without your sails up.

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