Author Archives: Paula Marttila

Recruiting Disrupted: What’s Your Online Score?

Finding the needle in a haystack in search for the right talent is getting harder as the traditional recruitment models are being disrupted by social networks and increasing number of online services for professional resumes. True story: While professional social network LinkedIn just passed 100M members, growing at a rate of 1M new members per week, an executive recruiting agency just had a seminar on topics “What is LinkedIn?” and “The difference between Twitter and a chat?”. They better hurry. The landscape is rapidly moving towards social recruiting services in verticals, good example being the newly launched Careers 2.0 by Stack Overflow, offering programmers create free online resume that weighs in their forum activity.

Niel Robertson, CEO of Trada, wisely explains the near future scenario:
“No longer will your resume be your own version of your work history; it will also include a data-driven third party’s assessment. You will also be judged by your network, online activity, level of contribution, all adding up to your online score. The next time you look for a job, don’t be surprised if someone asks you for your score.”
“How much are you worth and would you opt-out from social scoring systems?”
If job candidates need to keep up with their online “score”, for a company looking for top talent, besides from always being recruiting, it’s no longer enough to scroll online resumes, social network presence and influence of potential candidates. To attract talent it must also dress up and become interesting: As Fred Wilson clearly points out; There’s a war for talent, especially developer talent. Would your company not be quite ready to go for an online game solution, like e.g. cosmetic brand L’Oreal with its virtual office Reveal, where job applicants go online to visit several workplaces to solve particular situations and problems, there’re still other options.

Student Competitions Harnessing World’s Top Students

According to UNESCO, number of tertiary students in the world has grown with 50% between 2000 and 2007, reaching approx 153 Million students in 2007. Much of this fast growth is due to changes in Asia. Interestingly, there are now more tertiary students in low- and middle-income countries. Targeting students addresses huge global market opportunity, thus many organizations and initiatives are aiming to engage students with help of competitions, challenges and networking opportunities.

Swedish startup Student Competitions siezed the opportunity in this growth, offering companies recruitment and innovation challenges targeted to students. It’s the world’s largest online platform for major global student competitions, hosting over 700 competitions and events for 35 000 subscribing students from all over the world. To its help Student Competitions has a network of over 300 student ambassadors in over 60 countries spreading the word and engaging with students locally.

Student Competitions was founded in January 2010 by four students, Gustav Borgefalk, Robert Lyngman, Zhu Chu and Niklas Jungegård, tired of spending hours searching the web to find the world’s best competitions. There had to be a better way; resulting Student Competitions too see the daylight. I got to know Gustav Borgefalk already back in 2009 when he was CEO of Filehill, a marketplace to trade digital content. Student Competitions is backed by entrepreneur and one of the Swedish Dragons’ Den investors Mats Gabrielsson, as has received initial seed funding from Vinnova, Swedish Governmental Innovation Agency. (Read more on Nordic seed stage funding and angel investors)

Quick Challenges Takes Away The Pain From Competition Administration

Organizing a competition requires extra administrative efforts by the organizer, resulting many companies hesitating to use competitions as a channel for communications and recruitment. Student Competitions is lowering that barrier to entry with help of Quick Challenges, a short video pitching format service, that offers help both to create, host and facilitate competitions to source candidates, make an initial screening and deliver matching global top talent. Besides from testing students on real-world problems, it’s a good employer branding tool to communicate company culture and values. Quick challenges, that can be both private and public, is also available as easy to embed and brand white label solution. Naturally, one doesn’t have to just target students, nor use it for recruiting purposes only.

Lund University Master Your Idea Challenge 2010 is a great use case of Quick Challenge. The competition was organized to increase Lund University brand awareness with one year free scholarship as the first prize. During the month of competition it received applications from over 30 countries across all continents. It’s first in line of actions taken by universities to attract international students to study in Sweden and positioning themselves as top institutions in their respective field. (Due to a new Swedish law, beginning of fall 2011 all international student outside EU and EEA are to pay an annual fee of approx. SEK 80K ($12.6K). With no system for scholarships in place, the drop of international students is estimated to devastating 95% (19 300 in 2008)).

Offering a global platform that benefits and solves a problem for students comes with positive side effects, ie the power of meta data. With wide range of valuable data on preferences of the global students by both geography and nationality, Student Competitions can also offer targeted marketing communications and market research among students, especially in emerging markets. Note: This is where I see the service hitting the real gold mine.

Eat Your Own Dog Food, Stay Close To Your Community

Student Competitions eats its own dog food to prove its business model. By attending competitions itself, it also stays close to its community. Representing Stockholm School of EntrepreneurshipStudent Competitions recently won Venture Challenge™, International MBA Business Plan Competition 2011, one of the biggest business plan competitions in the US.

As we all know, all great plans remain just great plans without great execution, timing and a twist of good luck. To keep its momentum and scale the initial traction, Student Competitions now needs an efficient online platform and communications strategy to drive its B2B sales. Considering the team lacks technical co-founder, as inhouse UX-competence, two major weaknesses when building an online service, I see this as the next big challenge for the team. By all means a “Quick Challenge” I believe it’s ready to take on.

Congrats guys, keep crushing and competing!

Co-founders Gustav Borgefalk, Robert Lyngman and Zhu Chu. Missing Niklas Jungegård.

Ps. You might also want to keep your eyes on Contestification. More on that soon.

Paula is online strategist and startup advisor. She is startup mentor at Seedcamp and Springboard. She blogs at and here at
Connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn,
Drop her email at paula.marttila[at]gmail[dot]com

SoundCloudSoundCloud, the Berlin-based open platform for audio sharing on the web and mobile devices keeps making noise. During the past six months it’s grown from 1 Million to 2 Million users, having attracted both Snoop Dog and Justin Bieber as customers. To keep up with its fast growth in order to become the leader in audio hosting and sharing, as to establish its US presence and the San Francisco office, it needs more fuel to execute. The rumors of raising new funding ($10 Million) were confirmed today, and we can congratulate Union Square Ventures with Fred Wilson and Index Ventures with Mike Volpi for joining the SoundCloud journey together with its prior investor Doughty Hanson Ventures.

I’ve been a fangirl of Soundcloud since its private beta, and long before Spotify Social came along, SoundCloud had been my home for music discovery. is still one of my favourite apps, perfect to discover new music from different cities. And now, with the new updated iPhone app, I finally get access to my SoundCloud favourite tracks list streaming nicely on the background. What. A. Relief.

Something tells me that my perfect world scenario, where I can check-in and discover the best food, music and places recommendations all in one isn’t that far away in the future…

In the era of social networking and democratization of the web, connecting with ones customers and audience on an emotional level is becoming ever so important and crucial for businesses.

Using video for digital storytelling has shown to be effective, but it has been, and still is, a bit of a mystery land and non-option to many companies due to high prizing and technically advanced solutions, combined with the requirements on high video quality.

23 Video from Denmark, Europe, or as Robert Scoble puts it,” the country that nobody visits!”, has just finished its international launch tour with a mission to make own videosites accessible to everyone. Everyone should have one, and everyone should be able to afford one. With over 200 running websites and paying customers, 23 Video is now going global offering 100 partners in 15 different countries.

23 Video has already been called for the WordPress for video by the tech savvy media, allowing one to get started by swiping a credit card, choosing a design and a domain name. With a self funded team of ten, 23 Video is taking up the fight against competitors like Brightcove and Ooyala, who combined are good for $145 Million in funding.

Case Study in Building Product and Launching Internationally

Moreover, 23 Video is a great case study on how to build a product and launch internationally in a very competitive landscape.

Want to show your support to your favourite brand, cause or event? Wish to reward your frequent customers and increase brand loyalty? Find a way to endorse your friends and colleaques?

Don’t worry, there’s a badge for that!

What Foursquare and Gowalla didn’t know, when they first created badges to reward user check-ins, was the massive snowball effect of badges they were about to start, now swiping over the social web like there’s no tomorrow. Everybody’s gotta have one.

Brand Awareness and Loyalty

As Loic Le Meur,  founder and CEO of Seesmic, reminds us, building your online brand is NOT about you, it’s about highlighting others. Badges work as a great vehicle for endorsing and highlighting others, while at the same time strengthening ones own online presence and brand.

Brands are quickly catching up on combining marketing efforts with game mechanics and social networking. One of the interesting companies in the space helping brands to achieve their goals is GetGlue, a social network for entertainment. Users can check-in and rate tv shows, movies, music and books to discover new favorites, see what friends are into, earn badges and even get a free copy of the sticker sent in the mail, for free. In September, over 500 000 users had created 10 million new unique ratings and check-ins, the official and authorized badges coming from major brands like HBO, FOX, Showtime and PBS.

As GetGlue explains it: It’s about emotions, enabling users connecting with the content. Check-in to Mad Men, anyone?

Connect with content, reward engagement and frequent users is also something CNN iReport aims to do by launching “On the campaign trail” badge for those participating in the iReport Election Challenge. More badges and surprises are reported to be released.

Even Q&A service Mahalo Answers has hopped on the train of badges, finding them a great and complementary way to engage and reward its frequent users.

Besides from encouraging user activity and increasing brand loyalty, badges can also be a way to create scarcity around, as to increase search engine ranking, of a brand, company or an organization.

Basno is a new platform that offers authenticated badges either to be sold or given away to users. With help of unique serial numbers, embedding unique invisible watermarks, and creating 2d bar codes for each instance of any badge on the platform, Basno aims to increase the value of digital goods through limited issuance of badges. The badges are stored in a vault, but can be shown on all major social networks.

Social recruiting

As many other industries, recruiting is also being disrupted by the social web, offering new ways to find, refer and match talent with job openings. In addition to competition from professional social network LinkedIn, now listing over 70 million members and one million company profiles, there is an increasing number of niched services like Endorse, helping people connect through friendly recommendations, and Twitter stream filling up with hashtags hunting for talent. How the yet to be launched Work Market, a marketplace for employers and workers with promise to make work work, is to disrupt the recruitment business, remains to be seen.

Founders of Estonian, a social recruiting service expanding the reach of job postings via social networks, are also creators of Talentag, your social CV online. Talentag makes it easy for people in your network, professional or private, to give you career boosting kudos in form of badges and thumbs up. By answering questions and giving thumbs up, or down, a chart with personality traits, such as cheerful, friendly, sophisticated, trustworthy, or giving, gets added to ones profile. Fast, easy, and yes, a playful way to endorse someone in your network. All endorsements can then be displayed and distributed on Facebook. Sign up with your Facebook or Linkedin account and see whether you also are to be endorsed as a Social Media Rockstar?

Talentag also offers event organizers a possibility to let event participants claim and display event badges on their profiles. A quick and visual way of listing my past events from Plancast or LinkedIn, for example.

As a good general rule of thumb when designing to include any type of social endorsements in your service, neither badges nor recommendations are simply just to be given away, they are to be earned.

Paula is online strategist and startup evangelist. She is also a mentor for startups at Seedcamp. She blogs at and here at
Connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn,
Drop her email at paula.marttila[at]gmail[dot]com

Flickr CC: Daniel Greene

When Foursquare, the coolest lbs kid in town, favourite of approx. 3 million users with 200 million check-ins, was down earlier this week, the social web reacted with frustration, sad tweets, and hunt for alternative check-in services.

Apparently, the most dedicated Foursquare users hooked on rewards and badges even chose to stay at home , until they were able to collect rewards of their check-ins.

“We are hearing from many users (they want to remain anonymous) that they are staying at home until the service is restored. One user called us on our tips hotline noting that it just “isn’t worth going out if you can’t get a badge”.”

The concept of check-in also continues to heat up among businesses, especially fashion industry going gaga over the new ways location based services allow brands to interact with, as monetize their customers. Good example of how hot it is, Swedish retailer giant H&M just launched their first Foursquare campaign in Sweden, regardless the fact, that use of location based services is still fairly moderate in Sweden. Gowalla holds the pole position with 35 000 users against Foursquare’s 9 000 users. The buzz and eyeballs around the campaign evidently are worth as much.

Sharing location was seemingly hot concept already back in 2007, when Facebook filed for a patent on general sharing location mechanisms. The patent was granted this week, adding an extra twist on the already competitive space. Finds You Interesting Places With Help Of Groups

The one not afraid of patents and competition is Swedish is all about location around groups and interests, based on the idea that your friends make the best maps. uses places from Foursquare, building enhanced search on top to let you find cool places nearby recommended by your group members. No need to trust the “Giraffe sign” :) I’ve been one of the beta testers, and since its release in July, the app has already had thousands of downloads.

When you check in with, you still check-in with Foursquare, so you don’t miss out on any badges or mayorships. But what’s unique to, with any check-in, one can also check-in with a group one belongs to. To give a sense of a venue’s popularity, unlike Foursquare, iPhone app also shows how many individual and team check-ins a venue has. Anyone can create its own group, and the possibility to create and add venues via is being added in the next coming update. Until now, it’s only been possible to check-in to already existing venues.

There’s no native Android app on the roadmap, instead an updated mobile web version with check-in functionality is round the corner. Check-ins with Facebook Places, which hasn’t reached Nordics yet, aren’t yet allowed by Facebook API, but instead is about to integrate with new Facebook Groups, released earlier this week with both privacy blunders as upsides, to let you share check-ins within a group, private or open. As before, one can share check-ins to both Facebook and Twitter. Gowalla users have, for now, been left out of the service. White Label To Boost Businesses’ Customer Engagement

Cartomapic, the startup behind, was founded early 2010 by a team with backgrounds in Google Maps and Spotify, surely qualifing regarding domain competence within location and app design. But, as all social check-in services, they’re about understanding and triggering human behaviour. Since grouping and categorizing venues as function isn’t considered a long term competitive advantage, needs to do something else differently. One way is to monetize by competing with a more attractive price model on partnerships than its established competitors. It also plans to offer its solution as a white label, letting businesses create their own branded check-in services around events, releases etc. I find the idea of focusing on aggregating check-ins and information from several location based services, e.g. like Buzzd does with hottest venues nearby right now, compelling. By also aggregating check-in info into a comprehensive recommendation system for groups, I could see how just might find its way to the end of the rainbow.

Paula is online strategist and startup evangelist. She blogs at and here at
Connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn,
Drop her email at paula.marttila[at]gmail[dot]com

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