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Creating more than a buzz for BrainBuzz.com

The Tampa Bay area company wants to be a national player by creating a place where informational technology professionals can meet, keep up on news and look for jobs.

By DAVE GUSSOW

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 11, 1999


BrainBuzz beeTAMPA -- The billboards of a giant, menacing mosquito grabbed attention, as did having a well-known bay area business leader as chief executive. But BrainBuzz.com still has to convince people that it's not just another online job board.

"We're creating the mother of all technology sites," said Tom Wallace, president of BrainBuzz, a place where information technology professionals can go to meet others in their field, keep up on news, stay current in their training and, yes, look for jobs, too.

BrainBuzz has provided a comeback opportunity in a trendy field for its chief executive, Dan Doyle, co-founder and former CEO of Danka Business Systems PLC before his ouster last year. Now it has to prove it's more than another eager Internet start-up.

Jobs are big online, with thousands of companies using sites to advertise openings and job seekers posting resumes. With competition fierce for advertisers and job seekers, sites continue to add services such as career counseling. At stake for BrainBuzz and the others is a slice of an online recruiting ad market expected to reach $1.7-billion by 2003, up from $105-million last year, according to market research firm Forrester Research. The biggest players in the field include Monster.com, known for its deadpan commercials of kids describing their ambitions for mundane jobs. And there are new job sites with deep pockets, such as the recently announced Brass Ring (www.brassring.com), whose investors include the Washington Post Co., Kaplan Educational Centers and the Tribune Co.

Privately held BrainBuzz also faces stiff competition in its chosen niche, catering to information technology professionals, people such as network engineers and programmers. Here the players include www.earthweb.com and www.techrepublic.com.

Wallace said BrainBuzz understands that things move quickly on the Internet and plans a fast expansion. The start-up campaign, which included traditional media such as the eye-catching billboards and radio ads, focused on the Tampa Bay area and Orlando. Before the end of the year, BrainBuzz expects to open shop in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville. Next year, it hopes to have a national campaign under way.

It has set up communities for network engineers, developers and Java programmers, with six more areas planned in the coming year. Each community has forums on special interest topics, links to news of interest from sites such as Byte.com, and places for job seekers and employers. For job seekers, the service is free (though registration is required).

BrainBuzz makes its money from companies that pay to advertise jobs, as well as to scan resumes that users post on the site. The subscription access to resumes and jobs, BrainBuzz says, will prevent head hunters and placement services from gaining access.

Wallace founded and sold two successful companies, including the Waldec Group in Tampa, a computer systems integration company. Jeff D'Adamo is the vice president of communities at BrainBuzz, which means he helps establish the special interest areas on the site for various professionals. He was president of vCommunity Inc., which ran Extracheez.com, another site for IT professionals that has been merged into BrainBuzz. Chief technology officer Marvin Scaff was founder and former CEO of software development company Kinetoscope, where he still serves as chairman.

"I don't really think of us as a start-up," Wallace said.

Without giving financial details, Wallace said BrainBuzz is well-funded and prepared to be around for a long time. Content that it doesn't create may be provided through tie-ins and partnerships, such as a recently announced deal with Productivity Point International, a North Carolina company that does high-tech training. BrainBuzz will create a community where PPI alumni can meet, and PPI will promote BrainBuzz to its students.

In addition, Wallace said BrainBuzz will add to its offerings through acquisitions. Again, he is mum on details.

"There is no dominant brand" in this field, D'Adamo said, and BrainBuzz aims to build one.

BrainBuzz's ad campaign may help establish an identity in a crowded field, said Andrew Bartels, an analyst with the Giga Information Group. "You have to build brand awareness in the real world, not just the online world."

The bigger test for its longer-term prospects, Bartels said, is a variety of factors, including how well the company establishes a reputation for quality, unique information and the array of services it offers for a niche market.

"One of the problem areas on the Web is establishing that you're trustworthy," he said. "That type of special content can build credibility."

BrainBuzz has signed up some notable Tampa Bay area companies to post jobs there, including Catalina Marketing, Eckerd Corp. and IMRglobal.

But, again, Wallace said, BrainBuzz is more than that.

"We have to do it as one package" with multiple services, he said. "We're not just a job site."


-- Information from Times files was used in this report.

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