In 2005, annual U.S. digital advertising spending was growing by the multi-billions, and Gloucester resident Neil Costa was managing a $20 million slice of the pie.
Back then, Costa was at Monster.com, the online go-to source for both ends of the job hunting industry: those looking to get hired and those looking to hire.
Monster.com was their interface. And Costa's job was to make sure they interfaced — not just by the hundreds, but by the thousands and tens of thousands.
Now, Costa has brought all his learned expertise back home to Gloucester's Main Street, where his new e-commerce startup — Hireclix.com — has, in just a few months, built a client roster of five regional companies, and — with the just-announced addition of Gloucester-native and recent Tufts graduate Anthony Testaverde — brought its own staff up to a five-member entrepreneurial team.
After riding a career high for 31/2 years at Monster.com — working with media platform giants like the Food Network to capture the U.S. food industry job market, among other things — he was lured away by an e-commerce start-up. By then, his reputation as an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) marketing maestro had made him a target for job recruiters, and the offer came with "big money," says Costa, "and seemed like a big opportunity."
But it was 2007. By the end of the year, the world economy was spinning off its axis. And even before that, says Costa, his career move had proved an over-hyped "Titanic."
Grabbing whatever presented itself in the way of life jacket or raft, Costa drifted along with a couple of survival mode jobs.
"Basically anything," says the father of two, "that would keep my family afloat."
Then one day late last winter, Costa — who by then was desperate to strike out on his own — was checking out office space in downtown Gloucester,
"I saw the CABI sign at 33 Commercial St.," he recalls, "met with David McCarley (CABI co-founder, director) and it really did feel like a movie moment. CABI offered me everything I needed, including office space, to realistically go for it."
By "realistically," Costa meant financially viable. A trained accountant who spent his early career years at Coopers-Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) CABI's ability to underwrite overheads with federally assisted funding was like the happy ending in the Capra movie classic, "It's A Wonderful Life."
"With minimal overheads," he says, "I'd be free to find local companies and offer the kind of direct service that put Monster.com on the map in the first place. I started building a website and burned midnight oil toward an April start-up."
Monster.com first went live in April, too, and as a Massachusetts start-up. That was back in 1994. Headquartered over a Chinese restaurant in Framingham, its proximity to Boston's premier universities gave it instant cache with major corporate HR recruiters seeking direct lines to the brightest and best graduate job-seekers.
None of these similarities are lost on Costa, who sees in Hireclix.com a return to the same local roots from which his former employer, the now mighty global oak — Monster.com — first grew.
"Our five client companies are all local," says Costa, "We've got a staffing firm, a health care marketing firm, an online retail catalogue, a food testing company, and an online education company."
They won't, he says, be hiring by the thousands, or the tens of thousands, like the national job market segments he "captured" back at Monster.com.
But they are hiring, and at a good enough pace for Hireclix.com to hire more staff of its on. Costa projects another six hires within the coming year.
"It typically takes three to five years for recruitment marketers to start using digital tools like SEO tools," says Costa, "HireClix is focused on closing that gap. Employers who aren't utilizing SEO lose candidates to more savvy marketers. And nobody — recession or no recession — can afford that."
This Thursday, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Costa will be hosting a seminar at CABI's offices at 33 Commercial St.
Its title: "Internet Marketing 101": A guide for Cape Ann businesses getting started or trying to advance their online marketing efforts.
Joann Mackenzie can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3457, or at email@example.com.