Marchex, love em or hate em?

As many of my readers and professional contacts know, I’m a stickler for ethics and a big supporter of entrepreneurial ideas (both locally and globally.) I also have a pretty intensive background in using new ideas in the recruiting space… and yet I’m going to step out on a limb and stir the pot a little.

A little background story: Several of my professional contacts are out of work and have asked me to for professional insight and assistance landing a good home. In this personal venture I turned to various job tools ranging from recruiter blogs, twitter headhunters, and the traditional job board.  In my exploration I wandered across a new recruiting pitch from Marchex that I hadn’t seen before. 

The idea is listed through the job application portion of the site under the savvy title “Business Challenges” (source here)

“So you think you’ve got the business savvy and vision to lead a project, do you? Well, let’s find out! Submit your entry to one of the two challenges below, and we’ll find out if your ideas earn you an iPad (Apple® iPad 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G (US$629 value))!”

Sounds pretty good huh? Submit your ideas for a chance to win an iPad and hopefully increase your chances of being hired.

But stop… before running to submit your best ideas, you better read the official rules.

By submitting an entry to any of the Challenges, Contestant (i) represents and warrants that Contestant is the sole author, designer, creator, and owner of the submission or has valid permission to use the submitted materials, and further represents and warrants that the entry does not contain information considered by any third party to be proprietary or confidential; and (ii) grants to Sponsor a non-exclusive, royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, have made, copy, modify, make derivative works of, use, sell and otherwise fully exploit winner’s entry, for the purposes of development and distribution of Sponsor’s products and services.

Wait a minute… I thought I wanted a job?

Guess what? If you just threw out your best detailed thoughts and signed away your rights to them, they don’t need to hire you. In fact, why would they hire you? They already have a team of employees who like your idea, are going to develop it, and are buried under dozens of other great ideas that they didn’t have to pay for.

The detail of the rules are simple Your submission must be 1500 words or less and may contain images or diagrams to help convey your ideas.”

Of course they want images and diagrams. LoL! As a start-up and entrepreneurial advisor, I can only say this: this is one of the most abusive employment ideas / contensts I have ever seen. It is akin to straight intellectual property theft and predatory hopes of employment, targeting entrepreneurial minds that won’t click-through to the official rules, read, and fully understand them.

Marchex, what are you thinking?

In the local Seattle community, this is just wrong. I hope that there is an immediate retraction of the contest and an apology to the start-up / entrepreneurial community. I know some eager minds will think that Marchex is just offering up iPads for ideas, but in today’s marketplace no one should be giving away great ideas for a chance to win an iPad (or fractions of a penny on the dollar.)

Entrepreneurs and job seekers, what are you thinking?

If you think your best personal ideas and solutions to these challenges are worth any salt, drop me a line.

I will do my best to coordinate and match-make you with other bright minds, put you in touch with groups ranging from local entrepreneurs, SMC Seattle, WTIA, MBA, UW, Angel and VC investors and more. I won’t ask you to give anything away for free, but if you “have something good” I would be more than happy to talk about doing honest business.

If you think I’m wrong, go ahead and tell me… but first you need to apply to the contest with a 1-3 page description, images, and diagrams… so that I can say “I told you so” in a six months.

What is your take on it?

5 thoughts on “Marchex, love em or hate em?”

  1. Hi Barry.

    Thanks for your feedback. We’re actually hiring 30 people in Seattle so we’re definitely interested in bringing a ton of great people on to the team. As you know, it’s all about execution so the contest is about helping future prospective recruits get a taste of the problems we’re solving and giving folks an opportunity to get a cool toy out of the deal. The legal stuff is there for our protection. Sorry this came across the wrong way!

    Tom Leung
    VP of Product, Marchex

  2. Thanks for the reply Tom,

    I appreciate the fact that you deal with very complex issues in a larger business model, but I think this is where the corporate and entrepreneurial world collide: legality and ethics.

    I don’t know who wrote the disclaimer, but it leaves every contest applicant open to abuse. I don’t see any reason that an applicant should release ownership/rights to a “great solution” without payment. In essence, this is like asking a candidate to work for free, for years, without payment. To take the “best ideas” they have and give them away. The culmination of experiences required to see a solution is very tangible and extraordinarily valuable (and I assume the lawyers knew that, else they wouldn’t have put “exploit” in the statement.)

    I am actually a good example: I’ve studied Marchex’s business models for years (everything from cross IP/DNS configurations, domain strategies, landing pages, and reputation items.) As someone who knows the value of these ideas in terms of Marchex’s business model, it is rather insulting / abusive to offer a “chance to win an iPad” for an idea that should drive millions of dollars.

    If the motivation of an employer is to gain new employees in good faith… rather than ask for unpaid licensing, why not pay them what the idea is worth when you hire them?

  3. Thanks Barry for looking out for the talented individuals who are just seeking an opportunity to make a living. You’ve helped remind us to make sure we both read and UNDERSTAND the fine print (vs. scrolling to the bottom and blindly clicking the “I agree” check box before clicking “Submit”). The feeling of being cheated is not worth an iPad.

  4. Great catch, Barry! Way to read the fine print!

    As a domainer and developer, I’ve always liked Marchex and its original business model, but that legal language is extremely unsettling. I’m going to assume it has more to do with over-zealous CYA lawyers pulling off a “rights land grab” than a greedy plot hatched in the corner office. In this day and age of instant communication to the masses, I hope Marchex doesn’t think they could get away with stealing ideas, whether this was intentional or not. At the very least, the language needs to be revised a little.

    In slight favor of the applicant, at least it reads “non-exclusive.” 🙂

    Jay Lohmann
    Founder/Managing Partner

  5. I have always been a fan of Marchex… but as I understood the fundamental domaining business model “he who thinks of it first, and registers, wins.” and I can combine that with some pretty beefy e-recruiting and IP valuation skills: the model they are using has less than favorable points to it for the candidate.

    On the negative side of this article, I’ve had a recent Marchex candidate contact me because he received “homework” for a senior role. Until this interview, he had never experienced a follow-up process where several hours of homework was requested. This is troubling, as it seems Marchex has adopted this policy of “interview/application homework” across its employment process.

    As with you, I can’t tell you what the intent at Marchex is. I can only highlight that they are collecting a lot of good thoughts and then claiming ownership.

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