Thursday, March 13, 2014

Monster.com moved out

 Monster has left the building

After a sixteen year tenure in Maynard, Monster Worldwide has moved what was left of its local staff to Weston. The arc of the company's presence in Maynard roughly paralleled the company's course from a technology disruptor to a technology can-it-catch-up-again.


When men stand on a corner near a Walmart, and other men drive up in pick-up trucks looking for day labor, that's a job exchange. Ditto a bulletin board covered with business cards next to the door of a diner. Put the jobs offered on paper and disseminate copies, and now it's a newspaper's jobs section. Or contract with a person to find and screen candidates - and that is what a headhunter does (for a hefty fee). Now suppose the match-ups are computerized. Potential employers post and search. Potential employees search and post. Inclusion and exclusion criteria filter the searches.


What happened with Monster was a disruptive transformation from match-up via newspaper want ads to automated match-up anywhere in the country (and later, outside the country). The origin story began with Jeff Taylor, who in 1994 launched The Monster Board. Per Wikipedia, “Monster was the first public job search on the Internet, first public resume database in the world and the first to have job search agents and job alerts.”  

Taylor had the idea, but not enough money. Telephone Marketing Programs (TMP) bought The Monster Board in 1995. Taylor stayed on for ten years. TMP's founder, Andrew McKelvey, had started decades earlier with brokering Yellow Pages advertising, and then in 1993 launched a multi-city jobs recruiting division. Buying Monster was a logical expansion. TMP kept its headquarters in New York and the Monster operations in Framingham.

TMP offered stock to the public in December 1996, then used the influx of cash to expand the company. In June 1998 The Monster Board moved its corporate headquarters to the newly opened Clock Tower Place. A year later all of TMP’s recruiting operations were centralized in Maynard under the name Monster.com. 

Monster started  at Clock Tower with about 50,000 square feet of floor space and 135 employees. Within years that had expanded to 250,000 square feet, or nearly one-fourth of the entire complex. Monster also had a visible presence in town, sponsoring among other things, blood drive events and an annual road race to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Assabet Valley.

Entrance sign from Sudbury Road
Worldwide, the company reached peak visibility with its Superbowl commercials circa 1999-2004. Peak capitalization (total value of all shares of stock) topped $7 billion in early 2006. After that, the decline was swift. Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media offered new paths for job search networking, while Craig's List and direct competitors such as Indeed.com also sliced into Monster's share. Current valuation puts the company at about $750 million. The number of employees is less than half of what it reached in 2001, what with spin-offs and the closing or sale of some operations outside the United States.  

What, exactly, went wrong? From Woody Allen, as Alvy Singer in the 1997 movie Annie Hall: "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."

Monster is the dead shark. As of early 2014, LinkedIn, with a similar number of employees, revenues and profits, is capitalized at $24 billion. One point made in a lecture at Harvard Business School in November 2012: "No one ever said monsters were social creatures." Eight years passed from when LinkedIn launched before Monster tried its paw at a social network. Monster also came late and weak to mobile apps. The stock has doubled in value since its worst lows of 2013, but whether this is a reversal, hope for a sale, or just a dead cat bounce is anyone's guess.
 
What Monster got in Weston was a similar amount of space to what it was leaving here - approximately 175,000 square feet - in a newish building just off the I-95 and Route 20 intersection. The new location makes it more convenient to employees who are commuting from any direction, to visitors arriving via Boston's airport, and closer to hotel accommodations along the interstate corridor. The space came at a bargain price because Biogen, which had move some divisions to Weston in 2010, changed its mind. What Maynard lost was an anchor tenant at Clock Tower Place and the some 600+ Monster employees who worked, and sometimes shopped and dined here.

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