Launched in Providence by Brown U. Students to Help College Kids Get Jobs

Brown University student Walker Williams is leading the launch of a new online job service for college students,, through a marketing campaign that began this week in Providence and is expected to spread to other universities in Rhode Island in the days and weeks ahead.

Jobzle is initially focusing on serving students in the Ocean State for the 2009-10 school year, particularly at Brown, where Jobzle founder Williams has been developing the site since late 2007, during his freshman year, he said. His cofounders are Brown students Kevin Durfee and Ben Mathews.

It’s early days at Jobzle—about 100 Brown students have signed up for the free job service, and there are now some 30 job postings on site—yet Williams sounded serious about scaling up the startup’s operations next year and spreading to college campuses in other parts of the country. While the startup faces huge competitors in the online jobs service market, such as Monster and CareerBuilder, Williams says he is confident that the firm’s exclusive focus on the college-student market and the needs of employers to tap this talented labor pool will help differentiate Jobzle from the rest of the field. To make money, Jobzle charges employers a fee to list jobs; it gets revenue from advertisers such as resume services as well, Williams said.

Jobzle has seen a significant jump in traffic since its Sept. 7 launch, with about 1,300 unique visitors so far this week compared to just a trickle of traffic in prior weeks, according to Williams. “We know we’re getting people interested and the word is getting out,” he wrote in an e-mail this morning. “Now we have to focus… on converting those hits to users and kick-starting the Jobzle ecosystem.”

Jobzle is designed to be accessible only to college students and employers. Similar to social networking venues such as Facebook and MySpace, Jobzle provides users with their own profile page. Yet Jobzle profiles also include the user’s qualifications, a list of their business contacts, as well as their work schedule and job applications. Though Williams is a history major at Brown, he is also a freelance website developer and graphic designer who spent the last two summers as an intern at Sling Media, where he says he worked on the firm’s Slingbox, which enables people to control their TVs via the Internet. Williams says he did most of the design and development of Jobzle himself, and has financed the small operation with his own income and contributions from family and friends. He, Durfee, and Mathews plan to raise about $150,000 in a seed round over the next year or so to expand to other colleges and universities in the Northeast, Williams said.

While there’s good reason to wonder whether a student-led operation like Jobzle will ever reach primetime, the startup has done well drumming up plenty of support from the entrepreneurial community in Providence. Williams—who went to high school in New Zealand after moving there from the U.S. with his family when he was 10—said he has been working with mentors at the Providence startup incubator Betaspring, which I wrote about in some detail last month. (Jobzle was not in Betaspring’s startup program this summer, but Williams said he is considering whether to apply to participate in one of the incubator’s future programs.) Brown is also lending its support to the startup by serving as an early employer customer and allowing Williams to spend a quarter of his study time focusing on the venture, he said.

Williams said he would be willing to leave Brown before he graduates if he attracted enough investments to expand Jobzle next year. I suppose that means that with any luck he won’t graduate on schedule in spring 2011.

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