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Featured Techie: Mark Dawson, CEO of

Mark Dawson wants to blow up the online job boards business. And it's hard to beat his price -- free, as in beer. Dawson is the CEO of, a Honolulu dot-com startup owned by staffing firm Altres. Jobsfreeforall offers free resume uploads to applicants and free job listings, applicant tracking and other goodies that employers and staffing agencies currently pay for when using job boards such as or CareerBuilder. Jobsfreeforall also bans many of the annoying practices that make money for regular job boards but pollute the experience for job seekers, such as work-from-home schemes and other questionable types of listings.

Even more radical, every job poster must reveal the entire benefits package and state an hourly or
annual salary range. The startup, which launched 9 months ago, has already taken over close to 20% of the only job market in Honolulu and is rapidly catching on in California and on the the Mainland. "Most job boards -- Craig's List included - make money from the job poster and not from the job applicant. So they have little incentive to treat the job applicant well. For us, we need lots of applicants to make this work because we make our money selling services to job listers that only happen if you get a lot of applicants for their jobs," explains Dawson.

Those services may include background checks, online skills tests, or proctored in person examinations. "We haven't done much advertising at all and we already have nearly 300 staffing agencies signed up on the Mainland," says Dawson, who hopes to make money on the Mainland by
licensing regions to reputable staffing firms and allowing them to perform the value-added services that Altres performs for Jobsfreeforall in Honolulu. That such a venture would emerge from Altres is no
surprise. The company's CEO Barron Guss is serious techie who also founded AdvantageHobby, a highly profitable ecommerce operation selling radio-controlled model airplanes and helicopters. Guss and Dawson have also collaborated on, a fledgling services marketplace serving music teachers, plumbers, and others with skilled trades. That business is on a slow-burn launch and has not flown the coop like Jobsfreeforall, which is on the verge of bursting onto the crowded and
incredibly competitive national jobs scene.

Dawson spent a solid seven years working as the Director of Corporate Development at Altres,where he ran Guss' technology skunk works. He doesn't have local ties and came to Honolulu because he loved his wife. "It was her turn to pick where we lived. She had followed me everywhere. So she picked Hawaii and of course I agreed," said Dawon. A senior technology executive who had formerly served as Director of Systems Engineering at Microsoft's WebTV, Dawson was a high-powered career guy who had trouble downshifting into retirement. "I spent six months on the beach and I was going stir-crazy." At a charity dinner he happened to be seated next to Guss. The two got to talking and before dinner was done, Dawson and Guss were talking about making a job for the ex-Microsoftie.

For the early part of his time at Altres, Dawson oversaw the in-house development of Altres' own home-baked technology systems. He got the idea for Jobsfreeforall while reviewing a renewal contract from a large national job boards that seemed ridiculously expensive - so expensive, that, they believed, very few companies would post entry or mid-level openings. Yet that was exactly the niche a company like Altres needed to access. After discussing the idea with Guss, Dawson got the greenlight from Guss and Altres President Kerry Kopp.

Now, at Jobsfreeforall, Dawson is leveraging his development experience to build a classic lean startup. "We are built entirely on an open source stack. We push new code releases every 14 days. And the entire code base was built by two world-class developers, right here in Honolulu," says Dawson, who won't reveal the exact contents of his software stack other than to acknowledge it consists primarily of well-known open source products.

With a burn rate that is likely well below $50,000 per month, Jobsfreeforall, if it goes viral, could be a classic freemium play in a space that has thus far proved somewhat resistant to the freemium model.
Yes, there are lots of services that offer free job listings but most have a very poor quality free offering and try to make their money on the upsell to listings with more bells and whistles. In contrast, Jobsfreeforall gives you the bells and whistles and hopesemployers enjoy them. "We hope to make a lot of nickels and dimes off added services rather than charge a lot of money upfront for ads that
don't really work," says Dawson.

Aside from the listings, the job board also gives parent company Altres an inside track both on which companies are hiring and what skill sets are in high demand or trending upwards. Naturally, jobs posted on Jobsfreeforall are made available to the job board search engines/ aggregators such as This gives a job poster national and international distribution for that same great price. Keep an eye on this startup as it might be Honolulu's first true dot-com to make it really big since the days of CheapTickets.

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Comment by Curtis J. Kropar on November 2, 2010 at 9:40pm
I just sent links and an announcement out to orgs we work with and several mailing lists. If it goes out to all it will get to about 400 more organizations here in town.
Comment by Curtis J. Kropar on November 2, 2010 at 8:50pm
i just looked at the site. THIS is the way it should be done.

I used to hate..wait.. i used to HATE doing the job search thing. hardly any IT post ever BOTHERED to tell you what the proposed salary range was. (even a 20k range would be acceptable). if you cant be bothered to list at least a range you must be trying to hide something. i once spent 3 days emailing a company and phone calls and such, only to find out during the interview that their "great offer" was for about 1/2 of the amount i was then making. i was soooooo pi$$ed. and i let them know about it in no uncertain terms that they wasted over 6 hours of my time and wanted to pay me peanuts.

WHY would anyone in their right mind send out a resume, waste their time and pursue a job when they have no idea what the pay rate is ? In my many search instances in the past, those “mystery meat” postings were often below what i was then making, and almost every time turned out to be a complete waste of time. After that last event i decided i would never again contact a poster if they failed to list at minimum a pay range.

Alex. I am going to add your site to our primary landing page. Its a page that many people have set as their default landing page on their browsers. We get hundreds of direct hits on it every day.
Comment by Cameron Souza on April 22, 2010 at 7:01pm
Nice writeup. I hope Jobsfreeforall does well.

> Even more radical, even job poster must reveal the entire benefits package and
> state an hourly or annual salary range.

I really like this. I wish all job boards worked this way.


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