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Path 101: Starting up in plain sight

In my morning feed reading I came across a post from a startup company Path 101 about how it would like to work with Linkedin on its APIs. Linkedin has been promising to deliver APIs that would allow developers to tap into its business network.

In my morning feed reading I came across a post from a startup company Path 101 about how it would like to work with Linkedin on its APIs. Linkedin has been promising to deliver APIs that would allow developers to tap into its business network.

Path 101 co-founders Charlie O'Donnell and Alex Lines state their mission as follows:

Think of us as "pre-Monster.com." When you arrive at a big job board, it asks you what you want to do and a lot of people simply don't know--from college kids to experienced professionals in career transition. We're all about career discovery and we're going to provide a community powered set of services around figuring out your opportunity set and where you belong--from peer advice to personality testing and collaborative filtering around career path data.

What's unique about this startup, which is closing in on some funding, is that it is anti-stealth. The co-founders are disclosing almost every detail of their business plan and activities on a company blog.

In a recent post, they write about the focus of the company and the "Resume Genome Project."

We spent a lot of time on Friday and over the weekend thinking about our focus and we whittled our priorities down to the one most effective thing we can do, which also happens to be the one that sets us apart from other services the most.

First, we realized we had to narrow the problem. Just saying that people don't know what job they want to do with their career is actually itself an aggregation of a lot of separate, but related, issues.

We think the biggest part of that is knowledge, or lack therof, of the opportunity set--people simply don't know what's out there.

Whether you are a college student or a 15 year marketing veteran, life doesn't do a very good job of showing you not only all the jobs that you could do, but also exposing what you could do given your personality and skills. I had a conversation with someone more experienced who undertook a career transition later in life and he realize how difficult it was to start from scratch. Not knowing much outside of his industry, in terms of network or experience, he didn't even know where to start. Similarly, most college students don't realize what they can do after school besides the jobs that are recruited for most, like accounting or banking. Of course, they could try to be doctors or lawyers, too, but that about rounds out what most students know of the universe of careers.

Therefore, what we can do to help that would make the most impact would be to shed some light on all the potential career paths in a very transparent way.

Every year, millions of people upload their resumes to Monster, Careerbuilder and HotJobs, creating very lucrative candidate search businesses for those companies.

But what if we, the people, could see all that resume data in an aggregated and structured way?

What if you could show me what all the people with my major did for a living?

What if you could tell me what were the top three or four jobs that people held after they held mine?

What about jobs I really want? What do people do before they become product managers or venture capitalists? What's the best route from the mailroom to the corner office?

Well, most people would agree that if you could get the structure and presentation down, you would have a pretty valuable asset on your hands--a kind of "last.fm for resumes".

Now imagine you layer on even more interesting data, like personality profiles, a la Myers-Briggs. It would be useful to know, within medicine, for example, which personality types tend to gravitate towards which areas of specialization. And, boy, do people like taking comparative personality tests and quizzes!

We internally refer to this endeavor as the Resume Genome Project. It will involve a combination of crawling the web for resumes and working with professional societies, academic institutions, etc. to gather a critical mass of data. As it turns out, there are over 3 million indexed resumes in .pdf and .doc format already on various home pages and blogs. That's a great start, not to mention the fact that we'll soon be announcing a partnership with a cutting edge resume parsing technology company that will help us make sense of it all. We'd like to build it into as much of a useful community data asset as we can, even above and beyond our own uses for it. We'll be building APIs (or as Alex calls it, "Data on a stick") and encouraging mashups and interesting visualizations, because the data itself comes from the community, so we feel like it should be available for the community to use.

Once you nail this data monster, then you create the opportunities to build communities of advice sharing and knowledge around them.

Path 101 is taking the chance that others can take their ideas and run with them, but it's also creating at atmosphere that invites others to play with them. I will be following along to watch the ups and downs and find out how it turns out. Perhaps Linkedin could take a lesson and be more open about its plan for opening up its platform.

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