IPO-Hungry Dice Carves Out Interesting Niche

“This is a great story of recovery,” says industry consultant Peter Weddle, commenting on Dice Holdings, Inc.’s quest to file an initial public offering up to $100 million in common stock.

This latest announcement from Dice, he says, is another part of the company’s rather long, interesting history.

“They were high-flyers early in the job board industry’s development and grew very quickly, in part because their initial focus was IT and they were early adopters of job boards online.”

Dice, a leader among job boards for tech positions, has been around for 16 years. In 1991, DICE (originally named Data Processing Independent Consultants Exchange) began operations in the San Francisco Bay area. A dial-up bulletin board service, it was available only to technical contractors and recruiting, staffing, and consulting firms.

By 1997, Dice purchased the Dice.com URL, and a year later, it opened the career site to direct hiring companies while continuing to serve the recruiting and staffing industry.

In 1999, Dice was acquired by EarthWeb, a publicly traded firm in New York, and it operated more than a dozen tech-related sites and e-mail newsletters. The company sold some of these assets to Internet.com in 2000, though it retained the Dice.com site.

Though the company suffered when the dot-com bubble burst, even declaring bankruptcy in 2003, it has “slowly, steadily rebuilt their business into what I think is the model of future niche job boards online,” says Weddle.

In July 2005, Dice was bought out by private equity firms General Atlantic and Quadrangle Group for an estimated $200 million.

“Not only does Dice focus on IT, but it went out and bought eFinancialCareers.com. Their model may be to create a ‘mall’ of quality niche boards. There have been portals before, but each of those niche sites did not have an independent brand that had any traction,” he says.

Weddle explains that the resources the sites offer are not only helpful in job search, but also helpful in advancing one’s career.

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The company’s other niche boards include JobsintheMoney.com, for accounting and finance professionals in the United States, and ClearanceJobs.com, for professionals with active U.S. government security clearances.

Dice’s revenues are estimated to be around $87 million, with a $41 million operating cash flow.

“I think what this IPO signals is the demise of a notion of what niche means. It used to mean small. Today, it means specialized,” says Weddle.

In addition to the employment site guides and directories he publishes, Weddle also created the Users’ Choice Awards four years ago. He says the competition for bragging rights in 2007 saw over 50,000 unique ballots cast.

“It’s not a scientific sample, but it represents the intensity of support the sites have. The top 30 are users’ choice winners. For 2007, there are the usual suspects, like Monster and HotJobs, but at least half are niche sites that many of us may not have heard of,” says Weddle.

In no particular order, the top-30 job sites include Dice.com, Indeed, Jobing.com, The Ladders, Diversity Inc., Vault.com, MilitaryHire.com, CollegeRecruiter.com, and many more.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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