COVER

Striking a match

ANDREW PHILLIPS January 29 1996
COVER

Striking a match

ANDREW PHILLIPS January 29 1996

Striking a match

COVER

Geoff Edmunds calls himself simply a “builder.” Among the things he has built so far are a rock band, a weekly newspaper, and a chain of 155 outlets with the unlikely specialty of selling only batteries. Now, the 56-year-old entrepreneur is putting in place a system to let average people do ordinary things—like buying a car or finding a job—using an extraordinary tool: the Internet. The company he founded 31/2 years ago, JCl Technologies Inc. of Victoria, runs an on-line service called JobMatch that links job hunters directly with employers. Another service, launched in November, lets people looking for a new home dial directly into real estate listings—selecting houses according to such factors as price, location and numbers of rooms. Together with a third service that will allow computerized shopping for cars and trucks, those applications are harnessing the power of the Internet for consumers who may know little, and care less, about the brave new world of cyberspace. “We have,” says Edmunds, “one of the first on-line services that really has relevance for ordinary people.”

That has drawn continent-wide attention to the little company on the fourth floor of an office building in suburban Victoria. Last summer, giant Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash., chose JCl as one of two Canadian content providers for its new Microsoft Network (the other is Magellan Interactive Multimedia Inc. of Calgary). In November, the federal human resources department struck a deal with the company to put JobMatch terminals into 10 Canada Employment Centres, starting with those

in Fredericton and Moncton in New Brunswick, along with Gander and Corner Brook in Newfoundland.

Greg Davis, who oversees the service, says it will let g unemployed peoo pie put detailed résumés into JCl’s

national electronic job bank, which now holds 25,000 names. Companies registered with the system (4,400 at last count) can search it for exactly those people who meet their needs. JCi’s move to put traditional classified ad services on-line has forced Canada’s major newspaper companies to sit up and take notice. Last year, Torstar Corp. bought a $6.3-million chunk of the company, and last week Southam Inc. invested $4.5 million in JCl. That drove the company’s share price on the Alberta Stock Exchange to $2, a far cry from the level of 20 cents when it went public in May, 1994.

Not bad for a company that began in 1992 as the brainchild of a man who started out as guitar player and keyboardist with a mid’60s rock band called The Heartbeats in his native Cardiff, Wales. Edmunds came to Canada in 1967, worked in the newspaper and music industries, and then published a community weekly called The Western Wheel in Okotoks, Alta., 40 km south of Calgary. In 1986, he founded Battery One-Stop, which had expanded into a North America-wide chain that employed 1,000 people when he sold out in 1990.

JCl was born when he decided there was a need for a more efficient way for companies to recruit nationwide. That led to JobMatch, which the company adapted to create the house-hunting service called RealtyMatch, and plans to expand this year to a car-shopping network named AutoMatch.

All three services are designed to be as easy to use as possible. The real estate system has been active since November in the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, which lists some 7,000 homes. Realtor Trish Ranniger sold her first house through the Internet in early December when a couple from the Vancouver area picked out a $180,000 bungalow in Campbell River by dialling up the listing on their home computer and viewing a high-resolution photograph of the house. “They could sit down on their own time and pick out what suits them,” said Ranniger. “It’s easy, and it’s up to the minute.” JCl hopes to sign up boards across the country this yearusing the Internet to make what is often a confusing, time-consuming task just a bit easier.

ANDREW PHILLIPS in Victoria