The ball leaves his hands and you know where it's going even before it reaches the top of its arc. His form and release are textbook even if his look isn't. Swish.
It's a warm March day and Robin Richards is shooting jumpers at an outdoor court at Beverly Hills High School. Even at 57, his shots keep going in the cup. The discipline needed to succeed in business and sport run hand in hand, and Richards is as confident on the blacktop as in the boardroom.
"In both sport and business, the trust and reliance on teammates is what carries you home," he says. "So often CEOs think that their employees are there to serve them. In actuality, if you hire the right people, it's the CEO's job to serve employees and allow them to do a better job."
Born in Detroit, Richards is an unsung hero of the digital music revolution, even though he can't sing a lick. He was the founding president and CEO of MP3.com, the web's first online music provider. Richards also was part of the first wave of online e-commerce with Tickets.com, and he founded Notification Technology Group, an emergency-notification provider, which was acquired by Blackboard for $191 million.
NTI's early innovation is the reason smartphones can get emergency push notifications today.
Until recently, Richards was an investor in the Beverly Hills steak house Mastro's. He sold his share last year, but if you want to find him on a weeknight, there's a good chance he's savoring a medium-well filet at a table where all the waitstaff know his name.
Richards now is focusing on CareerArc Group in Burbank, a $100 million business run by the winning team he's relied on for years, including partner Paul Ouyang. CareerArc owns Internships.com, TweetMyJobs.com and CareerBeam.com, sites that get people into the workforce with internships, feed them job ideas when they're looking and outsource positions and build skills if they're fired. [Editor's note: The preceding paragraphs were changed after publication. See corrections at story's end.]
There's no secret sauce, Richards says - it's about getting job seekers and jobs together.
"They go from hatred to hope, not eventually but immediately," he says.
Internships.com sends leads through college websites' Blackboard service, which thousands of students use to navigate classes and academics. TweetMyJobs uses Twitter to aggregate positions by geography and type. CareerBeam provides laid-off workers leads from Internships.com and TweetMyJobs.
The target market is huge, with about 12 million people unemployed in the United States, almost 4.5 million entering the labor force and 4 million leaving it in 2012. It takes an unemployed worker 38 weeks to get a job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Richards claims he can "cut that time down to eight weeks."
CareerArc has 45 million annual visitors and works with almost 60,000 companies, including 65 percent of the Fortune 500, plus about 400 universities and government entities. CareerArc also helps companies interact with potential employees by juicing up their Facebook fan pages.
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Users can see profiles of mutual friends at companies they're interested in, and recruiters and applicants can connect. The company gets paid by businesses trying to reach job seekers, not by clicks.
"Why should just the rich kids and the connected kids have all the opportunity?" he asks. "We know there's a 1-in-290 chance online of recruiters getting a résumé. With a referral, there's a 1-in-20 chance. Now you're cooking with gas."
Back on the court, Richards goes up for another jumper. Pearls of sweat roll down his temples, but he remains focused. Before the ball leaves his hands, you know there's going to be a familiar sound when it reaches its target. Nothing but net.
One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story inaccurately described Richards' relationship with Mastro's. He was an investor, not an owner. Also CareerArc Group is an $100 million business; it does not do $100 million in business annually. We regret both errors.