Two months ago, just a matter of weeks after Indeed.com was acquired by the Japanese conglomerate Recruit Co. Ltd. in a billion dollar deal, rival job board Simply Hired announced a change in leadership. The Silicon Valley company brought in James Beriker, a tech entrepreneur with a track record of managing firms to acquisition.
Without a doubt, Beriker is one of the valley’s own. After leaving Yahoo, which he joined in 2010 when it acquired his previous company, Dapper, Beriker was Entrepreneur in Residence at VC Matrix Partners for barely four months before being named CEO at Simply Hired.
Gautam Godwhani, who co-founded and led Simply Hired as president and CEO for eight years, became chairman of the privately held company’s board. Simply Hired launched in 2005, just months after Indeed. The two career sites initially aggregated job listings from the commercial job boards, scrapping them at first, and then, as traffic built, accepting direct feeds.
Especially for the smaller and niche sites, Simply Hired and Indeed both became valuable distribution systems, vastly expanding the reach of small sites, and helping them to more successfully compete with the big boys. It wasn’t long before both sites implemented a pay-per-click model that gave priority positioning to revenue-generating ads.
As direct employers discovered the value of the free distribution offered by these job search sites, corporate recruiters also began sending their listings to Indeed and Simply Hired. Soon enough, the job boards found themselves increasingly marginalized, as the two search sites prioritized listings coming directly from employers.
With the growth in volume came job seekers. Today, both Indeed and Simply Hired rank among the top three- or four-most trafficked job sites in the world.
So the coincidence, if that’s what it was, of Beriker’s ascendancy so soon after Indeed’s 10-digit deal suggests the obvious: that he was hired to prepare the company for sale. Three years after IDG Ventures and Foundation Capital invested $4.6 million in Simply Hired, joining News Corporation’s Fox Interactive Media, Garage Technology Ventures, and some individuals, the investors may be getting anxious to cash in.
In an emailed Q&A with Beriker, I asked that obvious question: Will positioning Simply Hired to be sold be part of your mission? While he didn’t say yes, he also didn’t exactly say no. “I have never focused on any kind of acquisition or other outcome when building any business,” Beriker wrote back. “The only goal I have is to build a business that is true to its mission, has real integrity, and realizes its full potential.”
In four questions, we covered the reasons for changing leadership, his mission, and what we can expect at Simply Hired this year:
1. Why is Simply Hired changing CEOs now? How should we interpret this change?
Startups go through leadership changes as a matter of course as their businesses evolve. Gautam Godhwani co-founded the company eight years ago and, as CEO, developed Simply Hired to where it is today — a leading job search engine with a technology advantage in core search, 30MM+ monthly uniques across 24 countries, the largest index of current job search listings in the world, and revenues that are growing faster than the market. My job is to take the business that he and his team developed and help it grow into its potential — and that is a really exciting opportunity.
2. You’ve got extensive experience in selling companies. With the $1 billion+ sale of Indeed.com, how do you see the prospects for a sale of Simply Hired? Will positioning Simply Hired to be sold be part of your mission?
Simply Hired’s mission is to help people find jobs they love. That is a particularly important mission in today’s economy, and the whole company is aligned around that purpose.
My mission is to continue driving that mission and to accelerate innovation in our core search technology and our offering for employers — and to scale the sales engine of our business. I have never focused on any kind of acquisition or other outcome when building any business; the only goal I have is to build a business that is true to its mission, has real integrity, and realizes its full potential.
3. From the standpoint of job seekers and employers, what can we expect to see in the coming months? What changes, improvements, or additional features are in store?
We have a lot in store for 2013. In a nutshell, we will focus on: doubling down on our investment in core search technology, especially in data sciences; driving mobile engagement with users, including products that enable us to “push” job listings to mobile devices; and, developing tools for employers to manage and optimize their campaigns, bringing performance marketing capabilities from the online advertising world into recruiting. If I had to articulate the theme for 2013, I’d say: innovation across all parts of our business.
4. How will you differentiate Simply Hired from Indeed? Is there really room in the marketplace for two such similar services?
Recruiting is a $5B+ business online — and it is still very early. There is room for different approaches and business models — we have seen many different and interesting approaches in job search, social, and mobile.
Simply Hired is already very different than other job search engines. We have the most comprehensive and current index of jobs across the globe, and our own, unique traffic profile. And, more philosophically, we approach the market from a technology-first perspective. As we grow the business, we will stay true to our search technology core, which we believe is a real advantage for us, and will continue to drive innovation for both job seekers and employers.
As the market evolves, our goal is to continue to be the leader in aggregating the most jobs in our index, surfacing the most relevant jobs for job seekers, and providing employers with the most robust platform for efficiently and cost-effectively accessing job candidates. We have seen in other growth industries that technology leadership and focus on the value to users is a winning strategy — and that will define our differentiation in this market.