05/31/2016 Toby Dayton

And then there were two: SimplyHired to cease operations

Having been in the human capital management industry for over 15 years, I’ve gotten used to news about companies coming and going. But this week’s news about SimplyHired is different. We founded LinkUp as, what was at the time, just the third paid search recruitment advertising company in the space and as such, we looked up to Indeed and SimplyHired as siblings of sorts. A huge proponent of analogies, I’ll admit the familial one in this case isn’t perfect, but it isn’t totally off the mark either. And though I try as much as possible to refrain from sports analogies, that would fit here as well, particularly because business is, for the most part, an inherently competitive endeavor. And because sibling rivalry contains an element of disfunction while rivalry in sports and business is a fundamental aspect of the activity, I suppose the sports analogy is more appropriate here.

So akin to the Original Six, I’ll posit that Indeed, SimplyHired, and LinkUp are the Original Three. For certain, it’s a more crowded league these days, but that only means that the three founding franchises had the vision and foresight to start playing in open, uncharted territory; territory that held, and still holds, enormous opportunity. And yes, I am fully aware that in spinning this analogy thus, I get to elevate LinkUp to some lofty status as a founding father of sorts. An overreach perhaps. And undoubtedly a bit grandiose, but so be it. Facts are facts. First there were three, then there were many, and now of the Original Three, there are only two.

I will also admit that there is a bit of schadenfreude in writing this. A decent amount, actually, if truth be told. To say otherwise would be disingenuous. After all, business is business, and by its very nature, business is competitive. It’s not necessarily a zero sum game, but there are winners and losers; one often at the expense of the other. So a slight degree of satisfaction felt from seeing a competitor leave the field should be forgiven. But the occasion is also a bit sobering. As the saying goes, “There but for the grace of God go I.” I’m not much one for religion, but the sentiment is apt. And while I’m certain it wasn’t due to the grace of God, or the lack thereof, I can’t speak to what, precisely, led to SimplyHired’s downfall. That is neither appropriate nor the point.

So what, then, is the point? I suppose, in some way, the point is to pay respect, sort of like the great tradition in the NHL when two teams line up after a hard-fought series to shake hands. And like professional sports, business is a deadly serious game. Business is tough and building a business is even tougher. Brutally tough, in fact. I’d even go so far as to say that it is one of the greatest challenges imaginable – to build a successful company. To create something from nothing. To build value. To differentiate. To Innovate. To inspire. As anyone who has attempted them can attest, these are exceedingly difficult pursuits.

And while these pursuits are hard enough in a vacuum, they are exponentially more difficult when you add players onto the field who are all trying to do the same thing, oftentimes at your expense. It’s the competition that adds such a fascinating, compelling, and challenging dynamic to the contest. So when a formidable opponent leaves the field, particularly a long-time foe and one of the Original Three, so to speak, it’s worth pausing to pay respect, to shake hands, as it were, and say, with the utmost respect and sincerity, “Nice game.”



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