There are plenty of job search engines out there. So what makes this one an interesting story? It’s their innovation (the first to use the new LinkedIn API), their ability to reach localized job markets (over 30,000 cities), and all while delivering a customized user experience. This is the direction that successful vertical search engines will (and must) go to truly deliver a value added experience. Here SimplyHired CEO Gautam Godhwani discusses his past ventures, his current venture and his vision for the future.
SM: Let’s begin by discussing your pre-SimplyHired story. What can you share to inspire potential entrepreneurs?
GG: I am not sure what others will consider inspirational! I have been in this area for 26 years. I grew up in Delhi and spent the first 9 years of my life there. My dad worked for the government so he moved around a lot. I went to various places in north and south India and spent a year in Kabul, Afghanistan. I spent a year in Houston when I first came to the US in 1981, and I have been in California since then. I was schooled here in the Bay area. I went to college at Berkley. Originally I thought I would be a doctor or get a business degree, however I ended up graduating in computer science mainly because it was easier to get into those classes. The business classes were very crowded. I think it is interesting to see the direction I went and it seems like fate has taken me that way.
I spent my summers walking around the halls of large companies such as IBM and Microsoft, and I started my career at HP. About 2 years into my HP career, in 1996, the Internet really began to take off. There were 4 or 5 of my friends from school, and we sat around started talking about the Internet. You may recall the Internet World conference, the big conference they held in the Bay area. This particular year they held it at the San Jose Convention Center, and it got full so they rented out all of the surrounding hotel spaces, and that got full. They then had to rent out space at city hall and that got full. They then had to pitch a tent because they got so desperate for space for exhibitors. They eventually had to turn away exhibitors. At the conference the energy was absolutely explosive. It was an absolutely incredible feeling. You could feel the energy.
This group of friends had actually looked at doing something deeper with the Internet and went to this conference to see what we wanted to do. After school this was the first full week I had taken off. I walked into the conference thinking “How can I quit my job?”. I walked out of that conference on a Friday afternoon, and I sat outside the main convention center and asked myself how I could not quit my job. That Monday morning I and three of my colleges walked in and quit our jobs. Two of us were from HP, one was a friend from Berkley, and my brother joined us as the non-technical guy.
We started a company called AtWeb which was building a series of utilities to help website owners make their websites better. That included looking at the quality of the site, examining how it was built and how it could be made better. It was like a Norton utilities of websites. Over the next two and a half years we really experienced the energy of the web.
SM: Who were your customers?
GG: They were all sorts of small businesses and individual website owners. By the end of the company we had over 1 million paid subscribers.