Path.to is on a path to nowhere. Today the “eHarmony of jobs” announced that it is shutting down its service as of July 19th.
“Failing sucks – especially when it comes to your startup,” community manager Jill Felska wrote in a blog post. “It’s like being kicked hard in the shins right after being dumped, all while standing in the pouring rain with no cabs in sight, only to have a huge truck drive by and splash mud all over you. It’s only when you’ve hit rock bottom that you can start getting back up though, right? Well, that’s where we’re at.”
Path.to is a startup that sought to improve the stagnant and challenging world of online job search. It launched in 2011 to provide a better alternative to sites like Monster, CareerBuilder, and Dice using a more personalized approach. The service worked by creating a rich visual resume for each job seeker, pulling information from their resume, social media activity, and digital portfolios to create a detailed picture of their passions, skills, and interests. On the employer side, recruiters filled in extensive profiles to help job applicants get a sense of what its like to work there. The engine then generated a “Path.to score” to rank relevant matches.
This approach required quite a bit of effort on all sides, but the goal was to be as effective as possible in connecting candidates to companies.
The company seemed to be doing well. It was working with hundreds of companies, including hot startups like Quora, Evernote, Eventbrite, and Lytro and last year expanded beyond San Francisco into New York, Chicago, and Boston. However the company announced today that after two-years of growing its product and community, it is closing its digital doors.
“Unfortunately, we have learned just how hard it is to innovate in the hiring space,” the team said in a blog post. “We’re certainly not the first startup to fight this uphill battle and lose – and likely won’t be the last.”
Path.to listed lessons that could have saved the business, had they been learned earlier. The first is develop a monetization strategy early. While many startups focus on building products and attracting users before establishing a business model, Path.to’s president Pete Cochrane said that monetization can’t be an afterthought, and that the company underestimated what it would take to sell the product. The team also mentioned the challenges of building two-sided marketplaces and the importance of team communication and trust.
Many of the mistakes and lessons learned, however, dealt with not paying close enough attention to customer needs. The oft-repeated Paul Graham mantra “make something people want” was an issue for Path.to, which apparently focused to heavily on adding new features, optimizing site-speed, conversion funnels, and customer acquisition. While these are all important components of growth, the general consensus was had the company focused on perfecting the “core service” and satisfying existing users, it would have stood a better chance of success.
These may seem like obvious lessons in hindsight, but it can be hard to look critically at your business “when you are in the trenches” and have put a colossal amount of effort into a product that just isn’t sticking.
“If our team was to challenge you to just one thing, it would be this: take a step back and really look at what you’re building,” Felska wrote. “What advice from mentors, articles and your customers could impact your business for the better today? It may just save you the trouble of closing your doors someday down the road.”