LinkUp’s big data longtail


LinkupIt was 15 years ago that JobDig launched with the ambitious goal of merging content from print, radio and and TV into one media channel as part of a nationwide classifieds play.

Cherry Tree investment banker turned entrepreneur Toby Dayton was tapped to lead the charge, centralizing sales and operations from Minnesota with the intention of owning secondary and tertiary markets across the US. He would go on to raise $13m over the next ten years and expand into 150 markets coast to coast.

And the plan was working…until the recession hit.

“We started closing markets as fast as we had opened them and retreated back to the Midwest footprint,” he continues. “It didn’t totally take us out but it became apparent that it our original strategy wasn’t going to get the job done.”

TobyDaytonAs he went back to the drawing board and refocused the core mission — enabling a better way to serve the job seeker — JobDig was reinvented based on one takeaway: the highest quality jobs online are always the ones listed on a company’s website, not those re-posted or spammed all over the Internet.

“It was so novel to see companies start posting jobs on their corporate websites at the time,” he says of the revelation.  “They were more accurate and timely than anywhere else, even as Monster and Career Builder were coming into the market.”

Through a deal with local vertical search engine startup Fetchster in 2005,  LinkUp was born by JobDig to become “the purest online experience for job seekers and employers.”

Nowadays, Dayton says that LinkUp’s ad supported jobs board has accumulated over 2m active job openings, a number which represents more than half of the open positions across the country.  “Hundreds and hundreds of customers” varying in size and sector equate to meaningful revenue growth since 2009 for LinkUp’s online classified business, offsetting the alive yet stagnant JobDig.

Just as LinkUp was originally unintended, so goes the next chapter, a byproduct of constantly aggregating and maintaining such copious amounts of employment information over the years.

“The derivative value of our database of companies and jobs has quickly become a third stream of our revenue,” Dayton says.  “Back in 2009, we started data modeling employment forecasting, which is highly correlated to BLS data.”

Today, LinkUp’s labor market data and analytics product is the fastest growing segment of the business with revenue up over 350% from last year based on monthly subscription for access to data by company, industry, sector, region.

He’s finding that a growing number of firms are hungry for such stats — from Fortune 500 companies to high frequency traders, and expects this evolution to be bigger than the last.

“It’s been a roller coaster…we started LinkUp in a recession and now we’re climbing up again with new life.”

Throughout it all, Dayton remains optimistic about the potential outcome, pointing to the likes of Indeed (7x) and local example Jobs2Web (~10x) as signs of a vibrant market for online HR related services. LinkUp maintains around 32 employees out of St. Louis Park headquarters and has increased capitalization to $16m with Cherry Tree as invested as ever.


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