Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Holy Start-Up Pileup! Social Networking Gets Professional.

The same variety of apple has apparently been falling from trees all over Silicon Valley, hitting Web entrepreneurs on the head and inspiring them to create better ways to connect personal and professional social networks.

Beyond the directory-style LinkedIn, that could mean facilitating professional profiles on social sites, pushing job postings through networks, introducing contacts, soliciting referrals and sharing resources.

Part of the reason this idea has been so resonant with Web entrepreneurs–and investors too–is the trouble they’re having with hiring qualified people to work at their own companies.

(Unlike in other parts of the world right now, unemployment rates are not as much of a problem among techies.)

Assetmap, a pre-launch San Francisco-based start-up, for example, wants to help companies and nonprofits understand what assets they may have at their disposal through their networks.

These connections already exist, but they’re often unexploited, according to Assetmap co-founder Nathaniel Whittemore, who let me in on a bit of what he’s doing.

Whittemore told NetworkEffect the failings of sites like LinkedIn include “forcing a distinction between personal and professional that is becoming less and less obvious and failing to recognize that the one-to-one friend-based social graph isn’t the only graph that has value for business.”

Whittemore and co-founder Danny Moldovan hail from the world of social entrepreneurship. Former Northwestern classmates, they had both been at the fast-growing activism platform Change.org.

They have teamed with Jayson Vantuyl, co-founder of Engine Yard, the Ruby on Rails hosting service. At the moment, they are funded by friends and family while looking for outside capital, and plan to launch this spring.

There are many early companies in this space with fancier pedigrees.

Top Prospect, a social recruiting site that rewards users with $10,000 or more for helping friends find jobs, was funded by Andreessen Horowitz, Spark Capital, Ron Conway, David Goldberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Rick Thompson, Chamath Palihapitiya and other angels.

Also based in San Francisco, Top Prospect was founded by Rotem Perelmuter, who formerly sold an online radio service to MTV Networks during the dot-com boom (and more recently ran a hedge fund). The site is currently in open beta.

Delicious founder Joshua Schachter’s Tasty Labs, which has gotten money from Union Square Ventures, hasn’t said much about what it is doing, but is also working on something similar to the idea of an asset map.

Elsewhere, BranchOut, which bills itself as offering “your professional profile on Facebook,” raised $6 million from Accel Partners, Floodgate, Norwest Venture Partners and many angels.

And Hashable, a network for introductions, raised $4 million, also from Union Square Ventures.

And Namesake, from Ad.ly and Newroo co-founders Brian Norgard and Daniel Gould, offers a pretty site for “opportunity routing,” with features such as a real-time stream and chat.

It goes on–other young start-ups in the space include Sumazi, Pursuit, Identified and Gild. (You knew this would happen: Gild turns the social recruiting concept into an online game.)

It wouldn’t really make sense to combine social and professional networks by starting from scratch, so these sites are built on top of existing networks like LinkedIn and particularly Facebook. If you want to try them out, be prepared to cough up those Facebook Connect credentials a whole bunch of times.

(Cute explainer graphics above from Assetmap, Top Prospect and Identified, respectively.)


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google