Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Mixtent Builds a Database of Talent, One Face-Off at a Time

Is there any way to know whether people will be good at a particular job before you hire them? Can you understand just how talented they are at a particular skill relative to their peers?

Those are hard questions to answer, especially online. The best LinkedIn has to offer are résumés and recommendations, usually written at the request of the user. But a new company called Mixtent, built on top of LinkedIn, aims to solicit simple feedback about people to understand how they fit into the network of potential employees.

Mixtent brings up two people in a user’s LinkedIn network and asks a question–for instance, “Who is a better product manager?” It asks users to repeat these comparisons again and again in order to build leaderboards of talent in different categories. Mixtent CEO Jonathan Gheller calls this a “game-like approach to capturing data.”

That simple act of brutal comparison is familiar on the Web, dating at least back to the seminal product HotorNot (which showed pictures of two people and asked, “Who is hotter?”). The HotorNot model was also part of the genesis for Facebook, through an earlier Mark Zuckerberg project called Facemash (which compared the looks of Harvard students). More recently, another corporate/social start-up called Cubeduel launched a very similar site for users to rank their coworkers.

But what Mixtent wants to do is build these tiny acts of ranking–which in my experience feel somewhat mean, but Gheller promises are completely anonymized–into a collective intelligence network that can algorithmically compare people’s abilities. The company will then sell analytic products to companies so they can better understand their employees and potential hires.

There are a ton of start-ups tackling the social side of corporate recruiting and similar topics; call them the LinkedIn 2.0s.

Gheller says of the competition, “This is a big and obvious space to fix, but we’re trying to solve a narrow problem (how we qualify people) that we’re hoping will be big.”

Mixtent is only five months old, angel-funded and based in Redwood City, Calif. Gheller had previously built a start-up called FashMatch, a somewhat similar collective intelligence platform for creating clothing outfits. He sold FashMatch to Like.com, which was bought by Google last August for $100 million.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus