Earlier today, I chatted with an industry insider with ties to the biggest social networking services, including as a minority investor. He didn’t want to be identified, alas, but we talked at some length about 3-month-old BranchOut, a career networking app for Facebook that last week announced a $6 million Series A from Accel Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, Floodgate, and every angel investor who could pile into the deal, such as Shawn Fanning and Naval Ravikant, among others.
In the wake of the startup’s funding announcement, some have posited that BranchOut could well make LinkedIn irrelevant. After all, many more professionals are Facebook users, and Facebook users spend far more time on Facebook than they do on LinkedIn.
The insider’s take? Yes, BranchOut makes career networking on Facebook easy, by enabling users to search for a company to see which of their friends –- or their friends’ friends — work or have worked there and might be able to make a warm introduction on their behalf.
Yes, Facebook may buy it at some point. (As everyone knows, Accel is a big shareholder in Facebook, too.)
But this person suggests that LinkedIn doesn’t have a lot to worry about. While he sees BranchOut as an opportunity for both job seekers and recruiters, he thinks there’s a much bigger opportunity for recruiters, who are always looking for new databases of people and skills to tap.
“People aren’t going to Facebook to think about jobs and work. They go thinking about their friends, and how to entertain themselves,” he says.
For now. If any service is going to transform Facebook into a place where people want to think about their careers, it could be BranchOut. Before he launched it, founder Rick Marini co-founded one of the first popular (and profitable) social services, Tickle.com, which became renowned for entertaining self-help tests like “What Kind of a Dog Are You?” and was acquired for $100 million in 2004 by the jobs giant Monster.
Monster fumbled in its attempts to capitalize on Tickle and shut it down two years ago. But should Marini resuscitate the tests or else find a new way of entertaining job seekers while helping them get connected, LinkedIn and Monster — and any other site where job seekers gather and recruiters pay the freight — may be in for an unwelcome surprise.
“People go to the hardware store for nails and they go to the grocery store for apples,” says the insider, who doesn’t think Facebook is interested in becoming a professional networking site. “The hardware store could sell apples, but you don’t really want nails next to your fruit. You wouldn’t trust the quality of either one.”
He also acknowledges that “anyone who tries to predict what Facebook will look like in five years is nuts.”
For another interesting perspective on why Facebook is unlikely to take on LinkedIn, click here.