When LinkedIn first launched, it touted itself as the premiere site for networking and personnel discovery on the web. Since then, it has grown massively, with people joining at all ranks and across all sectors. This has put a strain on arguably the most important component of the site: the ability to contact others who could help you further your career. As more users join, top-tier executives are becoming less and less inclined to provide contact information, or to use the service at all — there’s just too much noise. Enter WhoDoYouKnowAt, a new, similar networking service claiming enhanced exclusivity and functionality.
To make networking connections more useful and relevant, WhoDoYouKnowAt has applied a “circles of trust” system, allowing its users to classify their links on the site with different levels of access. For example, an executive might approve a connection between herself and her assistant, but choose a “low” level of trust so that her assistant’s friends can’t view her contact information. In this way, it works very similarly to Facebook’s limited profile options, which allow you to choose which of your friends can view your wall postings, contact information, group affiliations, etc. All of this is designed so that your business relationships online reflect what they actually are offline. WhoDoYouKnowAt gives you five “circles of trust” to choose from, as well as an option for “no trust,” which are listed and able to be toggled next to each of your contacts. In the fifth circle, only your name, company and title are displayed, nothing else. You can also choose to “pair” with a connection, which allows for a full exchange of personal and professional data.
The site takes sharing contact information to a new level with its Contact Data Integrity Management tool. It asks you to input both your present and past contact information, and then crawls your connections’ contact lists to see what data they have for you. If they have an outdated email or phone number for you, and are within a certain level of trust, the system will automatically send them your new information. Accordingly, when others update their info, you will be notified of their new coordinates. WhoDoYouKnowAt syncs with almost every contact manager on the web, from Gmail to Twitter to Facebook.
Also different from LinkedIn, the site provides a special arena for networking and exchanging information within your current company. The idea is that people communication differently with their current colleagues than with prospective employers or other friends. By demarcating certain contacts as current co-workers, you can either hide or show your other contacts to them as a group. Let’s say you want your colleagues to know that you have a connection with a VP within the company — you can make sure that’s viewable to all of them as a batch. On the other hand, if you don’t want them to know that you’re in talks with a VP at a different company, none of them will be able to view that link.
Beyond these basics, WhoDoYouKnowAt allows you to set up email alerts notifying you of events on the network (like someone gaining a new contact or switching positions), provides “relationship weighing” algorithms so you can view which people might be the best to know or have the most impact on your career, tracks prospects for various deals and hires, and hosts forums for discussions on various topics (all within various circles of trust).
After you sign up, you have four different levels of membership to choose from: Basic is free, allowing only three connection requests at a time and only three alerts at a time, and not including access to all of your co-workers’ contacts; Bronze ($9.99/month), Silver ($29.99/month), and Gold ($39.99/month) memberships simply allow for more or unlimited requests and alerts, with Gold granting full access to co-workers’ contacts. After importing your contacts, you assign them different circles of trust and get going.
WhoDoYouKnowAt debuted at DEMOFall 2009 three weeks ago. The Texas-based company says it has been self-funded so far. It was founded by Lee Blaylock, a former executive at Oracle and Dell and founder of $500 million investment firm Annandale Capital. It has already recruited several high-profile companies, including Google, Dell, Oracle, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell and Intuit. Below is a video of their product demo:
Editor’s note: This is part of VentureBeat’s series “Startup Spotlight.” Every week, we’ll sift through the scores of companies applying to be promoted and profile the best one. Companies can sign up here at the Entrepreneur Corner, which is currently sponsored by Microsoft. (Of course, you’ll still find lots of startup news and innovation in our day-to-day coverage.)
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