Net-working: Can cyberspace help?
( 2003-12-05 09:29) (CNN.com)
The fine art of business networking is now being mirrored on the Internet.
Web sites are springing up to help managers meet the right contacts. And in many cases colleagues can help make the connection.
"People join because they believe the most valuable new business contacts come through referrals from people they already know and trust."
LinkedIn and others like Ryze.com and Itsnotwhatyouknow.com are the business equivalents of the popular Web site Friendster.com.
Most are free to join, profiles have no photos and your list of contacts is called your "tribe."
LinkedIn, active in 80 countries with 48,000 regular users, does not allow people to cold-call each other. Instead mutual contacts can vet whether they want to refer you.
"We facilitate over 1,000 successful referrals per month. Our users accept three-quarters of all requests because they never hear from strangers," says Guericke.
"Users only request a referral for a specific business or career purpose. It's not something 'extra' they work on, but a more efficient way of doing what they already do."
These sites say they make finding business leads quicker and more reliable, including hiring employees, signing up distributors and locating industry experts.
A downside is that for a successful new contact, both parties must feel the other side has something to offer. If you do not have a valuable network to start with it is unlikely that others will refer you or ask you to be part of their network.
And there is already a debate on how these Web sites will make money.
Venture capitalists have ploughed millions of dollars into Friendster and similar community sites. But it remains to be seen whether they will reap big returns.
"I have no doubt that 90 percent of people will be happy to pay a fee for a referral that they can't get any other way," says Guericke.
Currently LinkedIn is funded by Sequoia Capital the same company that was originally behind Google, Yahoo and PayPal.
"We plan to start charging for referrals when we successfully facilitate 1,000 requests per day, which we expect to reach in June 2004," explains Guericke.
The basic subscription will continue to be free but executives will then be able to sign up for premium networking benefits, also at a cost.
(Courtesy to CNN.com)
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