Tuesday, October 9, 2012

With Relaunch, LinkedIn Competitor BranchOut Tries to Persuade Users to Stick Around

The first edition of BranchOut was an app that lived on Facebook and mapped friends’ jobs. Its biggest strength was adding new users, through a variety of tactics thatsometimes got spammy.
After the app reached 25 million registered users earlier this year, the company raised $25 million in venture capital (for an all-time total of $49 million, from Accel Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Mayfield, Norwest Venture Partners, and others). At this point, of 30 million users, 3.4 million use the app on a monthly basis.
So — now what? Clearly, BranchOut has to figure out a way to be more relevant in peoples’ lives. Today, the company is relaunching itself as a standalone site for people to create a sort of living record of their professional identity.
It’s kind of like LinkedIn reimagined in the style of other modern social Web sites — with an activity stream, a Facebook Timeline equivalent for job milestones, and a Pinterest lookalike for collecting professional moments and finding inspiration.
Much of the new BranchOut, including users’ resumes, is public by default. Perhaps another way to look at it would be a more built-out version of AOL’s personal homepage maker About.me.
Users who still want the old BranchOut personal-professional networking tools can find something similar in a “Connections” tab on the new site.
The goal of the relaunch is to “capture and share professional moments that go beyond the black-and-white resume,” BranchOut CEO Rick Marini said in an interview last week.
This is a pretty dramatic change for BranchOut, whose previous Web site had simply directed visitors to its Facebook app. That old app product is now being killed. BranchOut also laid off some staff earlier this year, though Marini justified that as a switch from a sales to an engineering focus as company priorities changed.

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