It seems that every year or so, yet another company comes along that tries to move the "social" network online. First there was sixdegrees.com. More recently there is Ryze. Now, there's a company that (somehow) has raised almost $10 million from venture capitalists (in this market) to try to do the exact same thing. The difference here is that it's focused on business people. The company claims they'll make it easier to find out if your officemate plays tennis with someone at the big account you're trying to land. There are plenty of reasons why I doubt this will work. First off, getting people to input such information is very difficult. People tend to test it out, input a few names, and see what happens, but it's pretty difficult to get them to continue to add names or to keep it up-to-date in any way. Furthermore, unless you start with a large critical mass, it's tough to see the value out of it. Being the first in an empty room of networkers doesn't have much value. Finally, even if they could get it to work, I'm not sure how valuable it would be. I don't deny that the offline "old boys' network" works... but, once it moves online, it doesn't seem to have the same impact. If I'm talking to my friend and mention that I'm trying to land client ABC and he knows someone there, he'll tell me, if he feels comfortable doing so. However, if I look up on an online system that the same friend knows someone at ABC, it's not quite the same. Suddenly I'm asking a favor of him, instead of having him just volunteer that info to me. Social networking is a pretty informal experience... formalizing it is fairly difficult.
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