New Social Business Network Launches: The Future or Facemash 2.0 for the Chamber Crowd?

The “hot or not” model of social networking did not go over so well in Facebook CEO’s Mark Zuckerberg days at Harvard (see: Facemash), but could a similar model work in the world of online business networking? A new startup is attempting and, in the meantime, reminding us all of that age-old advice to be careful who you step on as you climb the corporate ladder…

Who knows you better than that guy in the cubicle next door, and what truths will he spill behind the veil of online anonymity? That’s the idea behind Mixtent, a just-launched site that combines Facebook and LinkedIn to allow you to compare two people in a certain skill.

Call it LinkedIn, 2.0.

Here’s how it works: You sign up for Mixtent as an app on top of your LinkedIn profile. Mixtent scrubs your LinkedIn profile to find your closest contacts and most direct peers. The app then brings up two people in your LinkedIn network and asks a job-specific question such as, “Who is a better product manager?” It asks users to repeat these comparisons again and again and plugs the votes into a central board, building a social reputation skill platform.

Your peers vote on you anonymously and, in return for their participation, discover how others have rated them. The model is designed to generate comparisons that are fair (so an intern won’t face off against a Vice President, for example), and relevant to the user’s skill set.

The goal, says CEO and co-founder Jonathan Gheller, is to offer prospective employees and employers alike a “game-like approach to capturing data” instead of the typical LinkedIn-type recommendations that are vague, not anonymous, and often hard to solicit.

“This is a big and obvious space to fix,” Gheller explained to tech blog D: AllThingsDigital of the business networking model, “but we’re trying to solve a narrow problem (how we qualify people) that we’re hoping will be big.”

The startup’s database currently contains about 600,000 rated professionals, all collected during its beta stage. The test will be whether its social edge will allow it to compete in an already crowded field amidst companies like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com.

The first test for the site lies in whether the service becomes a true assessment of a person’s skill or, just a popularity contest. The site also offers an opt-out option for users if they feel it fails to generate a fair or relevant comparison, a nice feature but one that could backfire if too many people opt-out and Mixtent loses its value.

Gheller argues that won’t be the case.

“The system is completely intermediated to actually capture good data, and even though it looks like a game, it’s not gameable,” he has said.

The end goal, it seems, is to create a market to sell the Mixtent brand to companies as analytic products offering more objective recommendations for job openings.

Gheller’s earlier foray into the social media space was with FashMatch, a platform for creating clothing outfits that he sold to Like.com. Mixtent is a five-month old, angel-funded startup based in Redwood City, Calif.

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