Q&A: Yinon Weiss on Building Social Network RallyPoint to Connect the Military and Employers

Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing, co-founders of RallyPoint. They are both Iraq war veterans.

Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing, co-founders of RallyPoint. They are both Iraq war veterans.

RallyPoint, a social network designed to connect current and former members of the military and employers, recently received an additional $5 million in venture capital led by San Francisco-based DBL Investors to expand the platform. Founded by Iraq war veterans Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing, RallyPoint is similar to LinkedIn, but focused on the military. SocialTimes recently caught up with Weiss to discuss how RallyPoint works, how it plans to use the additional $5 million, the process for verifying members are military, its business model, and more.

Question: What is your background, and what led you and your co-founder to launch RallyPoint?

Answer: I’m originally from Palo Alto, Calif., and went to UC Berkeley. I graduated in 1999 at the height of the dot-com bubble and worked as an engineer in the area until joining the Marine Corps. After serving a total of 10 years in the military, I headed to Harvard Business School where I reconnected with a service member who I had met in Baghdad, Aaron Kletzing, who had just enrolled at Harvard Business School. After graduating from Harvard Business School in 2011, I worked for a startup called Witricity. Aaron and I started working on our idea together, after school and after work. We decided to do it full-time and started fundraising. I left my job, and Aaron left Harvard Business School after his first year to dedicate our time to developing RallyPoint.

Q: What exactly is RallyPoint? Who is it intended for?

A: RallyPoint is a professional network for current and former U.S. military members, functionally similar in some ways to LinkedIn. It connects its members and gives them the best tools possible to succeed both while in the military and beyond. With RallyPoint, you can build out your professional network, connect with other members of the military in a safe environment and explore career opportunities both within the military as well as in the private sector. Some key features are exclusive access (you need to verify military affiliation to join), corporate membership so companies can recruit military talent through the site, help translating what a military job title looks like in the civilian world, private conversations among members, and a new feature that allows military family members to join the network as well. RallyPoint is intended for military service members, veterans and employers with the goal to secure the best career opportunities for members either inside the military or in the civilian world.

Q: How do you verify that members are indeed current or former members of the military?

A: We have several types of members on the site, each with its own set of specific limitations. To get the most access for whatever account type you are, you must verify your status, and we give members four unique ways to do that. They can choose the option that’s most convenient for them.

Q: Talk more about how RallyPoint is comparable to LinkedIn.

A: RallyPoint uses a similar knowledge management system. However, the vast majority of military members do not use LinkedIn, and most have never even heard of it. LinkedIn doesn’t speak the language of military – ranks, specialties, duty assignments, deployments – and people in the military may not find much professional value for their military careers using the tools LinkedIn has for them. The way careers are managed in the military is different than the private sector. Also, military units and codes are not listed on LinkedIn. All the benefits of LinkedIn are significantly reduced for people in the military, which is why we created our own network.

Q: How will you use the $5 million in funding to expand RallyPoint?

A: The $5M in Series A funding will be used to grow our team, develop a mobile strategy and build a more mature platform for companies on the network.

Q: What is your business model? How do you make money?

A: Our business model is similar in ways to LinkedIn. There are three value solutions on LinkedIn — talent solutions, marketing solutions and subscriptions. At RallyPoint, we’re focusing right now on the first two. In pilot testing, we charged companies between $99 and $5,000 for creating interaction opportunities between themselves and specific types of military members in the network. We’re introducing new products soon that haven’t been priced publicly yet.

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