MAN OF THE HOUR

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Entrepreneur: Interview with BranchOut founder Rick Marini

Posted by Sam Carter on June 27, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Imagine the amount of time the average person spends on Facebook. Now imagine the amount of time the unemployed person spends looking for work—and the extra time he or she has to endlessly browse Facebook. What if the two could be combined? That’s exactly what Rick Marini did with BranchOut, a platform for Facebook that allows users to discover the professional network that awaits them at their fingertips inside the social network. Showing only work history, education and recommendation info, BranchOut makes it easy—and safe—to share professional information and begin the search for your next great job.


Making use of his own professional network developed during years in Silicon Valley and as a Harvard Business School MBA graduate, Marini was able to assemble a team of engineers and investors who were able to grow the company in a big way: In the first quarter of this year, BranchOut went from 10,000 to 500,000 users. With over 3 million job listings and nearly 20,000 internships posted with BranchOut, it’s the largest job board on Facebook.


Marini agreed to answer a few questions about his experience developing BranchOut and the burgeoning company’s philosophy.


Sam Carter: What prompted the idea for BranchOut?

Rick Marini: In June 2010, a friend of mine called me asking who I knew at a particular company. He was looking for a sales lead. I knew I had a connection at the company and wanted to find out who it was by searching on Facebook. At that time, there was not a way to do it. I asked our lead engineer to build a widget to accomplish the task. We immediately saw the value of this for professionals everywhere.


SC: Who’s the target user of BranchOut?

RM: Anyone who would like to accelerate their career by connecting with the right people and best opportunities. We have everyone from college students to Fortune 500 CEOs.


SC: What do you see as the primary advantage your site has over one like LinkedIn?

RM: Two things: the first is Facebook. Facebook has a much larger social graph than LinkedIn, people go to it more often, spend more time on it, and share more information on it. Facebook is simply a more powerful platform. The second is that Facebook is where you connect with your real relationships—your family and friends who are most likely to help you. This leads to a more effective professional networking experience.


SC: You’ve had some incredible growth in the first quarter of this year, going from 10,000 users to 500,000. To what do you attribute that?

RM: As our product improves and our users see the value of BranchOut, they are more likely to invite their friends to join their network.


SC: Have you had to work with Facebook directly? How was that experience?

RM: We have a great relationship with Facebook and are excited to add more utility to the Facebook platform.


SC: How do you go about convincing people that Facebook can be a place for business and not just browsing the profiles of friends?

RM: People are already using Facebook for professional networking. 56% of graduating college students list Facebook as the most helpful social network for a job search. Almost all of us have co-workers that are Facebook friends. We know that all networking—personal and professional—will soon be done on Facebook.


SC: What’s been your personal experience with the power of connections?

RM: There are too many examples to list here of how connections have benefited my career.


SC: How does BranchOut use its own service for finding potential hires?

RM: We post jobs on our job board and always review applicants’ BranchOut profiles before interviews. It’s been very helpful to us, too!


SC: What’s BranchOut’s relationship with the unemployment problem in the United States? Do you see it as a new tool for job-seekers that can help them in ways traditional methods cannot?

RM: We are very excited to play a significant role in getting Americans back to work. BranchOut provides a new, innovative way for job seekers to find and connect with great job opportunities.


SC: Where do you see the company in a year? In two?

RM: We are always focused on improving our product so it is increasingly helpful to our users. In the next 1-2 years we will have tens of millions of users and products designed for specific professional applications, like sales and recruiting.


SC: You have an impressive team of investors and advisers. How did you assemble it?

RM: I’ve been fortunate to form friendships with great entrepreneurs and investors here in Silicon Valley. They’ve been incredibly helpful in the growth of BranchOut.


SC: You’ve recently raised a lot of money for the company. How are you going to put it to use?

RM: Our first priority is to grow our team. We are hiring a lot of engineers right now.


SC: You previously led two companies, SuperFan and Tickle.com. What lessons did you take away from your time with them?

RM: Hire a world-class team and develop a powerful product. Those are the two most important things.


SC: You recently spoke at the eG8 Forum in Paris. What did you take away from that experience?

RM: It was an honor to share insights with heads of state about how the internet can accelerate economic growth on a global level. The experience reaffirmed my commitment to BranchOut’s significant role in the revitalization of the economy.


SC: When did you first realize the power—and profitability—of social media?

RM: We launched Tickle in 1999 when the Internet was truly a new frontier. The massive reach of social networking back then taught me that we were on to something big.


SC: What are you reading right now?

RM: My friend Gary Vaynerchuk sent me The Thank You Economy, which is a must-read for all companies who want to get better results using social media.


SC: iPad or Kindle?

RM: iPad.


SC: Theme song to your life?

RM: Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." It's a great song and a message that all entrepreneurs resonate with.


SC: What does "Man of the Hour" mean to you?

RM: Someone whose life is balanced: success, happiness, and great relationships.

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To learn more about Branchout and register for an account please visit their website at branchout.com

Categories: Pursuit: Technology, Culture: Up The Ladder

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