Two years and 25 million registered users after launching its professional network for Facebook, BranchOut is LinkedIn’s biggest competitor.
“At this point, it’s Coke and Pepsi,” BranchOut CEO Rick Marini says of the company’s relationship with LinkedIn.
BranchOut allows users to see which of their Facebook friends (or friends of friends) work at specific companies. Unlike LinkedIn, it doesn’t require users to build a professional network one person at a time. Rather, they simply connect to their pre-existing Facebook graphs. The interface works a lot like LinkedIn from there: users can fill in their work histories, send messages to their connections, collect endorsements and request introductions to friends of friends.
The 45-employee startup’s business model also looks similar to that of its giant — and recently public — competitor. BranchOut hosts about 3 million job listings and has a product for recruiters called RecruiterConnect that works like LinkedIn Recruiter. The development of this latter product, which helps employers source talent, is what LinkedIn cited as a violation of its terms of service when it blocked BranchOut from accessing its API in July.
BranchOut has 13 million monthly unique visitors, which according to AppData.com makes it the 31st most popular app on Facebook — ahead of Instagram, Skype, Twitter and Pinterest.
Marini says much of the growth can be attributed to international adoption and new mobile users. About half of new members are from outside of the U.S., due partly to integrations with European career sites StepStone and totaljobs.com. These partnerships, along with a similar relationship with CareerBuilder in the U.S., allow job searchers to see connections who may help them get a particular job from within that job’s listing.
BranchOut launched its first mobile app in November. By January, mobile accounted for 25% of the service’s traffic. Today, it accounts for 45% of all visits.
Although reaching 25 million registered users looks less impressive when compared to LinkedIn’s 150 million, there are 850 million Facebook users for whom joining BranchOut is just a matter of accepting the app’s permissions. On Thursday, BranchOut announced a $25 million round of funding, bringing its total venture capital backing to $49 million.
While building on Facebook is BranchOut’s greatest differentiator, it also makes the startup vulnerable to its host’s whims. When Facebook changes its features, the team of 45 needs to change BranchOut just as quickly. And if Facebook decides to launch a career feature, BranchOut will likely be toast. Marini doesn’t think that’s likely, though.
“Facebook is a platform company,” he says. “Facebook wants to see companies disrupt multi-billion-dollar markets — like BranchOut disrupting LinkedIn in the professional networking space. They want to see that happen on their network.”