Are Skillpages the new LinkedIn profile? Or maybe are they the new Yellow Pages?
I don’t think Skillpages CEO Iain Mac Donald cares either way. Since the beginning of the year, this Dublin, Ireland based social network went from 50,000 members to almost 900,000 members. And that’s after toiling away for the past 18 months trying to capture some spark (and some differentiation) from their competition.
Now with a bit of momentum behind them, one has to wonder what it will take for Skillpages to take the leap, not only to the next level of users but also in making clear why their product is better than the alternatives out there.
Skillpages difference? Look at the collar
What’s interesting when you first start to explore Skillpages is that it isn’t the usual bevy of white collar professionals that occupy nearly every business networking site around. You’ll find plumbers, or mechanics, or gardeners in between listings for lawyers and accountants. This could be a huge advantage since you could not only find professionals to hire through your network (like LinkedIn) but you can also more easily find out who they are using for plumbing work or gardening (not that I regularly have gardening work).
In essence, the network is about getting work done. And since you can easily connect with people in you networks (Facebook, LinkedIn as well as email import is included), it will also help you connect with who your friends know too, once they sign up.
In a perfect world, Skillpages wouldn’t necessarily require your friends to sign up. It could use social data from Facebook and LinkedIn to make connections with those who do use the site. If I found a lawyer in Minneapolis that a friend knew (because both me and the lawyer were signed up on Skillpages and had him as a mutual friend), I would be able to contact him about the lawyer (and invite him to the service).
Skills instead of a resume
Another interesting wrinkle is that Skillpages focuses on skills rather than titles. While LinkedIn’s functionality has started to introduce specific skills, it’s obvious that this is the core of the functionality of the Skillpages product. In fact, the default search option is for skills.
For people in blue collar work and those with programming roles, this could be a huge win. Titles can be less important than the skills you use on a daily basis.
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Of course, this makes those people in more white collar roles a little nervous. Sure, you may have branding experience, but the job title helps drive the context of that experience. Was it for a Fortune 50 company? Were you the lead on branding initiatives?
More context could be added to the skills of course but having more standardized data (years of experience, different companies, etc…) could help lure in more white collar networkers.
Social network plethora
We are bombarded with social networks every day. Most fail to gain any traction whatsoever. When I reach out to them to talk about numbers, most seem shy. They love the concept (I might too) but 1,000 or 10,000 or even 100,000 is too niche to be impactful in recruiting terms.
Adding 600,000 members in the last 90 days and over 800,000 since January 1 opened my eyes a little bit. Other than the big social networks, who is seeing that much growth? And more importantly, why?
CEO Mac Donald says Skillpages continues to push into the U.S. and greater EU markets. That may prove tough as even established European networking products like Viadeo serve as any indicator. But Skillpages doesn’t need tens of millions of U.S. members to be financially viable. If they get traction in search engines like Google, they could be pretty stable just by selling featured profiles. And Mac Donald’s vision of a more interconnected way of recruiting and hiring service providers (and his willingness to blur the lines between the two) is the way the world seems to be shifting.
MacDonald also says they raised about $5 million in financing that should last them through the end of 2012. My feeling is that they will get a decent business model before then, but a lot changes in a year and a half. Mac Donald and Skillpages can attest to that more than anyone.