“People crave feedback on their professional lives,” say Brendan Wallace and Adeyemi Ajao, co-founders and co-CEOs of Identified, a young San Francisco-based startup that has been hard at work at gamifying the job search. Today, while millions of resumes live in the cloud on sites like LinkedIn, job seekers still aren’t providing all the relevant details on their online and social profiles that would help recruiters identify them as standout candidates. To encourage people to do more with their professional profiles, the startup created its so-called “Identified Score” to measure how in-demand a user’s background is to prospective employers in realtime.
This provides incentive for users to remain active on the site, competing against friends and those with similar backgrounds in a gamified environment to boost their scores. But, knowing that users want more direct feedback on how they can improve their career tracks, Identified wants to go further and is setting its sights on becoming a recommendation engine. To do so, the startup is announcing today that it has closed on $21 million in new funding, bringing its total venture capital investment to $22.5 million.
The round was co-led by VantagePoint Capital Partners, a $1 billion fund, and Capricorn Investment Group, former eBay President Jeff Skoll’s $4 billion fund, which also recently invested in enterprise social network darling, Yammer. A number of Identified’s previous investors also re-upped and participated in the round, including Tim Draper, Bill Draper, Innovation Endeavors, DST’s Alexander Tamas, Social + Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya, Paige Craig, and Farmville founder Zao Yang — to name a few. As a result of the financing, VantagePoint Managing Director Bill Harding will be joining the company’s board of directors.
Launched in September 2011, Identified has reached about 3 million active users in the past eight months, on top of a total of 10 million registered users that have connected with Facebook, importing their Facebook information and friend networks. The co-founders tell us that, of those users, 90 percent are under the age of 30, with the average being 23, which is where the founders believe Identified sets itself apart from LinkedIn. In comparison, the average age of LinkedIn users is about 42, Wallace says, with 60 percent of users being over the age of 35.
Yet for apps, as many know, in light of how many struggle to find any significant, repeat engagement, those active user stats are key. As Andreessen Horowitz’s Jeff Jordan discusses, most apps people install, view once or twice, then rarely (if ever) come back. Thus, for Identified, the focus has been developing the game dynamics inherent to (and around) its Identified Score to incentivize its young user base to fill out detailed profiles and a short-form resume so that they can find out their score and being tracking their career progress in realtime.
Wallace tells us that the average user brings 10 additional data points (35 percent of users have added their school, major, company, job titles, years worked, age, and location) to their profiles, which, in turn, boost their scores and presumably make them more desirable to recruiters. On the flip side, Identified also gives scores to schools and companies so that job seekers can gauge their relative desirability.
That being said, Identified is playing in a crowded space, with LinkedIn owning a membership of more than 150 million users and Viadeo at over 40 million. Then there’s the startup’s closest competitor:BranchOut — the professional network that runs on top of Facebook. BranchOut recently raised $25 million in new funding, bringing its total investment to $49 million — from Accel, Norwest, Redpoint, Floodgate, and others.
The startup has been growing fast, now standing at over 25 million registered users, over 13.5 million of which are active on the app each month, with much of that growth coming from its mobile app.
Like BranchOut, Identified isn’t entertaining questions about exit strategies, the startup is laser-focused on building a big company with an IPO being part of its aspirations for its future as an independent company. After all, in about eight months, the startup has grown to over 50 employees, and the co-founders say that its new round will be used to continue this growth, with the primary focus being on recruiting game designers and data scientists. (Wallace says that the startup already hired a handful of former Zynga employees in an effort to help enhance the ways in which it’s using data and analytics to offer a more gamified and sticky user experience.)
That’s why Identified chose two late-stage investors to lead its series B, as the co-founders believe that, regardless of competition, they’re tapping into a big market, especially considering that tackling enterprise is part of its long-term ambitions.
“We’re looking at all this aggregated information about companies and job searchers, and with a growing data set, we’re beginning to be able to show both people and organizations things that they don’t even know about themselves,” Wallace says. “We want to build a gamified feedback tool for our professional lives.”
Young people have grown up in a world where the speed at which information and communication travels is unprecedented. Younger generations are used to, and expect, instant feedback loops. But LinkedIn, the co-founders say, while being an amazing tool, still feels like it’s built for a previous iteration of the Internet. They want Identified to be a tool that makes actions more likely, that gives people the feeling that they’re taking incremental steps forward, resulting in the length of feedback loops becoming smaller and smaller.
As to BranchOut, the Identified co-founders say that they think that young people want a separation between their social lives and professional lives, with this bifurcation being something that LinkedIn got right. Admittedly, while Identified today gathers most of its initial data from Facebook, the co-founders want it to become a platform, one that has the room to be agnostic in terms of the data (and companies) with which it integrates.
The startup is taking an open view in regard to its data, as part of a long-term goal of encouraging third-party developers to use its data set to build applications for their own businesses and brands. Again, part of this will be building an enterprise tool (and a viable mobile strategy), or perhaps creating a lead gen tool for educational institutions, all of which is derived from the same motivation that will see Foursquare launch a big redesign this week: Capitalizing on a growing data set that allows users to see where they are relative to friends and colleagues on their career path, to find new jobs, mentors, best fits — to build a recommendation service for the job search.
As part of this goal, Identified will release a recruitment search product in July, through which it hopes to begin using its professional data to offer users granular, personalized recommendations that will help them make the right choices as they progress along their career paths.
For more on Identified, check them out at home here.