Blog Post

Hashable: What LinkedIn Would Look Like If It Was Built Now

The name doesn’t tell you a lot about what it does, and if you see the hash tags on Twitter you might think it is just about “hooking up,” but Hashable has a serious business purpose, says founder and CEO Mike Yavonditte. It is about helping users — particularly business users — keep track of their connections, both professional and personal, and about creating a real-time social graph around those connections. In a lot of ways, the app and the service are what LinkedIn might look like if it was being created now. It is a professional social network that’s all about mobile, social, real-time and geo-specific — in other words, many of the things that LinkedIn and other professional networks aren’t doing, or have only recently started to do.

Yavonditte is the former CEO of Quigo, a web-based advertising company that was acquired by AOL (s aol) in 2007 for $340 million. After the sale, the Hashable founder says he sat around for a while wondering what to do, and eventually started a company called Tracked, which he described in a recent interview at the company’s New York offices as “a more focused version of Yahoo Finance.” But when Twitter and Facebook both started pulling in substantial amounts of investment, Yavonditte says it finally dawned on him that the social web was here to stay, and he realized there was nothing really social about Tracked. “I knew I was going to be on the wrong side of those trends,” he says.

Out of that focus on social came the idea for Hashable: a lightweight app and service that would allow business people like himself to easily keep track of their professional connections — whether those connections involved introducing two contacts to each other, bumping into a fellow angel investor on the street, or having lunch with a former partner. The idea of the hash tag “was kind of a hack,” he says, based on the trend of using keywords on Twitter (something Chris Messina, currently at Google, came up with originally). Using a tag like #intro or #justmet effectively connects a user’s activity to Hashable and creates a relationship, and also tracks and geo-tags and indexes that relationship.

So typing #justmet and then a user’s Twitter name, for example, automatically sends the other user your Hashable business card (if you have signed up for Hashable and connected it to Twitter) and gives them the option of sending theirs to you. You can choose to post this to Twitter publicly or not, and you can simultaneously check in at the location you met that person on Foursquare as well. Hashable also adds that person to your address book, which it creates using your Twitter connections and any web-mail or phone contacts.

The real power of the service, says Yavonditte, comes when you have built up a range of different connections, and you can see at a glance who you are connected to, as well as when, how and even where you have interacted with them — and the service ranks the strength of those connections based on how much you have interacted with that person. “It creates a memory bank for your social connections,” says the Hashable CEO. “This is social CRM [customer relationship management] with a fun interface.”

While LinkedIn also keeps track of and shows you all your professional connections, it isn’t really very social, and it isn’t very real-time either. You can see who you are connected to, but it doesn’t show you how you met that person or when, or what you were doing at the time, or where you were. The service has been trying hard to add more social elements to the site, including the launch of Twitter-style functions and Facebook-style features, but it remains a very static service. Hashable, in contrast, is all about the social aspects of your connections — and Yavonditte notes the service is also accumulating tons of data about those social graphs that could be very valuable.

Hashable, which launched as a private beta in June 2010, opened to the public a month ago and has been seeing steady growth, says Yavonditte, although he won’t divulge specific numbers. The company is backed by Union Square Ventures, which led a Series A round of $3.8 million, and a consortium of other investors.

5 Responses to “Hashable: What LinkedIn Would Look Like If It Was Built Now”

  1. I live and breathe Hashable.

    I am biased.

    Nevertheless, here’s something I’ve been thinking of recently in context with my obsessive Hashable use: it has lots of value in the present tense (“real-time”), but subtly it is creating a wealth of value for the future tense. What I mean: when I “hash” my current interactions on the go, it’s fun to earn points and climb the leaderboard and I love adding notes to each interaction. Right away, it makes me feel more organized by recording the context of each #call I have, describing ever person I #justmet, etc. (whether privately or publicly).

    To me, that’s all sweet. I love using Hashable in the here-and-now. BUT, where I think a Ton of value is going to be unlocked is in the future tense: when I can really quickly and painlessly sort through each #call I’ve had that contained conversations about…let’s say ‘the LA Lakers’, or ‘best exercise practices’. Or a year from now when I can sort through every #justmet interaction I had in the first week of May when I start my internship.

    Down the road, having access to an organized and searchable record of things like this, with context around every single relationship and every single individual interaction with specific friends is going to be a major information advantage to anyone who cares about maintaining the most healthy connections possible with everyone that they can in their network. The fact that Hashable is working to enable these kinds of things is something I really, really believe in.

  2. Good idea, and I see some clear benefit in this service but I wonder if it’s too late. I kind of feel like this is akin to launching a Facebook competitor and hoping to take market share from the beast. Not exactly the same scenario, but LinkedIn is well established and pros who use it already devote time to it. Adding another service to manage may be time consuming.

    This company screams acquisition target, as it would definitely add utility to something like LinkedIn, and I could see people using it often if it layered into their professional social graph they already manage. Or if Facebook wanted to extend its footprint in the professional identity space, this may add value.

    But who knows…seems to me it’s geared well for early adopters and people who obsess over using the latest thing. Being plugged-in to Twitter will amplify its exposure to people who are well connected. This may explode (a la Quora) if it can get high-profile early adopters using it. Is Scoble on it yet? :)

  3. Thanks for the post and the interview.

    It seems like Hashable is a great development of certain trends going on in social media today. The use of hashtags, geolocation connections, and professional contacts is a great combination but it seems to go along the “natural progression” of social networking. I wonder what Mike would think about this recent study I found about the use of location-based apps and smartphones