The business social network ExploreB2B, which offers a cross between LinkedIn (s LNKD), Quora and a blogging platform, has officially launched in the English-speaking world.
The previously German-only site is largely built around articles that show off members’ expert knowledge in various fields. The idea is to use the discussions around these articles, along with other features such as project boards and virtual industry conferences, as a basis for problem-solving and international deal-making.
According to sibling founders Jonathan and Susanna Gebauer, LinkedIn‘s problem is that it’s too noisy – any user can create a new discussion group, which means you end up with loads of groups about the same topic.
ExploreB2B’s articles, on the other hand, help establish their writers as experts in specific fields. Other users can subscribe to those fields, and curation cuts down on duplication.
Most social platforms live off activity,” Jonathan Gebauer told me. “The concept is a bit different for ExploreB2B – we want people to only get the content they actually want. They can decide for themselves how much content they want in their feed, from just a few users or a few categories in an industry to whole industries.”
“We have experts in the different categories, so if you’re publishing good content in the category you can apply to be an expert there,” Susanna Gebauer explained, adding that the system will be enhanced so that people can also be recommended as experts.
There’s also a very interesting feature called ‘topics’, which essentially allows industry conferences to be conducted on ExploreB2B’s platform. The launching of a topic is a bit like a call for papers — after a closing date, the topic is shut off to new submissions and made available for people to read and comment on.
And, as Jonathan Gebauer puts it, “old topics become like an expert magazine.”
The other standout aspect of ExploreB2B is its nature as a crowdsourcing platform for specific business projects. According to the Gebauers, the soft-launch of the English version’s test phase resulted in the signing-up of a Japanese businessman who almost immediately sourced new designs — from the U.S. — for his sticker vending machine firm.
The site’s project boards can be used to look for specific suppliers, or for help in solving other business problems. Requests for help can also be shared, so people can pass on new business to contacts they know might be interested.
Tuesday also saw the introduction of ExploreB2B’s premium features, which are free for now. The big one is analytics, which let the user get a better idea of who’s reading their articles, how they got there, what their interests and industries are, and so on.
There are some really well-developed ideas here, particularly when you consider that the company’s been running since 2010 almost entirely on funding from Berlin development bank IBB.
If it manages to get and maintain the kind of traction we’re seeing on ResearchGate — another Berlin startup that adds serious-minded focus to the social networking model — ExploreB2B could become an extremely useful platform.