When Weymouth native Mark Rogers was looking to serve on a board of directors three years ago, he noticed that there was something amiss.
“I realized that boardroom recruitment was more about who you know,” Rogers said. “Boards should be trying to look for people with certain skill sets and traits. They should be looking for people who want to serve on boards.”
His response? Create a website that serves as a community and resource portal and offers premium services, such as matchmaking for those who want to serve on boards.
In September, Rogers launched BoardProspects, a website that is part LinkedIn, part Match.com, aiming to provide board members with the knowledge, tools, and access to expertise that makes better board members and better boards.
It was a risky move for Rogers. For the past decade, he worked as a lawyer, practicing corporate law at his family’s Braintree-based firm.
Rogers, who runs the site along with a small staff, said there’s a need now more than ever for an idea like this.
“There are boards throughout the country which are filled with disinterested and unqualified people,” said Rogers, who added that the site is intended for both private and public boards throughout the country. “This can lead to a lot of issues and corporate governance dilemmas and it affects people at all levels of a company or organization. And that’s not right.”
Filling a need
At its core, BoardProspects is a free social networking site that allows board members and boards to access information and pertinent resources and to scour through candidates, and for individuals to find boards with open positions.
Ultimately, BoardProspects is intended to operate as a for-profit enterprise, with revenue coming in from subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising, as well as “ancillary products,” such as BoardU, an e-learning platform where people can take classes on boardroom education.
In just its first month, nearly 2,000 people signed up, Rogers said. He said BoardProspects is not tracking placements made through its site, as he simply wants the site to serve as an intermediary where both sides can meet.
Jim Sullivan, who is in the process of launching a company, heard about BoardProspects from a friend. It was the perfect fit, said Sullivan, as he was currently looking to begin nurturing and developing his company’s advisory board.
“We used BoardProspects to identify willing prospects who could bring expertise to our board and people who would be excited to serve on a board,” said Sullivan.
“In America, you have 99 percent of the country which has no experience of being on a board. And that’s the value of creating a data base like this. You are able to sort through a pool of qualified individuals,” he said.
After meeting Rogers at a Chamber of Commerce event, Sue Chandler was immediately interested. The executive director of Domestic Violence Ended Inc., known as Dove, Chandler said she eagerly awaited the launch of the website, as she was looking to add to her board.
“I like that the platform is based on a social media model, and that we can identify specific criteria we might be looking for — skills, areas of professional knowledge, etc.,” said Chandler.
To get BoardProspects off the ground, Rogers faced a number of hurdles. First, he needed to find individuals to invest in the project. For well over a year, Rogers’ schedule was filled with countless meetings around the country. By the time it launched, Rogers had raised almost $2 million and BoardProspects had received sponsorships from the likes of Goodwin Procter and NASDAQ. He had also put together an advisory board that includes technology start-up gurus from Silicon Valley, such as one of the founding team members of LinkedIn.
“The biggest challenge for starting your own business is to get validation,” said Rogers, who stopped practicing law two years ago. “During the process of launching a business, you learn that there are a lot of great people out there who have these fantastic ideas. But it’s very difficult to make those ideas a reality.”
The website has kept Rogers, a 37-year-old married father of three, very busy. One day he’s meeting with the leader of some of the country’s biggest companies, flying across the country. On other days, he’s burning up the phone lines from his South Boston office.
Despite his chaotic schedule, Rogers said he couldn’t be happier right now, as he spends his days addressing an issue that plagues many organizations, from small non-profits to Fortune 500 companies.
“What I love best is the idea that I’m working to help people solve this problem,” said Rogers, who said that he hopes to expand BoardProspects internationally.
“For most people, using people they already know was the beginning and end of the board recruitment process. And there was no forum to help find prospects. This changes all that.”