Rallying the troops — on a networking site for the military
Since LinkedIn cofounder Konstantin Guericke left that company in late 2006, he has been on the lookout for smaller social networking sites that could attract a more targeted audience. That’s how Guericke, now a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, ended up in Watertown Square on Friday.
LinkedIn’s reach in the professional world may be broad, but the site isn’t necessarily ideal for members of the military. It’s a niche that RallyPoint Networks Inc. — a sort of LinkedIn for the armed services — aims to fill.
“They really appreciate the ability to talk with people in different service branches and different levels of the hierarchy that wasn’t really available before,” Guericke, a partner at Earlybird Venture Capital, said of RallyPoint’s members. “They feel like a fish out of water on LinkedIn, the people who are active-duty soldiers. It’s not designed for them in mind.”
Guericke joined the board of Doximity, a social network for doctors, in 2012, and came to RallyPoint’s board this year. He was in town last week for a board meeting at the 15-person company’s headquarters. Cofounders Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing are military veterans who started RallyPoint in 2012.
Weiss said RallyPoint differentiates itself because, among other features, it allows users to represent their military units and ranks on their profiles. The firm looks to draw revenue from advertisers and from premium memberships offered to private-sector recruiters.
So far, it has nearly 700,000 members. Weiss said he believes this size makes his company the biggest social networking firm based in Greater Boston.
Weiss and Guericke said it’s easier for startups like RallyPoint to hire engineers and other workers in the Boston area than in San Francisco and Silicon Valley — where big-name tech giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook offer pay packages and benefits that are hard for small firms to match.
“If you’re a typical entrepreneur, you don’t really have those opportunities to start with,” Guericke said. “It’s very difficult for startups to really compete [in California]. From that perspective, it’s much easier here in Boston.” — JON CHESTO
UMass club clams up about a discount on its membership initiation fee
At an event last week at the University of Massachusetts Club, something caught our ear. The membership relations director, Haley Dean, was telling guests the $600 initiation fee had temporarily been reduced to $100, to increase membership. (If you had hoped to take advantage of that offer, sorry; it ended Friday.)
Curious to find out if the deal was a sign of flagging numbers at the downtown club, we called later to ask. General manager Abbie Pingitore declined to comment. “We’re a private club, and membership is by invitation only,” he said.
That might have been the end of it. But a few hours later, this e-mail from Pingitore landed in our inbox, unprompted: “Thank you for your interest in the UMass Club. I have not and will not speak to you, on the record or otherwise, about the UMass Club. Please take this correspondence as such notice. Any quotation, either in context or out, on the record or not, attributed to me will be met with harsh repercussions.”
Now we were really curious!
Especially since the club, on the top floor of 225 Franklin St., has gotten more than $3 million in operating support in the past seven years from the UMass Building Authority, the real estate arm of the UMass system — even though when the club opened in 2005 UMass officials said that it would pay for itself, with membership dues and fees.
That financial support is not coming from taxpayers, however, according to UMass spokeswoman Ann Scales. She told us UMass uses “state-appropriated funds for one thing and one thing only, and that’s for the salaries of faculty and staff . . . and we don’t have any employees working for the UMass Club,” which is run by ClubCorp, a contractor.
UMass officials also tell us the club is scheduled to move to One Beacon Street later this year. — SACHA PFEIFFER
A swing at personalized selling
Adam Cahill wants to figure out what makes you tick. And then sell you stuff.
Cahill was chief digital officer at Hill Holliday until last month, when he finally decided to scratch a 20-year-old entrepreneurial itch. His startup is called Anagram, and it’s all about making personalized marketing even more personal.
Take the strategy for one of Anagram’s first clients, OptiShot Golf, which makes a virtual golf simulator. The obvious target audience is golfers, so any smart marketing firm would plan to show online ads to people who browse for golf news and products.
Anagram is going a step further. Some golfers might be drawn to OptiShot because they can simulate 18 holes in just 45 minutes. Others might like being able to connect and play with people all over the world. Anagram will study Web browsing habits and try to identify different types of golfers. Are you a busy business traveler who’s always booking flights and hotels, or a social butterfly who lives on Facebook?
The answer could determine which of several OptiShot ads shows up on your screen.
“The idea isn’t to choose the one message we go to market with,” Cahill said. “It’s to think about how to get the right message to people who are more likely to be interested in the social aspect and get a different message to people who are interested in the efficiency aspect.” — CALLUM BORCHERS