Yahoo’s new social job network: Kickstart

October 31, 2007

by Harrison Hoffman

Yahoo is looking to change the game with their new social job network, Kickstart. They are currently conducting research surveys among college students to find out what they think of this new service. Yahoo asks this question to the participants, “Wish you had an ‘in’ to find the job of your dreams?” Kickstart is all about finding that “in.”

Yahoo Kickstart connects college students with alumni at the companies that they are interested in. As you can see in the screenshot above, this student’s “in” at Nike is an alumni named Dave Bottoms. Dave has expressed an interest in helping out students and connecting with alumni. He also knows one of your friends, went to your school, and shares a common interest with you. That’s a really powerful networking tool. Presenting specific connections like this adds a whole new value to this job network.

Aside from showing your “in,” company pages also provide some useful information about the company as a whole, broken down into key points such as industry, size, location, contact, and description. Anyone who is connected in any way with that company is also displayed.

As you might also expect, everyone who signs up with Yahoo Kickstart gets their own profile page, where you can build a mini resume and add a quotation to give the profile a more personal feel. Everything here is pretty standard for a social network, but there is a definite professional focus, much like LinkedIn. The personal profile isn’t anything revolutionary, but it certainly gets the job done in this situation.

The third and final main component to Kickstart is the university page. This is very similar to what Facebook does with their “network” pages. It displays some basic information about the school and provides space for discussions, bulletins, and events.

Yahoo Kickstart is currently a concept and is being researched, so the things that you see in these screenshots may or may not make it into the final product. When I asked Yahoo for a comment on the service, they responded by saying,

“…We’re continually checking the pulse on customer response to potential concepts on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes our research leads to the development of new product offerings, but not all concepts we research are formally developed and rolled out to our larger audience.”

I personally think that Kickstart is a really solid concept and that it’s a possible game-changer in the professional networking space. Hopefully we’ll see Yahoo kickstarting some careers in the near future.


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Peer Networks Like Sermo Point Ways to Profit from Knowledge

October 25, 2007

We can categorize social networks into two extremes: monoliths like Facebook that seek to be everything to everybody, contrasted with networks built by companies like Dow Chemical Co. and KPMG that interest mostly their current (and possibly former) employees.

Even as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg continues to imply that Facebook is worth every bit of its $15 billion valuation, he offers few guideposts for its long-term business plans, reports the Times Online from the recent Web 2.o Conference in San Francisco. After Facebook creates a model of what he calls “the social graph,” Zuckerberg says, “… then we can expose those people to a set of applications which will enable them to share their information more effectively.”

Fair enough. We have little doubt that Facebook will do some very interesting things in the future. But we were intrigued by the emergence of a network for physicians called Sermo.

Some 30,000 doctors use the network to discuss diagnoses and treatments with their peers. Sermo and similar networks such as, which serves executives of wireless companies, appear to stake out a patch of middle ground between Facebook and specialized corporate networks. They are broader than company networks yet far narrower in scope than Facebook (or even LinkedIn), with their ready-made “social graphs” for folks who share professional interests.

Not only that, but they offer more readily apparent business models than Facebook and MySpace. As detailed in a Wall Street Journal article, while membership in is free, members must pay to list their promotions and ads in a “marketplace” section.

Sermo is even more interesting. While its members don’t pay, outsiders like hedge funds — which are interested in tracking doctors’ feedback on topics like new drugs or other treatments — do. It just announced a partnership with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer which is designed to facilitate online collaboration between Pfizer and its members. (While financial details aren’t discussed in a press release, we assume Pfizer pays something for this access.)

While this puts Sermo in the somewhat uneasy position of protecting the interests of both its members and of corporate partners like Pfizer, it is creating a new model in which, says Carr, a network operator can sell “not the eyeballs of its members but their ideas, observations, and conversations.”

Obviously key to this model is avoiding the kind of incidents that have dogged Wikipedia, whose contributors sometimes lie about their credentials. But this is the beauty of a not entirely “open” network, especially one in which members can wreck their careers by not being truthful.

Assuming professional networks can find a reliable and unobtrusive way of vetting their members, we expect to see more of them. If nothing else, we’ll expect many trade associations to beef up their online collaborative capabilities.