Two former Microsoft managers have set out to challenge their ex-employer's LinkedIn service with the Thursday launch of a new professional networking site -- and this one pays users to reply to recruiting messages.
Bellevue-based Nextio was founded by Anoop Gupta [pictured, top left], who had been a distinguished scientist at Microsoft and technology assistant to Bill Gates, and Aravind Bala [pictured, bottom left], a former engineering manager at Microsoft.
The pair left Microsoft 18 months ago to start their own venture, the seeds of which were planted during their time trying to recruit talented engineers to Microsoft. Recruiters that worked with Gupta and Bala subscribed to services from LinkedIn -- which Microsoft bought for $26.2 billion last year -- that gave them access to more people's profiles and the ability to send direct messages to those LinkedIn users.
Recruiters can pay LinkedIn thousands of dollars a year for those premium services, Nextio CEO Gupta said. But he thought the payment should go to the user who is being recruited.
On Nextio, people can state preferences in their profile on when they are willing to be contacted. Want to talk about the Mariners game last night? Send away. Want to talk about interviewing for a job? That will be $8, please.
Each person can indicate when they are willing to be contacted, along with their price for replying to recruiting or other promotional offers. The money can be sent to them or they can indicate if they would rather have the money donated to charity.
The idea is to pay someone for their most valuable resource -- their attention, Gupta said.
"We thought if the recipient actually got some money, it would make them pay attention to the message," Gupta said. "It says, 'Someone is willing to pay money to talk to you.' "
Nextio will take a 20 percent cut of message payments.
Another unique feature of Nextio is its Career Insights, which gives users a deep look into others' careers paths. The Career Insights feature uses data collected from people's public professional profiles to show the experience and skills of people in any job.
Nextio has six full-time employees and has raised $2.2 million from investors including Tableau co-founder Pat Hanrahan and former Microsoft executive Craig Mundie.
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