/// BranchOut Looks to Dethrone LinkedIn
Today, BranchOut announced a round of financing of $25 million led by the Mayfield Fund. Existing investors — including Accel, Norwest Venture Partners and Redpoint Ventures — also participated. In all, BranchOut has raised $49 million.
The company is an alternative to LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) and actually is built on the Facebook platform. And it’s growing like a weed. In February, BranchOut had 10 million registered users; now it boasts 25 million. Right now, BranchOut is growing by a staggering 3 users per second.
About a year ago, I met up with company’s CEO and founder, Rick Marini. We had a wide-ranging discussion, talking about the trends in social networking and how Facebook would be the launchpad for new hot growth companies, such as Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA). This winter, we discussed Facebook more at length.
Last year, Marini was cautiously optimistic about BranchOut but believed there was a big opportunity to end-run LinkedIn. However, I talked to him Wednesday, and he thinks the market potential might be even larger.
“LinkedIn is focused on the white-collar segment, but this is only 10% of the market,” Marini said. “We’re providing a professional profile for the Facebook generation. That’s not only senior executives, but also recent college grads to nurses, teachers and cashiers.”
BranchOut has a great product, but that’s just one part of the success. Companies also need a strong market strategy.
“We have had two big drivers for our growth,” Marini said. “One is mobile. Many users are not stuck to their desktops; they are spending more and more time on their smartphones.”
Another factor has been international growth.
“About half of our registered users have been coming from outside the U.S.,” he said. “We have the typical strength in countries across Europe, Australia and Canada. But we are also seeing traction in emerging markets like India.” Again, this is likely driven by the mobile usage. But some key partnerships also have been helpful.
It looks like BranchOut is in the breakout phase, similar to the arc of Instagram. And the company’s performance also shows there still is plenty of room for growth and innovation in the social space.