Facebook-based employment networking service BranchOut announced last week that it has raised $18 million in Series B funding. StartUp Beat caught up with Mike Del Ponte, BranchOut’s head of marketing, about the company and how it plans to use the funding.
SUB: Please describe how BranchOut works. What is the experience like for users?
Del Ponte: BranchOut is the largest professional networking service on Facebook. It is where Facebook users go to find jobs, recruit talent, source sales leads and foster relationships with professional contacts—all on Facebook.
We are also offering enterprise products for corporate clients, starting with recruiting products. BranchOut also operates the largest job board on Facebook with over 3 million jobs and 20,000 internships. We allow anyone to post a job on BranchOut. We also have a Jobs Tab product whereby companies can post jobs on their Facebook fan pages. We’ll be releasing our full enterprise suite for recruiters this summer.
SUB: What differentiates BranchOut from other career networking websites?
Del Ponte: BranchOut leverages the Facebook social graph. This is extremely powerful because BranchOut shows you where your friends and friends-of-friends work. So if you’re looking for a new job, new hire, or a sales lead, you can tap your friend network to find it.
SUB: What is your business model? How does BranchOut make money?
Del Ponte: BranchOut makes money by charging for job posts and enterprise solutions, such as the recruiter products I mentioned earlier.
SUB: Where did the idea for BranchOut come from? Was there a specific “aha” moment, or was the idea longer in coming?
Del Ponte: One day a friend of mine asked me for an introduction at a company where he wanted a sales lead. I wanted to see who I knew at the company by searching on Facebook. That search capability was not available on Facebook, so I asked our Director of Engineering to build it. He did and we immediately knew we were on to something.
SUB: When was BranchOut founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Del Ponte: We launched BranchOut in July 2010. We already had a strong team with deep experience in social media, online recruiting, and Facebook apps, so the transition was easy.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Del Ponte: Anyone online who wants to improve their careers.
SUB: How are you marketing the service?
Del Ponte: Most are users are invited to BranchOut by their friends who are already using our service. We have also been fortunate to get great press.
SUB: How many users/customers do you currently have?
Del Ponte: We experienced rapid growth in the first quarter of 2011. Our monthly active user count grew from 10,000 to 500,000 in two-and-a-half months.
SUB: You just closed an $18 million Series B funding round. Do you have specific plans for the money?
Del Ponte: Right now we’re focused on building a world-class team. We already have a lot of talent. We’ll be adding more engineers and expanding our sales team.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Del Ponte: We’ve raised $24 million since September. We might not have to ever raise more funding.
SUB: Where do you see BranchOut in a year from now?
Del Ponte: We have our road map and know that 2011 is all about attracting users and corporate clients who love our products. We’re working hard to accomplish that.
SUB: As an entrepreneur who has successfully navigated the down economy, what advice do you have for those just starting out as entrepreneurs?
Del Ponte: Attract a word-class team, build a great product, and be passionate enough to put in the long hours required to create a company that helps a lot of people.
BranchOut – www.branchout.com