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The LinkedIn code

“I have always loved LinkedIn but it is hard to use it when you need help but you are not too sure where to start,” entrepreneurial expatriate Claudia Batten tells NBR.

True. Even LinkedIn’s biggest fans have to admit the site can be a riot of business networking information overload. People are making whole careers out of guiding professionals through the maze.

Which is where Ms Batten comes in. The one-time Wellingtonian has just launched Broadli (Broadli.li), a mobile app that helps you make sense of your chaos of LinkedIn contacts and, more importantly, tap advice and expertise you weren’t previously aware was available through your network (it’s just been released for iPhone, an Android version is on the way in a few weeks).

Where did the idea come from?

“It was this sense that we have this incredible connectivity but we didn’t think we were utilising it properly,” Ms Batten says.

“A lot of people say to me “well, I just email smart people” [on LinkedIn] but that restricts you to only people you already know can help.

“We thought of the four quadrants of knowledge and that there is a lot of information we don’t know we don’t know. Equally true of networking – we don’t know the network that our network has. “And that secondary network is weak ties. It is scientifically proven that weak ties are more likely to help you complete missions than immediate contacts. The power of that secondary network is one we want to tap into.”

Broadli could shape up as Ms Batten’s third big score.

In 2003, Wellingtonian the law and commerce graduate and two Aussie expatriates co-founded Massive, a company that delivered ads to online video games. Microsoft bought Massive three years later in a deal worth a reported $US200-400 million.

In late 2009 – by then relocated to Boulder, Colorado – Batten was again among a trio of founders of a hot startup; this time Victor & Spoils, which pioneered the concept of crowdsourcing creative for the advertising industry. Victor & Spoils had 6000 creatives on its books by the time French holding company Havas bought a majority interest in the agency in 2012. The New York Times noted many ad agencies were being sold for 1X revenue and that V&S’ revenue was an estimated $US10 million plus – but given V&S was pioneering a whole new model, that formula could easily have gone out the window.

Now, with Alessandra Lariu, Batten has created Broadli, which is free from Apple’s AppStore (the presumably pending monetisation strategy is still under their hats).

Broadli integrates with your LinkedIn account and lets you organise your LinkedIn contacts into four categories: Inspired, Dormant, Don’t Know, Want To Know.

Sorting your contacts is a very user-friendly process. Each person’s face appears as a circular tile (which you can tap to turn over for their name and other details if you don’t recognise them). Categorising people is a simple matter of finger-flipping their tile to one of four quarters of the screen. The downside: this manual process can take some time; or at least it is for me as I swipe my way through nearly 2000 contacts (yes, I do use LinkedIn for broadcasting story links and soliciting leads and leaks; many contacts leave me scratching my head and get flicked to Don’t Know). You don’t have to load all contacts before you start using the app.

Once you’ve sorted all your contacts, you can post a “mission” to the most trusted people on you network and the app’s algorithm helps identify the people most likely to be of help based on who and what they know.

I’ll let you know how that works out for me once  I have sorted more of my contacts. Ms Batten is already sure she’s on to a winning philosophy.

“This is about generosity of networking,” she says of Broadli.

“This is about helping our trusted network, those contacts we would happily make an introduction for, which we think is both more positive but also more efficient.

“When you introduce two people in your trusted network with one of those ‘you two MUST meet’ emails, the connectivity between those people is enormous. When I connect with someone for the first time, without that connection, it’s harder to establish the relationship and accordingly less productive as a general rule. I have had the odd exception but generally, to be honest, it is when we realize we have a friend in common.”


The Claudia Batten files

2003: The Victoria University law and commerce grad leaves her job at Russell McVeagh to join two Aussie ex-pats in cofounding Massive, a company that pioneers the concept of delivering ads to online video games. It’s capable of frills like swapping out the creative in static and billboard ads that appear in a racing game, for example.

2006: Microsoft buys Massive in a deal reportedly worth up to $US400 million

2009: Relocated to Boulder, Colorado, Ms Batten is one of the trio who found Victor & Spoils, an advertising agency that is the first in its field to work on a crowdsourcing model. An army of 6000 contractors are vying for V&S project work by the time of the company’s sale.

2012: Batten exits as French company Havas takes majority control of V&S in a deal estimated at upward of $US10 million. Ms Batten becomes director of Auckland business incubator and angel investment outfit The Icehouse.

November 2013: Co-founds Broadli.

More by Chris Keall