Konnects Rolls Out New Business-Networking Site, Looks for Sweet Spot Between LinkedIn and Facebook

Every day it seems I learn of another fast-growing Web software startup in the Seattle area. Today, I discovered Tacoma, WA-based Konnects is launching a new user interface for its social-networking site. Konnects already has more than 350,000 users worldwide (most are in the U.S. and India), and it is carving out a niche in the market space between business networking sites like LinkedIn and social sites like Facebook.

“There’s a big opportunity between the social and business space that’s not being met,” says founder and CEO Jim Crabbe. “Will the social space become a business space? I think no.” Our instinct, he says, is to keep our business and social lives fairly separate. So the idea behind Konnects was to build a site focused on making professional contacts and business transactions, but with the openness and some of the features of a social site, like online chatting and video conferencing.

Konnects began as a technology executive forum, and got angel funding at the end of 2006. It targets young business professionals, roughly between the ages of 26 to 35, as well as companies and organizations. The new interface lets you set up a profile quickly, enter your contacts and experience, and then meet other professionals, send documents, and chat online or talk with Voice-over-Internet protocol. The Konnects software also gives you recommendations of people and organizations you should meet based on your profile and existing connections, and automatically sets up introductions and helps you form communities based around business interests.

The company’s business model is a combination of advertising and optional subscriptions. There is certainly a lot of competition in the business and social-networking arena—besides giants like LinkedIn and MySpace, there’s Marc Andreessen’s Ning, Plaxo, and Zing, to name a few—but Crabbe sees the potential to eventually bring in somewhere between 25 million and 200 million users (which is roughly the span of LinkedIn and MySpace). He says he expects to have 1 million users by the end of the year.

The next step for Konnects is to raise more capital, get more customers, and keep improving the site. “At this point, we’ve built out the platform,” says Crabbe. “We’re looking for strategic partners, and better ways to make business transactions happen online.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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