Geeklist is building a community of developers, where, through an elaborate system of cards, high-fives, contributions and creds, everyone can express their geek achievements in a crowdsourced, social way. As a developer, I can say “I built XYZ using ABC technology” on the Geeklist site. People can then validate that (the more the better), or say they were part of the team doing that. Geeklist’s special sauce then tries to rank the person’s achievements based on that through their proprietary algorithm.
Why would a developer bother?
Geeklist calls itself “The first achievement based social network for developers”. See how they slipped that “achievement based” in there? GitHub is the place to be if you want to talk about, well, coding, which is what developers prefer to talk about. Here, however, you can brag about what your coding efforts accomplished, with GitHub metrics and all. If that’s not geeky enough for you, their ranking and scoring systems will make a geek proud, it’s right up there with Dungeons & Dragons scorecards. How’s that working out for them? Not bad – their private beta attracted 25,000 users, of which 40% in Europe. Tight Twitter integration helps them too.
How does this make money, you ask?
Well, so did the seed investors that put $600,000 into the company in October 2011. The answer is that they want to use their data to allow companies to recruit their next developer in a more targeted way. That claim breaks down into two assumptions. The first is that they attract some of the cool kids that would never be so uncool as to write and post a CV on a traditional site. The second is that their achievement system is a better way to find and qualify a developer profile than the traditional CV. Their business model is thus a simple B2B move: charge the recruiting corporation, while leveraging the free B2C community, preferably without losing the status of the place where the cool kids hang out.
Currently, they are building the first version of the tools that allow them to sell to companies that are recruiting. A detailed search is necessary for that, and is being built. Messaging (Facebook style) is also necessary and being built. They’re also working on a notification system so that a company can get pinged every time a developer signs up with the right profile. A glaring missing element is the actual CV – they don’t believe in them and they’re proud of it! When I looked at the achievement system, I thought they’re a long way away from replacing the traditional CV, but I have to give them credit for trying.
Their Principal Weakness
A recruitment tool is only as good as the data it is supplying. As it is, Geeklist can neither give you the ‘hard’ data nor let you mine data like that from another source. I know I’ll sound old fashioned, but I select candidates based on their number of years of experience (amongst other things!). That piece of information is not on Geeklist, no matter how hard you look. Furthermore, their ranking system rewards achievements in the open source world, such as Github commits, so implicitly underrates the developers that work in the trenches of corporate software development, with closed source repositories, and confidentiality, and colleagues above 30 that don’t spend their lives on social media platforms.
Europe vs California investment attitudes
What fascinated me from a European perspective was the size of their seed round ($600k!), and also, that they were completely unfocused on monetizing the site when they closed that round! A French investor would’ve nailed them on the lack of “business plan”. And that sums it up nicely – to raise money in Europe, you’d better have your ducks in a row when it comes to monetization. This can be beneficial, as it forces you to prove your assumptions early, but it can also act as a drag on a startup. Here, you see Geeklist thrive in the community, as they’re allowed time to build that community, before spending all their energy on the nuts and bolts of making money.
Geeklist has all the components of a successful startup: An idea that makes sense, a great team, and good execution. On the execution front they have some work to do, but they are doing it, so I have every confidence that Geeklist will be a smash hit. On the marketing front, they have already opened a Paris office, and are busy promoting themselves in the Geek community. For example, they are partnering with BeMyApp, a French one-weekend app building bonanza. There’s a special edition that’s one month long, with a cash prize of €15,000! Come join the kickoff event on the 9th of May in Paris.