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Making ourselves heard

/ Posted By Dino Squillino

Social network membership will exceed one billion this year and a Scottish start-up aims to stand-out from the crowd.
— As seen on Holyrood Magazine

Reid Hoffman, the former PayPal executive, founder of the professional networking site LinkedIn and investor in some of the Web’s most successful start-up companies, believes that one of the most important things a site can do is “separate signal from noise”.

When Hoffman was thinking about LinkedIn, he focused on the idea that every working person will have some kind of profile on the Web: “And who knows what may find me? If I’m looking for a job, a job may find me. If I’m looking for an investment, an investment may find me. If I’m an expert on something, a consultancy may find me,” he said in a talk to Stanford University in 2007.

“The other idea is: what is the key that separates signal from noise? How do you sort between people who are crazy, people who are well-meaning but you don’t want to talk to and people who you would invest in? People have assets they can deploy and one of these is personal referral. If someone I trust says, ‘Pay attention to this person’, then I pay attention. So LinkedIn is a profile and a network of trust for reaching and filtering people, with applications built on top.

“It is version two of the resume, if version one was a list of assertions on a printed Word document. In version two, you can have your resume network validated. In that environment, it is easy to check people out. Not only that, people can check out the person who is trying to hire them. Working life is heading to entrepreneurship; you are a small business and your brand is what you can do. The skills of entrepreneurship are applicable to any career path.” Since Hoffman’s talk, LinkedIn has emerged from the shadow of other social networks (albeit, its membership is still a fraction of Facebook’s) to potentially become one of the next wave of publicly offered companies. It now has more than 1,000 employees and has grown to 90 million users in more than 200 countries.

The company has hired banks to advise on an initial public offering (IPO).

An IPO would follow a $500m investment in Facebook, the most popular social network, by Goldman Sachs and Russia’s Digital Sky Technologies. Their stake valued Facebook at $50bn. LinkedIn would be the first major US socialnetworking website to do an IPO, giving it funds to take on its larger rivals in the industry. “What the Goldman investment underlined is that there is a huge window of opportunity for other social networkers to make it to the market,” said Josef Schuster, the Chicago-based founder of IPOX Capital Management.

Into this market comes a Scottish startup, KILTR, described as “the first social network for the 40m Scots worldwide”.

It is the brainchild of Scots businessmen Brian Hughes Halferty and Stewart Fraser and aims to bring together business professionals of Scottish descent around the world. There are seven times as many people of Scots descent around the world than actually live in Scotland and there are many more with an affection for the country, it asserts. Its founders say KILTR will tap into “the vast knowledge, experience and opportunity offered by the Scottish diaspora.” The founders who met at university in 1992, are both passionate Scotsmen who are focused on harnessing the power of social-networking technology to help shape Scotland’s future international success. They assert an “unparalleled commitment to build a world-class product, and just as importantly, a great Scottish company.” They describe the site as a next-generation business social networking and media platform.

It leverages Scotland’s unique cultural heritage and entrepreneurial spirit to assist professionals, entrepreneurs, companies, organisations, clubs and societies, who are Scottish or have an affinity to Scotland, to accelerate their success across the globe.

Hughes Halferty hatched the idea for the network during a trip to the United States. As soon as he began speaking with a Scottish accent, he noticed how many people claimed a connection with Scotland, whether through direct heritage or simply a love of the culture. That connection gave them an immediate bond.

“Diaspora networks bringing together groups of expatriates devoted to their culture and heritage are incredibly powerful for fostering business growth,” he said. “With KILTR, we can provide a one-stop resource for the tens of millions of people of Scottish descent around the world, and gives Scots the basis to form connections and business relationships across borders.” The company says that unlike other social networks, where people may find themselves connected to strangers with no common interests, KILTR uses a built-in search and recommendation engine that pushes relevant opportunities to the users.

The site is focused on delivering valuable business and networking opportunities to members whilst sharing information, links and important connections to support individuals and businesses worldwide.

KILTR aims to establish itself as the professional networking service of choice for Scots and ‘affinity Scots’. The company has recently closed a Series A round of financing with Par Equity of Edinburgh as the lead investor allowing the company’s evolution from prototype to public beta launch. Subsequent follow-on investment is expected with a worldwide launch planned later this year. The unique aspect of KILTR is that professionals, entrepreneurs, companies, organisations, clubs and societies can immediately start networking with others who have a known shared connection or affinity for Scotland.

“One of KILTR’s advantages is its clean, uncluttered interface,” adds Hughes Halferty. “We use a concertina navigational device across the site, which allows pages with large quantities of content to be organised into bite-sized chunks of information. Users only see what they need to see, in the context of the function they’re performing, reducing a lot of the noise common with social media sites.” The interface also uniquely supports complex functions such as contextual posts, attachments in conversation replies, embedded multimedia and links, and tagging of post types for a specific user, group or organisation, leading the way in social media innovation. “We have created a platform that allows everybody, from tech-savvy professionals to novices, to immediately jump in and begin opening doors to business opportunities,” says Fraser.

Entrepreneur Christian Arno, who founded the international translation company Lingo24.com, welcomed KILTR’s entry: “It’s great to see any British start-up using the internet to blaze a trail across the globe. And given that my company was launched in Scotland, it’s particularly great to see a Scottish startup doing something a little different on the Web.” Mark MacLeod, a partner at Real Ventures, Canada’s largest seed investor, added: “As a proud Scotsman, I’d love to connect and do business with people from the homeland.” But he added: “Generally speaking, people have ten websites or services that they use regularly. So, if your company wants to hit it big time, you need to displace an app, service or media company that is currently in people’s top ten lists. That, of course, is no small feat.” It is estimated that the membership of social networks could exceed one billion this year; KILTR is hoping that its distinctive voice will be heard above the noise of the crowd.

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