In 2001 when I left Nortel Networks where I was the VP of Global Recruiting during the high-technology collapse, I was excited by the prospect of starting a new company called Bright Circles. Bright Circles had been born on the day I picked up a book on natural ecosystems and mashed it up with a book about Japanese business practices called keirabatsu’s. As I read about the detailed scientific process tied to how ecosystems are created the wheels started turning. Why not create a social network that would allow bright people to create circles (sound familiar) of other like-minded people. The software we developed initially focused on creating alumni networks of people who had worked together at companies, universities, etc… (remember this was before LinkedIn)
Not only would we create these circles but companies could leverage them. Members could look for work thru our partnership with one of the earliest job aggregators (like Indeed). We had also built-in a reputation system so that their recommendations made by members would be more highly valued by other individuals and companies (like Klout). The longer term plans were to leverage the network to help companies manage lost intellectual property when companies vaporized or lost valuable employees. It would become a huge network of individuals that could be pulled together to solve business problems. The plans were limitless.
Unfortunately, after working like a dog at it for over two years, getting a ton of members to sing up and leverage the technology and flogging my business plan to venture capitalists I had to call it quits. As tough as that was I did learn some valuable lessons that I wanted to share.
Lesson #1: Although a business dies, passion for what you tried to create never does.
I am more passionate about this business model than I ever was. I see a ton of opportunity to build revenue and to create member value. Just because a dream dies and yes everyday I read about the successes of LinkedIn, Klout, Indeed and other social media companies and wonder what if but I also think, what if based on my new dreams.
Lesson #2: Money and resources to build your dream are key to success
I spent a lot of money building the company but during the dearth of the high-tech collapse of 2000 there was little venture capital companies that were looking to invest in what they saw as an HR startup. I realize now that my pitch was too HR focused or at least perceived that way. LinkedIn went about it the right way, although with a ton more money than I had access to. There is now concern that LinkedIn may be seen as too much of a recruitment platform. They need to leverage other revenue generation opportunities from the network. I see some of those next opportunities.
Lesson #3: Timing is everything
The timing of starting what was a social media company (I see that now) in early 2001 was ahead of its time, with lots of money and expert managerial support we could have been the next big thing we would be talking about today. But with only enough money to put in two years, the concept was ahead of its time and investors could not completely grasp all the opportunities we spouted out. Therefore the company had to die.
Even though Bright Circles no longer exists, the dream lives on in everything that I do. It is now tempered by the realities of what I learnt in pulling this business together. It sleeps restlessly waiting for the opportunity to unleash itself in a new business model. Sleep well my friend, sleep well as the time will come.