HSE Graduate Creates LinkedIn Competitor
Alina Kharina, who graduated from the HSE Perm with a Bachelor’s degree and the HSE Moscow with a Master’s degree in 2010, is co-founder of the social network SkillGravity.
― How did your work on the SkillGravity project get started? What is the essence of the project?
― After graduating from the Master’s programme and working in Moscow I applied for a year-long Master’s programme in international business at Hult International Business School in San Francisco.
The idea for SkillGravity came about during a conversation with my classmate, Alnur Ichshanov, in November 2012. We discussed the problem of building a huge number of contacts during our lives that we practically don’t use. We came up with several ideas to use these contacts, developed a business plan and found web designers to join the project. We developed our idea, changed the product, added new functions while eliminating others, learned from the experience of potential clients and, finally, came to a clear-cut decision that was ready for application.
Today, SkillGravity is a closed network for professional communities and companies. It has a unique and optimized search function for professionals. The service helps solve several problems.
First, it helps in making use of all expertise and professional skills that your friends and colleagues have. While we gather friends on different social networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ and collect their business cards, experience has shown that we don’t communicate with most of our friends on social networks.
Second, our project helps to optimize recruitment. SkillGravity is a finely tuned search engine for expertise within a company or community; it can reduce recruitment expenses by up to 50%.
SkillGravity users are able to create closed professional groups that show member activity and access an intelligent search of contacts that provides results based on accumulated expertise and personal notes. Users also have an opportunity to create closed discussions with direct experts and obtain trustworthy and professional advice. Finally, there is a file sharing option.
― What makes it different from LinkedIn?
― Although we consider LinkedIn a competitor, we have different aims. SkillGravity is a closed personal network for companies and professional communities. LinkedIn is a CV and contact database for recruiters. We work in different directions and have different offerings.
― A lot of social networks have been already created. Why do we need another one?
― Unfortunately, none of these networks helps to solve current problems. On the majority of networks, you make a post on your personal or group page if you have a question or comment. But group members are unlikely to respond. We offer a B2B solution. On SkillGravity, you can filter group members. For example, if you have a question concerning finances, which has nothing to do with marketing, you can discuss it with experts in finance only. As a result, you get trustworthy, professional and valuable advice. Other systems don’t provide such an optimized and unique search.
― Why did you call it SkillGravity?
― We wanted to show that expertise should be used properly. SkillGravity means expert importance, or expertise gravity.
― How are you solving the problem of project financing?
― We are currently seeking investments, as we are getting major clients and the platform needs further development. We also need additional funds to attract new clients. We did have some savings, and we borrowed money from friends and relatives. Initial investments were enough for a year and a half. I would argue that one should try to make a project last as long as possible on one’s own savings, as it’ll be more motivating to make it a successful startup. It’s easy to spend someone else’s money; it’s much more difficult to spend your own.
― What will make the project profitable?
― It’s currently available free of charge, but we have several ways to monetize it. One of them is a monthly subscription for companies, recruiters and professional communities, such as startup accelerators and alumni clubs.
― Are you planning to create a Russian version of the website?
― Absolutely, it will happen in the near future.
― You recently held a teleconference with HSE students. What advice did they give you?
― I was surprised by the huge number of ideas that were generated. There were several extraordinary ideas, which could make for a separate product. The students are currently working on solving individual case studies, and we will choose two winners for further cooperation.
― What does the HSE mean to you?
― First of all, it is an exclusive network of professionals that everyone would like to be part of! We should benefit from that. It’s great that the university, alumni and students are all ready to cooperate. The HSE also helped me to discover my talents and understand what I want in life, to make my dream come true and to change the world for the better. The HSE has always helped me move forward. I like the fact that I am taking serious steps in my life without serious consequences; it doesn’t scare me at all.
Dmitry Bolkunets, Alumni Association
Lyubov Borusiak, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Communications, Media and Design, School of Integrated Communications will be giving a paper at the XVI International April Conference on Economic and Social Development about her research into social networks and what young Russians read. She talked to the HSE English Language News service about her findings and about whether Russian reading habits are changing with the new generation.
The excessive openness, naivety and careless behaviour of children and teenagers in social networks is no more than a myth, Olga Gurkina and Elena Novikova have concluded in their study which was presented at the 15th April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development. Teenagers communicate online mostly with friends, not strangers, and rarely openly express their opinions. They prefer indirect expression, such as likes and reposts rather than comments, changes of status and photos.