Inc. Opens Networking Site for Small-Biz Owners

IncBizNet.com Sponsored by AmEx, Comcast

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- There's a new networking platform on the web today, but don't worry about having to stock a whole new profile with lists of your favorite books or photos from your friend's recent batch party at Lucky Cheng's.
With American Express's Open card and Comcast as launch sponsors, IncBizNet is opening its gates, already stocked with profiles on the Inc. 5,000, to businessmen and women who want to represent their private companies online.
With American Express's Open card and Comcast as launch sponsors, IncBizNet is opening its gates, already stocked with profiles on the Inc. 5,000, to businessmen and women who want to represent their private companies online.

Instead, Inc. magazine's IncBizNet.com is intended to serve as a user-driven directory and forum for describing and connecting small businesses.

Looking to be useful
"We have to be very practical in figuring out how these individuals will use this for their business, because it's not fun and games," said Ed Sussman, president of Mansueto Digital.

Not even one game, one Tila Tequila, or one status feed to let us know what our friends are having for breakfast? Despite some profile fatigue out there, it has to be said that so far we've liked our Web 2.0 to be fun -- even pointless in a Twitter sort of way.

Mr. Sussman, whose division of Mansueto Ventures was established last February with a $10 million commitment from the mother ship, explained that his team has thought this out. "You have the 100-pound gorilla, Facebook, which is an amalgam of personal and career profiles all mixed up together," he said. "You also have a huge swath of different types of people. It's a social network for everybody about everything. We're envious of that -- but that's not our business. Our business on IncBizNet is to serve the senior managers of private companies."

So, with American Express's Open card and Comcast as launch sponsors, IncBizNet is opening its gates, already stocked with profiles on the Inc. 5,000, to businessmen and women who want to represent their private companies online. It'll work like your company's website, except with a lot more connectivity to potential partners and vendors. It'll share some elements with Wikipedia, in that you enter your own company's information, but that information is going to be monitored. It'll have groups on subjects like consumer-electronics retailing or construction, to which qualified members will be invited by expert moderators. It will offer tools, such as a press-release service, and perhaps some future applications, such as company research.

More than a sidekick
While the site shares a lot of DNA with Inc. magazine's editorial mission, it also includes enough openness that it could become something much more than a sidekick to Inc. and Inc.com; the struggle to make the most of magazine websites has increasingly suggested that such a tack is required to draw really substantial traffic.

Asked whether IncBizNet, whose creators say they are aiming to reach 1 million company profiles, is going to be a business of its own or a supporting player in the Inc. constellation of brand extensions, Mr. Sussman said he didn't know. "It could go either way," he said. "I want to be honest with you. We're going to try our best to make it a large business on its own terms."

"The worst-case experience," he added, "is we create this business-to-business community and directory for our core people."

Mansueto Ventures, not incidentally, also owns Fast Company, which is the proprietor of one of the earliest examples of networking platforms: Company of Friends. FastCompany.com has received the same amount of time and investment that went into IncBizNet, Mr. Sussman said, so watch that space too in the coming months.
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