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The Broadli Team: Ale Lariu, Mary Abraham, Claudia Batten, John Weiss, and Matt Null

New Broadli App Will Help You Actually Use Your Sprawling LinkedIn Network

By organizing your network in a meaningful way and allowing you to tap into the right people when you have career needs, Broadli aims to make LinkedIn way more useful than it is now.

Unless you enforce a strict selectivity policy, there's a good chance your LinkedIn network has some significant percentage of complete strangers who may never be able to help you professionally--or who may, and you'd never know it.

New mobile app Broadli aims to rein in the perpetual disorganization of professional social networks, helping people find those connections, or connections of connections, who can help them most, and vice versa. Created by New Zealand-born entrepreneur Claudia Batten and Alessandra Lariu, cofounder of global women's digital marketing network SheSays and one of Fast Company's Most Creative People 2010, Broadli is an attempt, says Batten, to "digitize serendipity"--that is, use networks better to increase the chances of connecting with the right person at the right time.

Broadli Team

Broadli, available in the App Store for iOS now, and in the Google Play store for Android in the coming weeks, taps into a user's LinkedIn network and has two main user-defined features. First, the app helps users organize the members of their network into four categories--Inspired, Dormant, Don't Know, Want To Know. Then, users can post a "mission," or need, to their most trusted network, and the app's algorithm helps identify the people most likely to be of help based on who and what they know. Conversely, users can scroll through their Inspired network on Broadli and browse missions they may be able to help with.

"What it basically does is make your network work for you," says Lariu. "You have all these networks that have 10,000 people connected, but Broadli will show you the three that will really help you with this thing that you’re doing. It can be something small like 'I need a venue,' or 'I need an introduction to the VP of GE.'"

"It’s been very much of my background that I jumped from career to career," says Batten, who began in commercial law and moved on to found two successful digital advertising startups, including Massive Incorporated, which was sold to Microsoft in 2006. "When you’re in that mode of hopping around, you want to be able to network on a higher level than we’re able to do now. You can pick through each of your networks and guess, but you may be missing something that you’re connected to."

While Broadli isn't necessarily billed as a networking app for women, it was designed by women with a non-linear, relationship-based sensibility. "What would Facebook look like if a female designed it?" says Batten. "Non-linear, organic. It would revolve around circles with your image."

"From a design perspective, I wanted something intuitive, like if I don’t remember someone’s name but I remember their face, how can we bring that to the front?" says Lariu. "We started thinking, 'What can we add from our feminine perspective that’s going to make this networking app amazing?' The design is something, but also the idea that for Broadli to work there has to be a smart algorithm that helps you identify the people who are going to help you. So we do some machine filtering, but we’re also doing something unique called human filtering--if I know what you need to do in your mission, I can help the machine select people that you should meet."

Batten emphasizes that the app connects trusted networks with trusted networks, cutting down on the time and uncertainty of sending a bunch of well-crafted emails or broadcasting a need to the masses.

"When you have a meeting with someone who you really like and they refer you to so and so, you write long emails that can take half your day," says Batten. "When you’re really in a trusted network with someone, you can say you both rock, make it happen. Similarly, when someone reaches out via LinkedIn you don’t know if you should help them. But with Broadli you already know they’re trusted. Our mantra: don’t be sleazy."

Another feature of Broadli is the Impact Score, which measures how active you are as a facilitator.

"One thing I learned coming here as a Kiwi is that there's this culture around 'how can I help you?' and it surprised me," says Batten. "We're really reinforcing a 'help other people and it comes back to you' mentality, and we can really create efficiency."

[Photos courtesy of Broadli]

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19 Comments

  • James Halley

    This sounded so good that I immediately went to the Broadlii site and downloaded the app. While I have a 4s and iPad second generation, it is a dud. Doesn't do a thing even after I attempted to sort hondred's or contacts...nothing else can be done. So I try to email "help@broadli.com" and it's undeliverable. Doesn't Fastcompany check out who they write about?

  • Congratulations on the launch!

    Despite some of the comments below, I actually like the very simple nature of the app at present. I'm so over the majority of apps that try and do way too much. I think that's why I liked Vine when it first came out.

    Yes, it's early days for the app, however, I think it shows some promise!

  • I downloaded it based on the article here. I agree with several comments posted already: no instructions/lack of explanations, and can't see the entire screen on my ipad. The hype exceeds what I have actually experience. I had Hugh expectations based on what I read here.

  • Thank you so much for trying the app. We are not optimized for iPad yet and will try to turn that around quickly. We will get a tutorial on our website in short order to assist new users and will also be tweeting some #broadli_tips to assist the experience. We hope you have another play.

  • Echo those users who feel this app isn't ready for prime time. It needs an orientation -- really, what is a mission? How about a warning that my missions will be shared with my network? It also needs a help section and the ability to edit or delete missions once you create them. Reviewers in the app store also complained that once they sorted their network into various piles, they couldn't change their mind and change how they'd categorize someone -- hardly characteristic of intuitive relationship-based thinking, I'd say.

    Big disappointment. A clear example of puffing the app too soon.

  • Thanks for all the feedback, we will be putting a tutorial on the website shortly and tweeting #broadli_tips to give you pointers on how to work with the app. We are trying to create something different and it may not be for everyone. You can move people once you have categorized, click the logo between Missions and Impact and you will go to a screen that shows the faces of everyone sorted. You can then pull people from one categorization to another.

  • Love the big picture concept but found the lack of explanation of how to use it rather surprising. It portends a real value if directions on how to use are provided.

    Hope they make it more user-friendly for men who need to develop their 'non-linear, relationship-based' focus more. The article suggests women tend to have the 'intuitive' relationships factor better developed than men do -- that's a point Evie made I find is true more often than not.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful comments and we are pleased you see the value. It's a new user experience and we hope people keep playing. Our goal was to be effective but also do something a little unique. We will get some basic information on our website and also will be tweeting #broadli_tips to assist. Let us know if there is anything else we can do to help.

  • Niccolò Rossi

    It seems what i m looking for but it doesnt work with my iPad..anyone know why?

  • Seems like the app is half-baked right now. Unclear what you are supposed to do -- or why -- with no explanations offered, Can't even see all of the screen and can't scroll or re-size.

  • Albert Kauffman

    It's not working for me. Maybe that's why Batten looks so angry in the photo?

  • Ha, she's our taskmaster - she was probably thinking about all the work we needed to get done. Is there anything specific that is not working, if you invite a couple of your LinkedIn contacts into Broadli you will find it's a deeper experience. We are working to create critical mass right now. Thanks for giving us a go.