BoardSeat is different from other professional networking platforms in the sense that it is specifically targeted towards C-level executives. For an annual fee, executives can join this new social network to create connections with like-minded individuals and create groups to compare and discuss business strategies and boost collaboration. Also included are access to analytics and access to a personal assistant who can provide users with assistance and support for the platform.
Founded in 2012 by Peter Grech and Greg Silas, BoardSeat is eyeing a launch in early 2015. The company has recently started collecting names of interested parties on an online waiting list.
Grech, who also serves as BoardSeat’s chief relationship officer, spoke to IT in Canada about BoardSeat, its mission, and how company decision-makers can benefit from it.
IT in Canada: Why is now the time to launch a social media platform targeted towards C-level executives?
Grech: LinkedIn has done a wonderful job of creating this wonderful category that is a platform for networking and connections, and a result, there a hundreds of millions of people on this platform, including senior executives. In my discussions with senior executives, they’ve said that they’re on LinkedIn, but it’s not where they go to solve their complex strategy issues or build relationships. It’s more like an online Rolodex or résumé, and people can find them when they need to.
Now is the time for a platform like BoardSeat because executives, more so than ever, are under enormous amounts of stress to do more with less, and they all acknowledge the need to be able to reach out to someone who has their back outside their organization who can help them solve problems, vet ideas, and so forth. So there is that need for executives to be able to connect; they just don’t do it effectively.
ITIC: How can executives benefit from using BoardSeat?
PG: A good analogy I use to explain what BoardSeat is that it’s similar to the model used for online or offline dating services. You tell the service what you’re looking for, they match you, and they you pay a fee for a certain number of introductions. BoardSeat also puts you in that same driver’s seat and says, “Tell us the types of leaders you want to meet.” Your requirements are unique to you, and will depend on what keeps you up at night and the types of ideas you want to vet. That’s basically what we’re doing.
(Users) will pay a fee to get access to individuals that they would normally have access to. We are selling access to people who are relevant to you, as opposed to other services where you’re being introduced to people who are junior to you. They may be lovely people, but they don’t walk in your shoes, and therefore, they don’t understand what you’re going through. They’re also not in a position to provide you with advice and counsel that will help you solve your problems and be successful in your role.
ITIC: Why is it important for executives to have a platform like this?
PG: It’s important for them to have a platform like this because executives need access to relevant people when they need them. Currently, executives have their own networks of small groups of individuals that they trust, but that’s usually not enough because you can tap out the resources of that network pretty quickly. They need it so that they can continue to grow their network and relationships because like everything, relationships can become stale, so you need to be continually on the hunt for individuals that are relevant to you, and can help you to continue to be successful.
ITIC: What are some of the key features of BoardSeat?
PG: Most notable is concept of small group interaction. This isn’t like LinkedIn, where you have 1,600 connections and an extended network of 1.7 million (people). That’s not relationship building. We’re human beings; we can only handle so much at a time. Our groups are called Societies, and Societies can have up to 25 people. All the research we’ve done shows the ability for a group to develop ties, relationships and bonds breaks down after 25 (members). You can be part of multiple groups, depending on your interests and the nature of those Societies.
The second point is given that there is a social media component to this, and this means that executives need to be online. The reality is that no matter how brilliant your user interface and your UX is, when it comes to technology, executives need support. They don’t need chat support or a phone number they can call; they need a human being. Every member is assigned their own personal aide. In their day jobs, executives have an executive assistant to support them with all their meetings and manage all those sort of administrative activities. Similarly, when it comes to networking, you also need an assistant, and we call that assistant a personal aide. This person is there to ensure that you maximize your membership, coordinate meetings and ensure that a certain amount of time is carved out for you to be able to build those relationships.
The third point that makes this unique from a feature perspective is analytics. What our platform does is it sets certain performance targets for you and for the group, and it measures you against those performance targets. You’ll make a commitment to your group about the number of interactions you’re going to have, both online and offline, and then our platform will demonstrate to you in real time how you’re performing against those commitments that you’ve made to the group.
ITIC: What advantage does BoardSeat have over other professional social media platforms?
PG: Probably the biggest advantage is relevancy. The advantage for us over anything else that’s out there is your ability to connect with people that are relevant to you. As a senior vice president of marketing at a $10 billion company, there’s a good chance that you’re going to want to be able to collaborate and develop relationships with other senior vice presidents in similar industries. We provide that opportunity, as opposed to LinkedIn, which is for your next-door neighbour, your son, or a recent university graduate. It’s really about creating a niche that is targeting the top one per cent of a company’s organizational hierarchy.
ITIC: What are the future plans for BoardSeat?
PG: What we would like to become is the de facto standard worldwide for executives. We’re starting in Canada, and we’re building a platform and a private leaders’ club for Canadian executives. It’s not just for Canadian executives in Canada, but for Canadian executives around the world. Immediately thereafter, we’re going into the U.S. and Shanghai so that over time, we can achieve that goal. Similarly, Facebook has become the standard for friends and LinkedIn for professionals, we’ll become the de facto standard for senior leaders.
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