People want to get their foot in the door, Jess Phillips said, laying out her plan for a newly launched social media platform that opens professional connections with an insightful twist: an interactive digital business card offering data on who visits and why.
Free of the awkward sales pitches and forced conversations that often come with networking, ThinkPod puts people and connections first, explained Phillips, co-founder, previewing the beta-phase of the platform and its main objective: empowering small business owners to effectively grow and enhance their networks.
“It’s a way of better connecting, better expressing who you are and how you can help,” she told Startland News, explaining how a ThinkPod profile works and what kind of information it houses.
Click here to create a ThinkPod profile or to learn more about the platform.
“ThinkPod is a community for power connectors that want to collaborate with other professionals in an organic way. … You can create different ‘Pods’ to help you find individuals or teams with whom you can connect on a professional level for a project, and also allows you to search out and join other people’s projects, teams or post employment opportunities,” reads an official description of the growing platform.
“ThinkPod is a place where you can explore all of the facets of your personality: professional, creative, and social sides.”
But the social media platform itself isn’t the most interesting piece of the ThinkPod conversation, Phillips noted, adding she and her husband, Nick, have developed what they call the “network card” — a digital business card that could revolutionize networking in the pandemic-era.
“With COVID people are really struggling with connection,” Phillips added, highlighting the ups and downs of ever changing guidelines and restrictions and the lingering safety concerns that come with in-person event attendance — findings she made while consulting clients and partners for her rising IoT startup, Hyprcubd.
“It hit me. If we had a QR code with a variety of features and customization and made this virtual, people wouldn’t have to hand out business cards,” she explained, noting a scan of the network card (whether it be in a virtual networking breakout room or in-person) links a new connection directly to a user’s ThinkPod profile and as much information about themselves or on their business as they’d like to upload.
Adding conversation to virtual networking
The service is something Phillips hopes benefits entrepreneurs across the board, but primarily small business owners; a group she’s found isn’t served as well by larger networking platforms such as Linkedin.
“[Linkedin] is great for B to B and B to C [operations] — but that doesn’t fit everyone,” she explained.
“I started thinking about freelancers, consultants — friends that have restaurants in the area. … I know how difficult it is for them to get going and get moving. [ThinkPod] provides the ability to connect and communicate with professionals [via a more accessible platform].”
“It’s not like Linkedin where users are just talking to each other. It’s more like Reddit where people can have conversations back and forth about topics and ideas and inspiration.
The potential of ThinkPod to impact small businesses doesn’t stop with network building, Phillips continued. The platform collects metrics as a user builds their network, providing feedback and insight into what they’re doing well and what they could stand to improve upon.
“If somebody clicks on your network card and they’re looking around, it’s basically a mini website or landing page. Knowing data such as daily use of a user, the length of time they’re looking around on your digital business card — what they’re interested in, what they’re clicking on, what’s drawing them into your profile — can further assist with the growth of business,” she explained, noting the platform ultimately stands to gamify the idea of networking.
“We want people to receive badges and notifications and different certifications. [Users can] nominate and recommend [each other for their skills] which then raises their ‘pulse rate.’ The thought being that by raising other people up in our community [you can help establish them as] a thought leader and someone other people can look to for mentorship or guidance.”
Be professional, but be yourself
Chock-full of beneficial tools, additional value from ThinkPod comes from its stance on network building with authenticity, Phillips said, a component that was missing from networking events before the pandemic — and one a retreat into the depths of the digital world has made even harder to find.
“So many times people feel like, ‘I have to do it a certain way,’ or, ‘I have to present in a certain way.’ There are so many different types of businesses and people are so unique — we want people to be organic and be who they are,” she said, passionate about finding ways to bring as much connection back to the lives of entrepreneurs as possible.
“[I’ve found] there is this need for staying buttoned up. People feel that they have to have a certain degree or certification or years of experience — to present themselves in a certain way on Linkedin. That was an ongoing stigma [I heard] as I was talking to people.”
“With this, I thought, let’s remove that. Let’s allow people to be who they are. You don’t have to have a degree. You have years of experience, life experiences. … It’s always good to have a first impression, to be professional, but also, be as you are.”
People tend to surprise each other when they aren’t pretending to be someone else, Phillips said, adding that such an approach often builds the most valuable relationships.
“When people are allowed to be who they are and show their worth, they allow their nervousness and anxiety to be set aside. People get nervous! They aren’t their best self [when making] a first impression,” she said.
“When they relax, they’re able to calm down and show you, ‘These are my abilities.’”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.