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Can Industry Inc. persuade you to join another professional social network?

Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 3, 2013 08:15 AM

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LinkedIn and Twitter have both attained a pretty vast audience over the past half decade. But the co-founders of a Cambridge startup, Industry Inc., believe they've identified a gap between the two social networks. Neither one, says co-founder Raj Bala, lets you easily join a conversation and share relevant content with a group of peers from the industry you work in — regardless of whether know them in real life.

As Bala, right, puts it, “Most people don’t see Twitter as being a professional social network. When you first join, the service is always suggesting celebrities or sports stars to follow. And LinkedIn is designed to prevent you from connecting to people you don’t know. There, if someone tries to communicate with you and they don’t have some relationship to you, LinkedIn sees that as spam.”

Industry, so far, is entirely focused on its iOS and Android mobile apps. And at launch, the company is only targeting people who work in tech, life sciences, and K-12 education. To start, you enter your work e-mail address and add contacts from your address book who work in your industry. (Eventually, the app will suggest people to follow, Bala says.) You can also add people from the public stream of messages, which shows everything being shared in your industry, or click on a company name to see everyone who is an Industry member from that company. Unlike Twitter, there's no limit on the length of your posts. "You could use it to ask a question, share a link, or organize something in the offline world, like a meetup of Boston area storage startups," Bala says. "People might use it to build their reputations, or to find their next job."

Bala and his co-founder, Subra Aswathanarayanan, worked together at EMC before starting Industry back in February. They’ve been self-funding the startup so far. “We want to get to the point where we’ve done enough iterations where we know this is going to work before we raise money,” Bala says. “We want to get to the point where we have traction.” Bala had raised venture money for his last startup, BigSwerve, which built a search engine for blog comments. With that venture, Bala says, “We didn’t find product-market fit early enough. That’s what we’re trying to do here before we take money.”

Starting a new social network ain't easy: you have to persuade people to sign up, get their friends to sign up, and then share stuff regularly. It'll be interesting to see whether Industry can somehow beat the odds.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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