Crowded Sidewalk

Whether they’re traveling across country or just making the rounds in their local sales territory, business professionals likely cross paths with potentially valuable contacts daily without knowing it. Here On Biz aims to change this through its location-aware, professional networking mobile app built on top of the LinkedIn platform.

The Los Angeles based startup was founded in January 2012 by Allen Hartwig and Nick Smoot and launched in April amid a flurry of real-time location social apps like Highlight and Glancee. But the founders have taken a dramatically different tact since the beginning. First, the app skirts the privacy issue inherent in so many of its competitors by not offering pinpoint locations, and instead only offering neighborhood- or venue-level notifications. Secondly, it surfaces only current LinkedIn connections and those in a similar industry or with a similar title. In short, it’s more about creating valuable professional interactions, rather than just social serendipity.

Today, the company is announcing several strategic partnerships, the formation of a heavy hitting advisory board, and plans to target several specific key industries.

In the first six weeks of the new year, Here On Biz has inked strategic partnerships with American MENSA, Women In Technology, the Association for Corporate Growth LA, and others, which collectively represent more than 1.4 million members. Here On Biz is in the process of building custom deployments of its app for these organizations that will notify their members when they are in close proximity to one another, in addition to delivering the standard industry-based notifications.

The increasing organization-level adoption of Here On Biz has been possible in part due to the relationships of the company’s recently formed advisory board. This group includes former Virgin America Chief Marketing Officer Porter Gale, Guggenheim Partners Chief Investment Officer Scott Minerd, former Trade Show Exhibitors Association chairman Bob Dallmeyer, and award-winning management scholar Dr. Wayne Cascio.

When initially seeking growth at the individual consumer level, Here On Biz was faced with a classic chicken and egg problem. When a user logs into the app in a new city and sees that no one is nearby, the service is unlikely to get a second chance – regardless of how beautiful or powerful it may be in theory. Call it the Color problem.

By jumpstarting adoption through these organization partnerships, the company can reach critical mass far more rapidly, and thus offer a more compelling value proposition to new users encountering the platform for the first time.

Over the eight months since its launch, some of the companies with the most users on its platform have been Accenture, IBM, Oracle, Deloitte, Microsoft, HP, SAP, Juniper Networks, Ernst & Young, and Apple, according to Smoot. Going forward, the startup plans to focus its expansion efforts in the financial services, industry association, and corporate HR markets.

For those averse to networking Here On Biz provides an opt-in passive alternative to making new connections. For those simply seeking to squeeze every bit of value out of their daily travels, the app offers that possibility as well.

Here On Biz has raised just $100,000 in Seed financing to date from unnamed angels, and is operated entirely by its two co-founders. The company is in the early moments of its marathon, but will likely have to attract new capital and grow its team if it is to attract a material portion of LinkedIn’s more than 200 million members.

The good news is that the startup has a ready-made target audience and because it’s built on top of the professional social network, there’s very little friction for users to setup a new account. The inherent risk, however, is that LinkedIn could choose shut off access or duplicate its functionality. It could also choose to acquire the scrappy team