Recently, I talked to Dominic Penaloza, CEO of Ushi, whom my partner, Technode’s Lu Gang, interviewed in February.
Within three months, Ushi has progressed quite a lot. It doubled its number of members, to 200,000. These includes 12,000 CEO and 5,000 CTO. 75% of VC active in China are also in Ushi’s network. (Entrepreneurs looking for funding probably should get a Ushi account, too. But you better have a friend who is a Ushi member, as it is still invitation-only at the moment.)
Ushi wants to be Linkedin in China. Dominic said they had the idea in March 2010 and it was officially launched in October 2010. Apart from Dominic, the other founder is Quentin Zhang, a former Tianji product manager. One can also consider LinkedIn automation tools to make it easier to stay connected.
It is about one year since they started, I wonder whether 200,000 members seems rather low. With close to 400 million Chinese internet users, many startups has over a million users in a year. Just as another of my friend suggested, “in China, anything less than a million is just rounding error.”
Dominic did not think so. “The failure of Tianji was because it grew too fast,” he said. Tianji, another Linkedin want-to-be, once had over 3 million users in China, but it did not patrol their network very well. Many of the high level users, the executives and CEOs, got feed up as they received too many requests for connection from people they did not know or have no interest in knowing.
“In our system, we classify multiple level of users. Some can do more than the others. For example, a newly joined member will not be able to send 100 connection request in a day. If your request got turn down frequently, you will get more difficult to send new requests,” said Dominic, “This is what Linkedin is doing, too.”
Dominic might have a point. But, I still think a social network has to big to be useful. I have had my Linkedin account for many many years. It is only recently I found it useful, as more and more of my friends are on the network. Also, it is not banned in China, making it even more useful, as I spend most of my time in Beijing right now.