Social skills directory SkillPages just announced that they’ve passed one million members in the UK, and expect to cross the four million user mark globally later this week. The company, which is based in Ireland with offices in Singapore and Palo Alto, lets anyone find skilled people they need through social connections, combining the idea of YellowPages, Google and Craigslist with social referrals. The site has had 2.5 million visitors in the last 30 days alone.
SkillPages allows people to search for anyone with a professional skill – photographers, dentists, web designers, and any number of other professions. After connecting their LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, users can see who in their network is connected to a specific person, which the company believes adds a layer of trust that something like Craigslist can’t provide. Users can also post an opportunity if they can’t immediately find someone who fits their need, and people who fit that skill can contact the user. Anyone can add their skills as a way to promote their business or offerings, with each user adding an average of 3.5 skills.
“Everybody in their lives needs to find skilled people,” co-founder Iain MacDonald said in an interview. “People like to do business with people they know, and people they have a connection with, and we’re just making that process much faster and a much wider network of people.” MacDonald previously built Perlico, the 2nd-largest supplier of broadband in Ireland, which sold to Vodafone for €80 million in 2007. He came up with the idea for SkillPages while trying to find someone to cut down trees in his backyard. ”I knew that somewhere in my network there was bound to be somebody who knew a good tree cutter, but I was prevented from finding them because there was no efficient way of me discovering if any of my friends, former classmates or former colleagues knew somebody.”
MacDonald and co-founder Michael Gallagher launched the beta version in June 2010, and had about 50,000 users by the end of 2010. They came out of early beta in January 2011, and finished the year with 2.7 million users. ”The pace of growth is extremely fast at the moment,” MacDonald said. The site is designed to be free for both people posting skills and people looking for someone. MacDonald said they have several plans for monetization, including advertising, recruitment solutions, and a couple other revenue models which he can’t talk about yet.
The company is funded by the founders, as well as investors in MacDonald’s previous business and Irish VC firm ACT Venture Capital. He said they aren’t looking for any additional funding right now, but will likely raise capital in 2013. As for additional plans in 2012, they will be opening up their API to allow people to add their SkillPages data to their own websites or businesses. Though the company has members around the world, MacDonald said they haven’t actively promoted it in the U.S. Despite that, they have half a million members, who have added almost a million skills. They will turn their focus to actively marketing the company in the U.S. later in 2012.
The social reviews and referrals space isn’t new, and companies like GigPark have successfully built skill referral marketplaces (the company was acquired by Canpages in 2009). There are also niche tools like HomeStars for the home improvement industry, and Angie’s List for reviews about businesses in any industry. With phone books becoming all but obsolete and sites like BranchOut showing the popularity of social referrals (in their case for the recruitment industry), SkillPages has hit on an obvious need, and will likely only continue to grow. It’s biggest hurdle will be gaining mindshare in foreign markets like North America, and finding a way to monetize.