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Growth
Business Observer Friday, May 5, 2017 1 year ago

Opportunity knocks

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Business networking company Opportunity connects members with professional leads. It's growing in users, employees and app features.
by: Grier Ferguson Staff Writer

Opportunity has evolved.

The company, that is.

The Sarasota-based business networking firm was initially envisioned as a tool to enhance LinkedIn. Founder Janis Krums says the idea was to create a matching algorithm to work with the popular network.

But Krums says LinkedIn did what LinkedIn does when startups interacting with it gain more traction — it cut off access to user data. Because LinkedIn had done the same thing with other growing companies, Opportunity was prepared.

Now Opportunity collects more user data itself to help people network better. People who sign up for an account are asked questions about areas of interest outside business, industries they work with and geographic regions where they network. Opportunity then gives users suggestions of people to connect with, based on these factors of compatibility.

When Krums and fellow Sarasota entrepreneur Bill Jula founded the business in 2013, they started with a website. Then they built a companion mobile app. These days, they're working on new Opportunity features, including geographic capabilities that offer users information about people nearby. It's a useful tool, Krums says, for someone attending a conference or traveling to a new city.

Some features are off-limits to users who have a free basic membership. But there are pro memberships that provide more access to leads, messaging and locations. The price varies for different kinds of users, ranging from $10 to $40 for a monthly subscription. Yearly subscriptions offer a discount.

Krums declined to share revenue figures, but the firm started with $100,000 from investors, and about a year ago, it received an additional $250,000 from the Great White Shark Opportunity Fund.

Krums says they convert 2% to 4% of basic users into paid members. And Opportunity is about to hit 2 million users, he says.

The next goal: Hit 3 million users in 2017. Krums says the company is growing new users by 10% a month. “We're building it up as a steady business,” he says.

Opportunity allows people to create a profile for four specific reasons — to find sales leads, find a job, find employees or grow their network. Krums says job seekers are the largest user segment. “You see people looking for jobs where things are happening in the world,” he says.

For instance, the recession in Brazil meant Opportunity saw an uptick in users from that country, Krums says. Worldwide, he says, Opportunity has the most users in England, Germany and Italy, as well as India and Australia. In the U.S., it's big in New York City and San Francisco.

Growth also comes in places where an influencer has written about the app in tech blogs or business publications. Krums says people see contacts they know on the network and often that's what encourages them to sign up. “The whole way we're building is word of mouth,” he says.

Sarasota is home to the company's operations, but it also has a team of developers in Latvia. Krums' family moved from Latvia to the U.S. in 1995. He says the Baltic state has a growing tech scene, along with its neighbor, Estonia. Opportunity had some developers in the U.S. but adjusted, but hiring developers abroad is more cost effective. Plus, he's known the company's lead developer in Latvia since first grade.

“Sarasota is great with the lifestyle and the cost of living,” Krums says. “But it's a little tougher to find tech talent here.”

The company plans to expand the Sarasota team beyond the nine full-time employees it has now. It will likely hire two to five people marketing and design.

Beyond user and staff growth, Krums says he wants to stay focused on big goals.

That includes the biggie: Making Opportunity an integral part of people's professional careers.

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