#43: Nick Lebesis on searchers vs. networkers in professional social networks & how VR is a better medium for networking

Nick Lebesis talks about his vision for bringing better networking experiences to virtual worlds with NetworkFlo. He says that there are two different types of professional networking groups of searchers and networkers, and that LinkedIn has optimized their site to serve the needs of job searchers rather than what networkers are looking for.

Nick-LebesisHis vision for NetworkFlo is combine elements of Meetup, Second Life and LinkedIn to have virtual world spaces that are more focused on professional networking. His project is still in the early phases of development, and they’re looking to add VR support.

To me it’s interesting to hear about how the 2D experience of LinkedIn doesn’t create a very good environment to meet new people to expand your professional network, and that it’s usually about adding people that you’ve already met from another context. There does appear to be a need for creating better networking opportunities, and that immersive virtual environments experienced through VR does seem to be a better medium for professional networking than the 2D world wide web.


  • 0:00 – Intro to Network Flo. Allow professionals to meet in virtual spaces. It’s a combination of Meetup + Second Life + LinkedIn in a virtual world.
  • 0:29 – Couldn’t network with tech professionals in Toronto, Canada.
  • 0:46 – Target demographics. The young professional from marketing to a startup. Co-founder of LinkedIn have groups of users: the networkers and the searchers. LinkedIn focuses on the searchers and job recruitment, but they’ve neglected the networkers.
  • 1:45 – What does a searcher want? What does networker want? Searcher sees LinkedIn as an office where others are being disturbed by the networking actions. Allow people to log in and create events
  • 2:30 – Does it require the Oculus Rift? Currently implementing it.
  • 2:48 – What is VR adding to Network Flo?
  • 3:07 – Other social VR experiences. VR Chat. Bringing social networking component to it as well to have your own network
  • 3:37 – VR social experiences with other software. Had a Virtual Worlds class in college in Second Life. Saw that there needed to be more of a social networking component.
  • 4:23 – How are you translating this into an immersive VR world. Create events and then have profit, conference halls and TED talks.
  • 4:52 – Potential of VR. Most exciting thing happening in tech right now. Asking the community for feedback.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast.

[00:00:11.934] Nick Lebesis: My name is Nik Labestis and I'm the founder of Network Flow. So what we do is we're part virtual environment, part social network. We allow professionals to meet in virtual environment spaces. So we're kind of like what would happen if Meetup, LinkedIn, and Second Life came together and we're web-based, we're very easy to use too.

[00:00:27.570] Kent Bye: I see. And so what was the scratch that you were trying to itch in terms of creating this project?

[00:00:32.492] Nick Lebesis: So I couldn't network for the life of me. I'm all the way up in Toronto, Canada, and I don't have access to the valley as most people around here do. So I created Network Flow to actually help myself network. And in the process, I created this company.

[00:00:46.118] Kent Bye: And so in terms of networking, what type of specific demographics would you say that this would be a perfect application for them? Because frankly, some of those demographics may not work at all.

[00:00:56.738] Nick Lebesis: Definitely. So I'm looking for the young professional, the person that wants to go out there and network, the person that is an entrepreneur, the person that's a developer, anyone really, whether you're involved in marketing, whether you're involved in a startup, anybody that wants to network with their community and can see the value from networking is definitely going to love this. So LinkedIn, I was actually watching an interview with a co-founder of LinkedIn, and he was talking about how they have two distinct user groups. They have one they call the networkers and one they call the searchers. LinkedIn actually ended up going with the searchers. So they went with that active user group So the thing is the searchers are going for job recruitment things that were, you know used to seeing on LinkedIn But then they've neglected the networker because you know their business model speaks to the searcher So what I've done is I'm actually speaking to that group the networkers the more communicative based people. So that's who I'm gonna be targeting

[00:01:45.456] Kent Bye: And so maybe you could sort of break that down in terms of the intention and the user flow between what does a searcher want and what do you think a networker wants?

[00:01:52.821] Nick Lebesis: Exactly. So a networker sees currently LinkedIn as a networking conference. So they go on there, they start messaging people, and then the other person, the searcher, actually sees it as an office. So like, why are you disturbing me in my office? I don't even know you. This is spam for all I know. So the networker actually wants to go out and actually talk to people and engage with them. Whereas a search is more of like, you know what, when I'm ready, I'm going to be looking for job postings, I'm going to be talking to people that I'm already connected to. So it's kind of like a professional network in that sense. And the other people want to actually build a professional network. So we actually allow people to log in, create events, and join other events and actually meet people and create these valuable connections.

[00:02:29.796] Kent Bye: Does this require the Oculus Rift to participate in?

[00:02:32.597] Nick Lebesis: So I actually haven't connected the Oculus Rift to this yet. I wanted it to be ready for anybody to use right off the bat. But we are talking to the team, and we actually are going to have Rift capabilities soon. But right now, it's just go to networkflow.com, and you could use it right out of the box. And it's free to sign up.

[00:02:48.682] Kent Bye: Okay, and so what do you see as the virtual reality add-on to this?

[00:02:52.844] Nick Lebesis: So again, the Rift would be an amazing component, but right now just the idea of you being able to communicate with other professionals, whether they're in your area or across the world, in a virtual environment with your customized avatar, it's compelling, I think, for everyone to join.

[00:03:07.094] Kent Bye: How do you experience some of the other social VR experiences?

[00:03:10.796] Nick Lebesis: Yes, VR chat. There's some really good people doing great things out there. The only thing different that I have is I'm actually bringing the social networking aspect to it, too. So I allow you to have kind of like what you have with your Facebook page or LinkedIn page, your own personal profile, your own network list, all the social networking tools that we've come to realize from Facebook, from Twitter, all that stuff. I've taken the best from that. I've taken the best from what I've seen from the virtual environment experience, and I've merged them together in a compelling way.

[00:03:36.727] Kent Bye: So it sounds like you are in Toronto, which is fairly isolated. So I guess, tell me a bit more about your VR social experiences that you've had with specific software.

[00:03:47.858] Nick Lebesis: So actually, I got exposed to virtual reality in my third year at York University. So it's in Toronto. And we actually had a virtual reality class. It was called Virtual Worlds. And I took it by fluke. I needed an elective to pass. And I ended up being immersed in Second Life and this and that. And from there, it just dawned on me that this needs a social networking capability in order to really bring it to the masses and in order for us to get proper usage. Because we can't just go into the 3D world without looking back and seeing what's worked so well. So I've taken both the good from social networking and what, so far, we've seen is the good from virtual reality, and I've merged them together. I see.

[00:04:23.682] Kent Bye: And so how are you translating some of these things into a 3D immersive virtual reality environment then, or how do you plan on doing that?

[00:04:30.324] Nick Lebesis: So right now all the events are open, they're free. Eventually we want to allow people to create their own events and actually charge fees for them too. And so the event creators can make money from it, they can profit from it as well. We want to add different event spaces, premium event spaces, such as meeting rooms, conference halls, like TED Talks. We want to do so much more than what we have right now, but we just want to get early adoption and slowly start building towards that.

[00:04:52.648] Kent Bye: And finally, what do you see as the potential for virtual reality in the space?

[00:04:56.329] Nick Lebesis: Virtual reality is by far the most exciting thing that's happening in technology right now, and especially with this space. I have a great feeling that other social networks that are currently out there, like the big players like Facebook, buying Oculus, they're always going to get involved in this. I know for a fact, I strongly feel actually, I shouldn't say that, that they're going to get involved in virtual reality down the line. But right now, I'm lucky that I'm the first person actually in this space, and I actually want to talk to the community, find out what they want, inputs, and actually build it up organically like that. Great, thanks. Thanks a lot, Matt.

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