A New Venture From An Ex-Gerson Exec


Jonathan Glick, formerly director of research at Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG), has started a new social networking website which draws on his expert network experience.  Unlike Twitter or Facebook, Sulia organizes the content posted by contributors into ‘channels’, making it easier to find posts of interest.  While GLG is struggling to remake itself as a social network, Glick’s new venture illustrates how difficult that transition is.

Glick left GLG in 2008 after heading its research operations for five years.  With a $1 million capital raise, he started TLists, which collaborated with Twitter to collect posts and feed streams to other publishers.

Initially TLists performed the service for Twitter on an outsourced basis, reselling feeds to other web publishers.  However, in 2010, after Twitter brought the technology in house, Glick raised another $3.5 million, rebranded the company as Sulia, and created his own destination website.

Sulia still uses Twitter lists to help organize its content, but now works with Twitter on an arms-length basis.  Earlier this year, Glick raised another $1.5 million in series A round which closed in August.

The site is organized by topics such as ‘technology’, ‘fiscal cliff’, or ‘Miami Dolphins’.  For each topic, the site pulls together source content from publishers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, blogs, and individuals.  The content is laid out like a newspaper, with headlines and brief summaries, including photos.  The site is more than a news aggregator, since it draws on individual subject matter experts, similar to an expert network.

Which prompts the question: how is GLG faring with its venture into social media?  The initial iteration was G+, which was a business version of Quora, a question-and-answer website organized by its community of users.

As we noted earlier this year, G+ morphed into High Table, partly to avoid branding conflicts with Google.  GLG also narrowed the focus: “HighTable provides active and influential professionals, academics and entrepreneurs a place to collaborate around new business ideas by asking and answering questions and conducting meetings online and in-person.”  It has since restricted access to the site to ‘startup leaders’ and requiring an application to join.

The challenge is finding a viable business model.   Sulia’s model is to be paid by companies marketing to its community.  It is recruiting sponsors for its various ‘channels’.  Sulia’s business premise is access to individuals with very targeted interests.

Initially, G+ and High Table were complementary to GLG’s core business, intended as an entry point to bring new users to GLG’s existing expert network model.  High Table still has links to the core business, encouraging its entrepreneur users to use the industry experts available through GLG.

Initially, we thought GLG was seeking to become the buttoned down version of Quora, just as LinkedIn is a more professional version of Facebook.  Now we’re not sure where High Table is headed.

At this point, Sulia promises to be more successful than High Table, despite GLG’s greater resources and expertise in gathering subject matter experts.  Sulia echoes GLG by organizing experts into areas of expertise, while injecting a strong dose of news.  It has a clear and coherent business model.  Although its success is by no means assured, it is off to a promising start.


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