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Business-focused social network Polywork, founded by Peter Johnston who is originally from Carrickfergus, has closed a $13m Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz (A16z).
Joining A16z was a star-studded list of investors including Stripe founders John and Patrick Collison, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover and GitHub CEO Nat Friedman.
Existing investors Goldcrest Capital and Caffeinated Capital returned, and Bungalow Capital and 20VC were among the other participants.
Founded in 2020, part of Polywork’s draw is its founder; Johnston is a Google alum who set up freelancer-management software outfit Kalo (previously known as Lystable) in 2015. The start-up graduated from Techstars in the UK, attracted repeated investment from Valar Ventures, and built a client base that included Google, Airbnb and The Economist. During the pandemic, however, Kalo struggled and Johnston made the decision to shutter it.
Polywork launched in beta in April of this year and held a $3.5m seed round in May. Observers and early users have described it as a blend of LinkedIn and Twitter, and Johnston has made clear his desire to compete with the Microsoft-owned professional networking giant.
Speaking to Sifted, he said: “Our pitch to investors was basically reframing what LinkedIn is trying to do. Like, how useful is a CV with a list of skills, really? To me it’s not about what skills you have, but about what you actually do with them.
“When you’re signalling to people who you are, the primary forms of identification are job title, or where you went to school — which are both pretty terrible proxies for who you actually are and what you care about.”
Johnston has said repeatedly in interviews and blog posts that he feels people are “more than the labels society has placed upon them, such as job titles”, and that he hopes Polywork can blend the personal and professional in a way other social networks can’t. Users get a Twitter-style feed where they can post updates on their latest projects, and their skills and interests can be displayed as tags or badges on their profiles. Posts can also be tagged, so you can filter a person’s feed by one of their areas of work or interest.
Sriram Krishnan of A16z is joining the Polywork board following the investment.
“We first heard of Polywork earlier this year and soon after started seeing prominent online personalities use it to tell their story. When you hear buzz from online communities spanning tech, fashion, music, and more, you pay attention. And it quickly became clear why Polywork was capturing all these imaginations,” Krishnan said.