Glassdoor, which has built a business model around employees (and ex-employees) rating and complaining about their employers, has added a component that takes it one step closer to a LinkedIn-esque experience. Fishbowl by Glassdoor debuted this week, and it's an interesting approach - to put it mildly.
While LinkedIn leans into its reputation as a buttoned-up network for professionals, Fishbowl hints that while Glassdoor clearly wants to get more social, it's still going to continue with its more gloves-off approach to employers.
Launched in 2016 by co-founders Matt Sunbulli and Loren Appin, Fishbowl is a free app with more than 18 million conversations, comments, and direct messages in thousands of “bowls” where professionals discuss career, industry, and workplace-related topics. Also, gossip: lots and lots of gossip. These professionals were constrained to the advertising, consulting, and accounting industries, to which it rolled out exclusively. Glassdoor will likely open up the platform.
The app opened itself up to the ad industry in June 2017 after launching with consultancies, becoming a place where copywriters on up to executives shared aspirations, questions, and especially gripes. Topics such as “Why does everyone hate working at Droga?” became active threads. HR leaders at ad agencies took note and began monitoring it to understand employee morale levels. In one meeting at an agency, an executive referred to a group of team members with a term that was interpreted negatively. Employees in the meeting complained on Fishbowl. The agency saw the reaction and talked to leaders about how to properly introduce their team members, according to an HR employee at the agency.
At the time of its launch, the app held promise. That said, by 2020 its reputation amongst users had fallen, with one user saying on a Reddit thread saying; "At its worse, it devolves into industry gossip and attempts to be the wittiest in the room. At its best, you might connect with someone in a hiring position, or stumble into a relevant conversation. But it's rarely insightful. Ultimately, it's like any groupthink community where hiveminds [sic] form. Nothing is ever positive, and conversations are skewed by the vocal minorities' bad experiences."
In January of 2020 the company completed an A round of $5.3 million, in line with similar niche business social sites like Behance, Sermo, and ActiveRain.
The transaction was made through Glassdoor’s parent company, Tokyo-based Recruit Holdings Co. Ltd., which acquired Glassdoor in 2018, and has owned Indeed since 2012. The transaction closed in early September, and financial terms were not disclosed.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Sutherland-Wong said that he sees Fishbowl as the logical evolution of how Glassdoor is already being used. Similarly, because people are already seeking out feedback on prospective employers, it makes sense to bring recruitment and reviews closer together.
“We’ve always been about workplace transparency,” Sutherland-Wong told TechCrunch. “We expect in the future that jobseekers will use Glassdoor reviews, and also look to existing professionals in their fields to get answers from each other.”
The smart pivot here, of course, is allowing Glassdoor to become stickier. The current model for contributors is to arrive, leave a review/ complaint, possibly add in some salary data, and leave. By adding in a social component, one that is - potentially - more authentic than LinkedIn, the site hopes to engage more deeply with users, keep them on the property and away from competitors.
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