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Lars Hinrichs

5 years of XING – Some memorable moments and milestones

Lars Hinrichs on 31.10.2008 at 21:01 h

Dear members, colleagues, partners and friends,

Tomorrow it will be five years ago to the day that our platform first went online. And what a five years it has been! The network began life with 472 contacts – all friends and associates of mine. Back then I would never have dreamt that these humble beginnings would turn into the platform we are today so fast: Just five years of busy networking later, we’ve grown into the European market leader and count more than 6.5 million people worldwide amongst our members. And with more than 500,000 members who choose to pay for our comprehensive Premium services, we rank no. 1 in the world as the network with the most paying customers.

We look back on many eventful and exciting moments, when our ever-growing team only not only pulled off the relaunch of the platform and change of name, but also managed to acquire and successful migrate no less than three business networks to the platform.

The last five years – all 1827 days – have seen us welcome a continuous stream of new members as the network expands on a global scale. But this period is also marked by ongoing innovation and enhancement: In the last year alone we made 50 releases and introduced 30 major new features. The fact that our ideas and features are copied time and again by others confirms this pioneering status to us. And more than half of all these innovations have been made in response to the valuable input we receive from XING members!

There are enough moments and milestones since our launch to write a book, but in this limited space I’d like to sum up just some of the highlights …

Xing5_4 Zero hour – We go live: The platform was officially launched on 1 November 2003 under the name openBC. And by the end of day 1 our numbers had already grown to 1,000 members – a promising sign for us! Way back then just seven people made up our small virtual team: Michael, Heiner, Norbert, Hanno, Bill and Daniela. And the grand company headquarters was my front room at home! The connection path algorithm was developed on an ancient Linux 486 PC – it was already pretty old back then but this was a deliberate move: Using the slowest testing computer we could get our hands on meant we were better able to test and optimize the system speed. These days we manage more than 120 million peer-to-peer connections between our members and my living room has returned to being a family-only domain :) We started selling Premium Memberships from the very first day, after just 90 days we were cash-flow positive, and time has shown that our business model is a successful one for the long term.

The Groups are born: By the Christmas of 2003 we launched groups on the platform, known back at the beginning as “networks”. Fast-forward to the present and we have an incredible 20,000 groups on XING where thousands of members interact with and benefit from one another every single day.

Online meets offline: The dawning of Events was heralded when the Munich community, headed by the now Ambassador Martin Bockelmann, began meeting up once a month offline. The official Event feature then followed in February 2004 and XING members now organize thousands of events around the world using our platform. More than 35,000 in fact in the first half-year of 2008 alone! 

Unparalleled multilingualism: Recognizing the potential of the global digital world early on, we acted on this and began introducing more and more languages. As of 2005, XING has been available in 16 languages. This makes us the first and to date only online business platform to lay the linguistic foundations for truly global networking without borders.

Private Clubs: Urged on by a number of companies, we developed a customizable white label solution of our software and started distribution from July 2005 onwards. We realized though that this wasn’t completely in tune with our members’ interests and that continuing down this road would not be successful in the long term. Since then we have driven forward the expansion of our popular Groups functionality and introduced Enterprise Groups as a new home for companies on XING.

1 million members and counting!: An exciting moment came at the beginning of 2006, when the number of XING members reached seven figures for the first time. This rapid growth involved the continuous expansion of our IT resources – and our scalable software made sure that this surge in users went almost unnoticed (for the odd downtimes that occurred every now and again we apologize once again). We now have almost 200 servers in two different data processing centers.

openBC becomes XING: In September 2006 we announced that we were changing our name and relaunching the entire platform. “XING” simply better reflects the platform we are today: A global community that unites more than 190 nationalities. We had outgrown the name openBC: Too many “BC” imitators had sprung up, many people interpreted “open” as being insecure and “BC” also had associations as the abbreviation “Before Christ”... The name XING is so appropriate because it is understood in many different cultures. And there’s more than one possible way to pronounce it: Most Germans would say “Ksing”, while the Americans would most probably say “Crossing” like their road signs, the Spaniards “Zing” and the Turks “Ssing”, etc. We came up with the name by the way back in 2004, but it took us some time to secure the international rights.

The Relaunch itself: November 2006 saw the relaunch of the completely reworked platform. The XING era heralded not only a new name but also a new logo, a fresh brand-new look and a much simpler, more user-friendly navigation.

IPO becomes reality: Just one month later in December 2006, XING AG became the first Web 2.0 company to go public. This stands us in excellent stead to withstand any financial crises that come our way: We are free of debt and have a full war chest – the best prerequisites for remaining independent and continuing on our course of expansion, even in the current financial climate on the markets.

We love rails:  At the start of 2007 we kick-started the internal development of Rails projects. This is the perfect framework for supporting our agile, test-driven development and is ideally suited to our technical remit of a database-driven Web front-end. Rails has accelerated our development speed. We’ve already implemented Marketplace and BestOffers using Rails and are more than pleased with the results. This way we support the rails community and remain as innovative as ever.

XING hits Spain: In March 2007, XING acquired eConozco, one of the leading Spanish contact networks for business professionals. And then in June 2007 Neurona, the largest business network in Spain and Latin America, joined the XING family, making XING the market leader in Spain. This opened up the XING community overnight to hundreds of thousands of new additional business contacts in the fast-growing Spanish-speaking world.

XING Marketplace is launched in May 2007, marking a world-first with the integration of a job website’s functionality with all the benefits of an international business network. Our billing model is 100 % performance-based, like the new B2B offers we will be launching over the coming months.

XING Mobile hits the market: A completely reworked mobile version of the platform went live in August 2007. Originally launched in 2005, XING was the first provider to offer business networking with contacts on the go – and the relaunch of our mobile portal reinforced once again our status as technical pioneers in the field of mobile networking. XING for the iPhone was then launched in time for the start of iPhone sales in Germany in November 2007, and a native iPhone and Blackberry application is coming soon. Watch this space!

OpenSocial: In November 2007, XING AG became one of the first launch partners to join the open programming standard OpenSocial. Since then we’ve been busy testing in our OpenSocial SandBox. Our clear aim here is to ensure that there’s a clear added value for our members and that their data remains fully protected as well.

Turkey, here we come!: XING entered the Turkish market in January 2008, becoming the clear market leader for business professionals with the acquisition of the business network cember.net. Our Turkish members seem to have felt right at home on XING from the start, and the Turkish-speaking groups are already the second-most active, right behind the German groups!

So much more has happened over the last five years that I can’t leave unmentioned, so I will at least list the links here: Our joint venture in China, the Premium standard for all groups, the introduction of our BestOffer program for members, and this year alone the visualization of business contacts with Google Maps, the roll-out of official XING Seminars, the list just goes on and on.

Anyone who’s interested in becoming a part of the XING story is very welcome to apply to join our team. In spite of the current crisis on the financial markets, we’re still recruiting on a large scale and currently have more than 30 open positions all listed on our job page. I already have the privilege of working together with 160 talent colleagues from no less than 22 different nations – and together we continue to strive to create the best and most successful tool for the networked business world. It’s worth mentioning that we have been financially successful from the very outset: Growing member numbers have led to a continuous rise in revenues and profits. Our quarterly results since the IPO in Q4 2006 has risen from 3.6 million to 9.2 million euros in the current Q3 2008, while the EBITDA margin has increased during the same period from 23% to 40% at present. Which goes to show that there are business models out there that can be profitable in crises too.

Xing5_cake_3 Lots of people have been asking me how we’ll be celebrating our 5th birthday. We are in fact throwing two parties: This week we had a big party and meal with our whole team. And we’ve been giving away presents to members as well over the past days with a number of promotions on the platform. Because one thing is absolutely certain: Without our members and without our team of employees we wouldn’t be where we are today. So I’d like to thank you most sincerely for your loyalty, support and all the life you bring to our fantastic platform. Here’s to the next 5 years!

Sabine Brockmeier

Get your message out quicker!

Sabine Brockmeier on 31.10.2008 at 17:04 h

As any active member of the platform can attest, the messaging feature is one of the most popular and most used on XING. And although always easy to use, it has not always been easy to find a contact quickly, particularly for networkers who are very active and successful: they have had to scroll through their contact list to find the desired recipient. This scrolling is a thing of the past: with the new contact chooser, released today, you can find the right recipient in a flash, no matter how many contacts you have. You just need to type a single letter (minimum) – and the system will show you which of your contacts match. Just start typing your contact's name, and you'll see a list of those who match the letter(s). Keep typing, and your results will narrow down. The intelligent matching feature means even if you type the name wrong, the system will suggest similar names – great for those who are better with numbers than with spelling.

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Sabine Brockmeier

New Kid On The Block: Jackson

Sabine Brockmeier on 28.10.2008 at 18:23 h

This week, Jackson Bond, our new Senior Manager Corporate Development, tells us about his first few weeks at XING:

Jb_2 Jackson, Corporate Development: I have been a XING member since 2004 and watched its growth with amazement. Before I joined XING I ran my own company in Berlin for seven years, specializing in speech recognition applications, with clients like VW, Daimler, BMW, DPD, Cable & Wireless and the Hamburg Public Transport company (HVV). After a larger UK competitor took over our company in 2007, it was my first opportunity to look seriously at younger, innovative technologies in the web 2.0 space. A few months ago a job description caught my eye on my XING home page. Now after my sixth week at XING? Wow! Never have I experienced the collaborative spirit and speed of integrating new employees and bringing them into the team and up to speed like I have experienced in my first days here. As I am a US citizen (married to a Swabian ;-)) I also appreciate the international mix at XING.
I commute to work from Berlin where I live with my wife and two bilingual daughters. In Berlin I am involved in bilingual education. In ’98 I helped start eastern Berlin’s first bilingual Nursery school together with 10 families, now we have 100 kids in the Kita and started the first bilingual school last year. Here in Hamburg in CorpDev I continue to assess new opportunities for growing business, locally and around the world, as well as internally for business optimization potential. Being new to the team also brings a unique but fleeting advantage: we bring a new, outside perspective to the strengths and weaknesses of XING. Three powerful strengths I have found at XING so far: putting the user first in all business considerations, cross-departmental collaboration and openness to new ideas and a sense of urgency in the face of such a dynamic disruptive marketplace.

Interested in working at XING? Have a look at our job site – there are currently 39 job openings, including jobs in Jackson’s CorpDev team.

Yee Wah Tsoi

Turkish-German Group Logo Wins By A Landslide

Yee Wah Tsoi on 24.10.2008 at 16:56 h

The votes are in! Bragging rights go to all members and moderators of the “Türkischer Kulturclub” (“Turkish Culture Club”) group: out of 10,000 XING members voting, over 3,500 decided that this logo deserved to win the logo contest.

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The winning logo, which presents itself in a glamorous shimmering blue tone, isn´t just easy on the eyes. More importantly, it visualizes the idea behind the group, welcoming visitors and members alike with a glass of Turkish tea and the following words: “Our aim is to convey and cultivate the Turkish culture as well as to provide a platform that helps to socialize or deepen present contacts”. The group welcomes everyone who is interested in Turkish-German relations, but has its main focus on those living in or around Munich. The logo is a blend of local patriotism and tradition, showing the Allianz soccer arena connected to historical Turkish monuments by the Bosphorus Bridge.

The groups “Partywelt Hamburg” and “Corporate Identity” came in second and third place respectively. Congratulations to the moderators and some lucky group members, who will receive great prizes from our XING shop as well as one-year Premium Memberships.

We were astonished by all the logos submitted to the contest, but we were particularly thrilled by the commitment of our international communities, who were even more active than other groups. Thanks again to everyone who had submitted their logos and to all the XING members who voted for the best logo.

Yee Wah Tsoi

Türk-Alman Grup Logosu, Yarışmayı Üstün Bir Başarıyla Kazandı

Yee Wah Tsoi on 24.10.2008 at 16:51 h

Oylar verildi! Yarışmayı kazandıran bu değerli oylar, aslında “Türkischer Kulturclub” (“Türk Alman Kültür Kulübü”) grubunun tüm üyeleri ve moderatörlerine verildi. Oy veren toplam 10.000 XING üyesinden 3500’ü bu logonun yarışmaya katılan en iyi logo olduğuna karar verdi.

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Parlak ve göz alıcı mavi renklerle öne çıkan logo, ilk bakışta göründüğü kadar basit değil. Bu logonun en önemli özelliği, grubun kuruluş amacını görsel olarak anlatmaya çalışmasıdır. Logo, grubun hem ziyaretçileri hem de üyelerini bir bardak çay ve şu sözlerle karşılıyor: “Amacımız, Türk Kültürü’nü tanıtmak ve korumak ve üyelerimize yeni bağlantılar kurabilecekleri ya da var olan bağlantılarını derinleştirebilecekleri bir platform sunmak.” Grup, Türk-Alman ilişkilerine ilgi duyan herkese açık ama asıl hedeflediği grup, Münih’te ve çevresinde yaşayan kişiler. Allianz futbol sahası ve Boğaziçi Köprüsünün hemen yanındaki tarihi yapıları bir arada gördüğümüz logoda vatanseverliğin ve geleneğin bir arada oluşu son derece dikkat çekici.

Partywelt Hamburg” adlı grup ikinci olurken, “Corporate Identity” grubu da üçüncü oldu. Moderatörleri ve bazı şanslı grup üyelerini kutluyoruz. Bu şanslı kişilere XING mağazasından hediyeler ve de bir yıllık Premium Üyelik armağanları verilecek.

Yarışma için gönderilen logoların tümünü çok hoş bulduk ama bizi en çok etkileyen, diğer gruplara göre çok daha aktif olan uluslararası topluluklarımızın yarışma süresince gösterdikleri ilgi oldu. Logolarını gönderen herkese ve en iyi logo yarışmasında oy kullanan tüm XING üyelerine tekrar çok teşekkür ediyoruz.

Sabine Brockmeier

XING ranks No. 5 among future world champions from Germany

Sabine Brockmeier on 24.10.2008 at 16:47 h

We knew it the whole time - now we have official proof from Economics professor Dr. Bernd Venohr: XING is destined to be a world leader. In cooperation with two of the most renowned German business publications, Handelsblatt.com and Wiwo.de, Dr. Venohr has compiled a list of 100 German companies with the strongest growth potential worldwide. Criteria for the selection: Companies had to be European market leader or in the Top 3 worldwide, had to have less than 50 million revenues in 2005 and a minimum growth rate of 10 percent in the last three years. Out of 100 companies rated, XING ranks 5th overall. Among  IT companies - XING is 1st.

Angela Rittig

This One’s on Us!

Angela Rittig on 20.10.2008 at 18:09 h

XING is celebrating its 5th birthday all this week and we’re the ones giving away the presents! Why? We hear you ask.

Well, we‘ve got lots to celebrate after five successful years of professional networking and a major part of this success is down to YOU: our members, who fill our platform with lively interaction and productive networking activity every single day. So we thought it was more than appropriate to mark this anniversary by thanking everyone for their loyalty and trust, and treating them to even more ...

First up: You can take part in our birthday competition and win great prizes such as a MacBook Air, new iPhone 3G or one of 50 one-year Premium Memberships. All you have to do is correctly answer the question: “What’s the concept behind XING Marketplace”.

And that’s not all! All this week XING’s doors will be open for all members worldwide, giving everyone the chance to take advantage of all Premium features for free. This also means that all the exclusive offers in our BestOffers shopping gateway will be open to everyone until 26 October too.

Good luck and have fun!

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Yee Wah Tsoi

Vote For Your Favorite Logo NOW!

Yee Wah Tsoi on 20.10.2008 at 13:24 h

About a month ago we called on all XING members to submit the group logos they think are so outstanding they deserve special recognition. We were hugely impressed by the entries for this competition. More than 600 (!) logos have been sent in and our jury has taken lots of time and care to narrow down the number to five of their favorites.

Check out the five final logos here. You can pick your favorite up until October 23. So make sure you don’t miss out by voting for the best logo asap! We’re looking forward to seeing which designs come out top. Besides the honor and publicity, the winners will receive great prizes, including one-year Premium Memberships, for the top three winning groups.

For all those who did not take part this time around or just missed the closing date: The response to the competition has been so overwhelming and positive that we are bound to hold a similar competition in the near future. We are already thinking about how to make the competition even more attractive, so be sure to send in your best pick next time around!

Lena Pösl

Lederhosen On The beach, Or Celebrating Oktoberfest In Dubai

Lena Pösl on 17.10.2008 at 17:18 h

If you’re sitting on the beach sipping a weizen beer during Oktoberfest and it’s over 30 degrees Celcius, either you’re experiencing global warming, or you’re in Dubai.

Indeed. Dubai has practically everything: snow and sand, sunshine and the sea, skyscrapers and the desert and now, thanks to the Grand Hyatt Dubai, traditional Oktoberfest.  Networkers in Dubai were astonished by the sounds of an authentic seven-piece traditional Bavarian brass band, traditional costumes, long beer benches, real Erdinger wheat beer,  and more.  We were taken to Munich that night!

The only difference from the original Oktoberfest in Munich—besides the fact that it took place a few weeks later—is that XING members weren’t just drinking and socializing, they were networking too. They would exchange business cards, moving from one table to other, making sure they "worked  the room", to build new connections and nurture existing business relationships. The networking spirit is up in Dubai!

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Sabine Heine

A succesful XING run in Turkey

Sabine Heine on 10.10.2008 at 17:56 h

Istanbul, Turkey this September was certainly a sight for sore eyes – we brightened up the streets of Istanbul with XING green billboards. For those of you who couldn’t make it over there here’s a short recap of how XING took Istanbul by storm:

Two buildings in the Levent area were given a proverbial new lick of paint with huge XING ads. The eyebrowing-raising claim “Who’s doing what with whom?" and the subclaim "Don’t mix business with pleasure!” transported the importance of XING as a professional business networking site.

An additional 550 billboards placed in strategic points such as Istanbul’s metro line and highly trafficked areas increased contact with our brand. XING videos were shown on over 100 LCD screens in elevators across all business centers such as Levent and Maslak.

A significant online presence with ads on websites such as Hurriyet and Milliyet as well as SEM rounded off the campaign.

Looking back the campaign has been a big success: We have recorded the highest increase in new registrations since the migration of Cember.net, we’ve received great user feedback, bloggers such as Webrazzi.com reported a positive launch in the Turkish market (read the full article here), and our Country Manager in Turkey Hakan Gönenli tells us that the phones haven’t stopped ringing since!

Here’s a few images of what Istanbul looked like:

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