Inside the Anthillz: The Team’s Blog

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Press Release: Anthillz announces its new launch to the media

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By focusing only on professionals’ most trusted colleagues, Anthillz helps its users build tighter networks and stronger reputations.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – September 25, 2008 – Philadelphia-based startup announced today the launch of its business networking website, designed exclusively for the close and trusted relationships that have the most impact on a professional’s career success.

“We created Anthillz because, as power networkers ambitious about our careers, we found ourselves connecting with the wrong people on networks like LinkedIn,” says CEO Blake Jennelle, referring to the Mountain View, CA-based professional network with over 25 million users.

“It seemed like every day we were responding to requests from people we hardly knew.  Instead, we should have been focusing on the trusted relationships that were actually paying off for us.”

Anthillz encourages professionals to connect only with their most “trusted colleagues,” and it does so with a simple mechanism.  Professionals must write recommendations of each other’s work before they can connect.  These recommendations are then featured on the professionals’ Anthillz profile.

A completed Anthillz profile might have only 20-30 trusted colleagues, reflecting a professional’s most important relationships.  In contrast, a typical network on competing sites might have hundreds of connections, including many people with little or no professional history together.

Anthillz’ focus on peer recommendations also helps its users build an online reputation they can use to market themselves to potential clients and employers.

“If I have 30 contacts on Anthillz, my profile will show 30 detailed recommendations side-by-side, signed by the colleagues who wrote them,” says Jennelle.

“It’s hard for me to think of a more powerful sales tool.”

While Anthillz shares the same goals as other professional networking websites, it approaches these goals with a very different philosophy.

“The bottom line is this: All professional networks exist for the same basic reasons—to create new business opportunities through referrals and introductions, and to help professionals build a reputation in their community.”

“What other networks seem to have forgotten, in their aggressive pursuit of growth, is that hundreds of random connections are not going to help you achieve those goals.  Instead, what matters are the trusted colleagues who are willing to refer you business, introduce you to the right people, and recommend your work to potential clients and employers.”

Jennelle acknowledges that competing with large and well-funded players in this space will not be easy.  He says that what matters to him is not the ultimate size of Anthillz, but the impact it has on online professional networking.

“We figure that in the best case, we’ll create a thriving alternative for professionals like us.  And in the worst case, we’ll inspire the big fish to do a little better themselves.”

About Anthillz (

Anthillz is a business network focused exclusively on the trusted business relationships that really matter.  Unlike traditional social and professional networks, Anthillz encourages only trusted connections by requiring users to write recommendations for each other before they can connect.  This emphasis on trusted connections—rather than weak connections and acquaintances—makes Anthillz a more reliable source of recommendations, referrals, and introductions.  Anthillz also adds reputation to the business networking formula.  Anthillz profiles are focused on peer recommendations rather than on a professional’s resume, helping to provide deeper insight into a professional’s image in their community.


For more information, contact Blake Jennelle at 215-966-6012 or


Written by Blake Jennelle

September 26, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Press

Tagged with , ,

How to Build a “Firmer Handshake” with Anthillz

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Our own Alex Hillman wrote a great blog post about the importance of trusted networking, using the metaphor of a “Firmer Handshake”:

The problem we identified is that most of the “online social networking” being done in business is weak handshakes. Even LinkedIn, while it has testimonials, puts the focus on building huge numbers of connections (hence the 500+ badge). We’re not going to take down LinkedIn, but we certainly can help focus its users on what’s really important.

Real social networking takes work, and much more than a business card exchange to be effective in the long term. Just because you gave me your card doesn’t mean I think you’re the best person for the job. In Anthillz, adding someone to your “trusted colleague” network has a barrier to entry: you have to write something about that person. And in order for the connection to be completed, they need to write something back. The system does what it can to enforce a balanced social economy. Over time, it’d be nice to pull back the reins, but I think we need to break some bad social networking habits first.

Read the full post over at Alex’s blog.

Written by Blake Jennelle

September 23, 2008 at 4:56 pm

Welcome to the new Anthillz

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We’re excited to unveil the new Anthillz, the first business network exclusively for trusted professionals.

If you’ve been with us since the beginning, you know that even as we have changed our focus, trust has always been what sets us apart.

Thank you for helping us learn and grow as a company, and for supporting us throughout our evolution.

So without further ado… (drum roll, please)

Check out the new Anthillz.  As always, tell us what you think!

Written by Blake Jennelle

September 22, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Updates

About Us: The Story Behind Anthillz

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If you are new to Anthillz, you are probably wondering, “What is Anthillz anyway?”  Let me share our story with you, including what we are and why we are here.

Anthillz is a business network focused exclusively on the trusted business relationships that really matter.

We created Anthillz because, as power networkers ambitious about our careers, we found ourselves connecting with the wrong people on networks like LinkedIn.

It seemed like every day, instead of building helpful relationships, we were responding to requests from acquaintances and people we hardly knew.

We found ourselves distracted from the close and trusted relationships that were actually paying off for us.  In a sense, our networks were actually getting weaker.

So we started to wonder…

What if we focused our startup, Anthillz, on doing business networking the right way?

As we started to explore the idea, most people told us we were crazy.  They told us we were too late, too small, and too inexperienced.

Of course, as any good entrepreneur will tell you, hearing “No” only adds fuel on the fire.  

So we said, why not give it a shot?   We know real-world professional networking as well as anyone, and we think we can do this a lot better.  What’s more, there are a lot of people who are just as frustrated as we are.

We figured that in the best case, we would create a thriving alternative for professionals like us.  And in the worst case, we would inspire the big fish to do a little better themselves.

So in a flurry of inspiration, the new Anthillz was born.

Unlike traditional social and professional networks, Anthillz encourages you to connect with only your trusted colleagues.

The way we do this is simple.  Before you make a new connection, we require you and your colleague to write recommendations for each other, which helps to ensure that you know and trust each other.

Our emphasis on trusted colleagues—rather than acquaintances and people you hardly know—makes our network a more reliable source of recommendations, referrals, and introductions.

Our goal with this first version is to show you the power of our trusted approach to networking.  It’s just a start, and we’ve got much more in store.

Try trusted networking for yourself.  After you do, tell us what you think!

Written by Blake Jennelle

September 22, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Posted in About Us

About Us: Meet the Anthillz Team

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Blake Jennelle, CEO and Founder—Blake started Anthillz in response to his frustrations as a power networker in the Philadelphia entrepreneurial community. After accumulating hundreds of contacts on a leading professional networking site, Blake started to wonder, “What good are all these connections if I hardly know most of these people?”

He decided to build a different kind of professional network, one that would help him get more out of his trusted business relationships. Anthillz would become a better source of recommendations, referrals, and introductions for him, while his Anthillz profile would showcase his reputation in his community.

To his friends on the Anthillz team, Blake is the guy with the crazy stories. Never one for the traditional 9-5, his resume includes two years on the professional poker circuit, political campaigning in the Arizona desert, non-profit legal work, and four years as a freelance web developer.

Blake has won awards for his leadership in journalism and politics at Harvard University. Anthillz was named as one of the three most innovative products and services in the Ben Franklin Emerging Business Awards. And this year, Blake was named as one of Philadelphia’s 101 most important “connectors” by Leadership Philadelphia.

Blake is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurship, and the entrepreneur network he founded, Philly Startup Leaders, has helped transform Philadelphia into a leading entrepreneurial city.

Blake graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Social Studies, magna cum laude.

Chap Ambrose, VP of Product Design—As a freelance web designer, Chap lives and breathes usability. He likes to say that if a user can’t figure something out, it’s the designers fault. So if you have any trouble using our site, feel free to blame Chap—and e-mail us so he can fix it right away.

Relentlessly curious, Chap is constantly teaching himself something new. Programmers love him because he taught himself to write code, so that he can integrate his designs without their help. With his curiosity comes an obsession with questioning assumptions. When Chap asks, “Why?,” you better have a good answer! Thanks to this, Anthillz is always getting better and easier to use.

Chap graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in Industrial Design.

Nate Bartley, VP of Technology—Nate brings a musician’s sensibility to technology. He likes to bring order to complex systems, whether as a freelance web developer, violinist, or student of economics.

Nate is a natural optimizer. From his experience as a web developer and CTO for startups, he has learned to embrace constraints and to insist on a highly focused development process. Don’t let the crazy hair fool you—Nate is serious about development!

A classical violinist trained at Julliard, Nate graduated with a degree in Economics from the University of Maryland.

Joe Norton, Marketing—Joe has “Future CEO” written on his forehead. Still in college at Temple University, Joe takes on responsibilities beyond his years, when he really should be doing normal college things. We hope he will send us a postcard from his penthouse office in 10 years.

Bill Quinlan, Business DevelopmentBill is an easy-going, no-nonsense guy who knows how to get things done. On any given day, you can find Bill making a splash on the networking circuit or thinking of a new and creative way to get the word out about Anthillz. If you havent met Bill yet, you probably will soon!

Alex Hillman, Community Advocate—Alex is the ultimate networker and community builder. In just one year, Alex went from being a busy freelancer and consultant to co-founding Independents Hall, Philly’s first coworking space. He’s a leader in the indy movement nationwide and a driving force behind the thriving creative ecosystem in Philadelphia.

Alex’s passion for networking and community-building are part of the secret sauce of IndyHall. Now he’s bringing that passion and experience to the Anthillz team.

As the Community Advocate, Alex not only advises Anthillz on how we can best serve our community from a usability and workflow perspective, but also helps us communicate with our users and helps them communicate with us. All along the way, Alex’s overarching goal is to use that feedback to make Anthillz the most useful platform it can be.

Written by Blake Jennelle

September 22, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Posted in About Us

Interview with Alexis Siemons, Freelance Creative Writing Professional

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Alexis is a very talented freelance writer and creative business consultant who is actively associated with the Philadelphia co-working space, Independents “Indy” Hall. Fueled by her passion for tea and crazy words, Alexis is a great resource for companies looking to convey their brand in a concise, fresh and creative manner.


What made you leave the stable environment of working for a marketing and advertising company to become a freelancer?

After two years of working as a copywriter in an advertising agency, the business model of the company changed, which caused it to close. As difficult as the closing process was, I gained valuable experiences during the final months, as I was assuming various roles within the agency. These additional responsibilities have given me the background to offer the services of a creative business consultant, in addition to writing.

I had been preparing for the close and informed a few freelance design friends to keep me in mind for freelance writing, and luckily they did. While working on a few freelance projects, I looked into several advertising agencies, but slowly realized that I found my passion in the freelance world. I made the final decision to remain freelancing while attending the Blog Philadelphia conference on a whim. It was there that I met everyone who would soon create and become members of Independents Hall (coworking organization).

When I combined the support group of Independents Hall and my love for freelance writing, I decided that I truly wanted to continue working as a freelance writer/creative business consultant. The jump from stable to freelancer was bumpy, but thanks to the help of friends, Indy hall and perseverance, I survived with only a few bruises that were worth the pain in the long run.

How did your family react when they caught word of you becoming a freelancer?

At first, I told my family that my freelance work was only temporary while I looked for another position in an agency (which was true at the time). However, after a few months they all could tell my heart was in it. My boyfriend was incredibly supportive, especially through the bumpy starting months. He even directed a few jobs my way.

My parents expressed their concern regarding job stability (as any normal parents would), but after explaining my game plan and seeing how passionate I was, they were supportive. In fact, answering their questions only gave me more reason to continue freelancing, as I heard myself speak so passionately while explaining my choice.

Now that you’re a freelancer, are you able to land the big clients (Tylenol, Sunoco, J&J) that you used to work with as a member of a marketing and ad agency?

A main reason why I decided to continue freelancing as opposed to returning to an agency was my desire to work for local clients. I wanted to support fellow entrepreneurs and small businesses with big dreams. After learning how to build strong relationships with small businesses, I gained the confidence to approach prominent businesses, such as Mighty Leaf Tea (as a tea enthusiast, that’s quite exciting). This may come across as corny, but I think of all my clients as big clients. Each project has potential to turn into something spectacular. Sure, they might not have stock options, but they are more receptive to creativity and imagination, without the burden and delay of layers of administration.

What’s a typical day in the life of Alexis Siemons?

·         Wakeup at 7:30/8 (depending on if I had a late night of writing)

·         Cup of tea while reading news, blogs, etc

·         Check emails

·         Write

·         Meetings/Conference calls

·         Lunch/ Take a walk

·         Continue writing

·         Administrative tasks (invoices, keeping track of receipts for taxes, etc)

·         I try to sop work at a reasonable hour so that I can spend time with family and friends, while recharging my battery for the next day.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you get past it?

I do have my bouts with writer’s block and I’ve found a few cures that seem to get me out of the funk and back to the keyboard.

· Read outside. The stimulation of other words and the movement in the world seems to move my thoughts.

· Go have a cup of tea in a café and just absorb the world around you. A new environment and caffeine are a great combo force for writer’s block

· Call a friend and talk about your writer’s block. You can easily break through a block just by hearing yourself talk about the issue.

· Go for a walk. Break a sweat. Get your body moving and work out the frustration through exercise, which is often rewarded and counteracted with a nice treat of ice cream.

Where do you find inspiration?

I could probably write a few pages to answer this question, but if I had to pick a few:

Reading short stories and blogs about anything. I tend to rarely read blogs about writing, because I don’t want to follow someone else’s pattern. Instead, I’d rather create my own path. That is not to say that I don’t still learn from the masters every so often.

Listening to friends talk about their life, as I find their different views and new ideas inspiring.

Watching movies and listening to music. A poignant phrase in a film or captivating lyrics will remain with you and inspire thoughts.

Sitting in any park in and just observing life.

Antique stores. It may sound weird, but history has a way of blocking out emails, iphones, blogs, texts and other technology that can sometimes get in the way of clear thoughts. A trip back to history can inspire new thoughts.

How do you reward yourself/celebrate after a job well done?

by taking a small break and enjoying something simple, like buying some new tea and having a cup outside on the patio. Getting out and trying a new restaurant, etc. Ah the wild life of a freelancer!

What one piece of advice would you give to an emerging freelancer?

I still consider myself to be an emerging freelancer, but if I had to give just one piece of advice it would to join a coworking group. The support, education and references you receive as a member of that community are priceless.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Well I’m glad you’re not asking difficult questions. But seriously, I plan on having built a business model for myself, in which I create and maintain an organization’s online presence (blogs, website content, press releases, etc), while also closely working with the client on creative business strategy that supports the content. At the same time, I want to leave part of the path unplanned, since serendipitous moments are wonderful and life changing.

How do you want to be remembered?

As a talented writer and innovator with endless enthusiasm and a kind soul.


For more information about Alexis and her work, click on any of the following: Anthillz Profile, Lexicon, My Tea Cups

Written by bquinlan3

August 26, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Interviews, Watercooler

Coming soon: New features to jumpstart your reputation

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We’ve taken a new direction with Anthillz, and this post reflects a previous focus.
Click here to learn about what we’re currently working on

Next week, we’re going to release a major update, designed to make your Anthillz reputation a living, breathing part of your professional life. There’s a lot more to your reputation than reviews, and we’re making it easy to capture the good things your colleagues are saying and thinking about you.

Upcoming features: Trusted Colleagues and Testimonials

Trusted Colleagues — The heart of your reputation

  • People who vouch for each other on Anthillz, based on the respect and trust they share.
  • Every time you add a trusted colleague, they write you a testimonial, and you write one for them.
  • Examples of trusted colleagues: coworkers, clients, bosses, peers, etc.

Testimonials — A quicker, easier way to get feedback

  • More personal and more frequent form of feedback.
  • Not necessarily tied to a specific project, like reviews.
  • More focused on the relationship you have formed over time, rather than on a particular transaction.

Three easy steps to add Trusted Colleagues and get Testimonials

It’s a pretty simple process:

  1. Invite trusted colleagues to join your network.
  2. Write testimonials for each other on your profiles.
  3. Showcase the goodwill you’ve worked hard to earn.

Why we think you’ll like the new update

  • Easier to build your profile – It will be much easier to get your colleagues to contribute to your profile. Now you give a favor to get a favor, by writing them a testimonial first.
  • Your profile will be more dynamic – By bringing more of your colleagues to your profile, you’ll get more feedback more often.
  • Your profile will be more informative and more accurate – By adding a new category of feedback, your profile will paint a richer picture of you and you work.

Written by Joe

August 18, 2008 at 10:58 am

Posted in The Archive