The core Nextio team: Andy Nelson; co-founders Anoop Gupta (CEO) and Aravind Bala (CTO); Vikas Manocha; John Tippett; and Bentham Chang. (Nextio Photo)

A new professional messaging service called Nextio aims to challenge a key feature of LinkedIn by turning the economic model on its head — giving the recipients of messages most of the money paid by marketers, recruiters and others seeking to reach them.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based company, formerly known as Telo, was co-founded by CEO Anoop Gupta, a former technical assistant to Bill Gates who previously led Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group; and CTO Aravind Bala, a former Microsoft partner engineering manager who worked on products including Bing and Office.

Nextio is launching today. Here’s how the messaging feature works.

  • After signing up for a free Nextio account and getting a public messaging address, users set their preferences to designate the types of messages they’re willing to receive for free, and their price for receiving promotional messages.
  • If a recipient responds to a paid promotional message within a week, in any way, the designated amount is credited to the recipient’s Nextio account. Nextio credits are counted in “Attention Units,” abbreviated AU, which translate into 10 cents per unit.
  • The recipient’s price is 80 percent of the amount paid by the sender. Nextio keeps the other 20 percent. Recipients can choose to have the money paid out to them or donated to a designated charity.
  • Recipients can rate the relevance of messages, and Nextio tracks the overall behavior of senders to prevent abuse.

Gupta and Bala say the idea is to align the interests of senders and recipients to deliver better value to both sides, making promotional messages more relevant and effective, and compensating the recipients of those messages for their time and attention.

The suggested price per message ranges from 10 AUs ($1) to 100 AUs ($10), although recipients can also enter a custom amount.

Nextio’s approach is based on the concept that attention is the new currency, Gupta says.


An example of a paid promotional message on Nextio. (Click to enlarge.)

“This is not a way people are going to get rich,” said Gupta, putting the numbers in perspective. “Many people will feel more comfortable donating to charities, but if the younger kids want beer money, that’s good, too.”

However, this is a big market. Marketers, recruiters and others pay hefty premiums to get their messages out. Messaging is a core feature of LinkedIn’s premium plans. Microsoft paid more than $26 billion to acquire the business social network last year. Facebook, which made more than $27 billion in revenue last year, charges brands to elevate their posts to reach more users.

“There’s big money spent in getting to you,” Bala said. The money will be spent somewhere. It can be spent on the middleman or it can be spent on you.”

Another big difference from LinkedIn: Everyone on Nextio is visible to others, eliminating the need to pay a premium for additional visibility into the people beyond your social circle. The service is free to end users.

To help build a critical mass of users, Nextio also offers a feature called Career Insights, which uses natural language processing and machine learning to analyze a database of millions of public profiles — showing users how people in similar positions have advanced their careers. It’s designed to give people unique insights into the education, skills and experience they need to get ahead.


Nextio’s Career Insights feature. (Click to enlarge.)

In some ways, Gupta and Bala are competing against their former company with their startup, with LinkedIn now part of Microsoft. For end users, Nextio is not a replacement for LinkedIn’s broader set of features, but the concept does pose a potential threat to its business model.

Gupta and Bala both left Microsoft in November 2015 and came up with the Nextio idea in early 2016. Microsoft announced its agreement to acquire LinkedIn in June 2016. Nextio, then known as Telo, raised $2.2 million in funding in November 2016 from investors in Seattle and Silicon Valley. Nextio has a core team of six people, in addition to contractors.



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