Glassdoor acquires Fishbowl to compete against LinkedIn

The acquisition is made by Recruit Holdings, that bought Glassdoor for $1.2 billion in 2018

Glassdoor acquires Fishbowl to compete against LinkedIn

Glassdoor has acquired Fishbowl, an app that allows users to anonymously provide frank employee feedback, join interest-based conversation groups to chat about work, and search for jobs. Glassdoor, which has 55 million users, is already integrating Fishbowl content into its main platform, though Fishbowl will continue to operate as a standalone app for the time being.

Glassdoor’s CEO, Christian Sutherland-Wong, sees Fishbowl as a natural progression of how Glassdoor is already being used. Similarly, because people are already looking for feedback on potential employers, bringing recruitment and reviews closer together makes sense.

They’ve always been about transparency in the workplace, he said. He hopes that in the future, job seekers will consult Glassdoor reviews and reach out to other professionals in their fields for advice. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Fishbowl gained a lot of traction, with its user base tripling in the last year.

Recruit Holdings, the Japanese employment listings and tech giant that bought Glassdoor for $1.2 billion in 2018, is making the acquisition, and the companies aren’t disclosing any financial terms. According to PitchBook data, San Francisco-based Fishbowl, founded in 2016 by Matt Sunbulli and Loren Appin, had raised less than $8 million from a diverse group of investors, including Binary Capital, GGV, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and Scott Belsky.

LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, dwarfs the likes of Glassdoor in terms of size. With over 774 million users, it is by far the most popular social media platform for professionals and their work-related content. However, the platform leaves something to be desired for many, including some of those who use it.

LinkedIn is a good place to start if you want to make a public profile, one that people in your professional life can find, or one that recruiters can find. However, ordinary people discussing work in an open and honest manner are largely absent from LinkedIn. 

That’s where a site like Glassdoor comes in: its anonymous commenting format turns it into a sort of anti-LinkedIn. The caustic, perhaps even bitter, talk about work, balanced out with positive words, seems to be suspected of being seeded by the companies themselves on a regular basis. Glassdoor’s lexicon does not include words like motivational, inspirational, or aspirational; however, it does include words like honest, illuminating, and sobering.

Glassdoor will use Fishbowl to supplement this and give it another set of tools to see how it can expand its platform beyond workplace reviews. The idea is to target people who come to Glassdoor to read what others have to say about a company or to leave their own comments: they can now also join in on conversations with others; and if they are coming to complain about their employer, they can also look for a new employer now in the same platform.

Meanwhile, it appears that the shift toward greater authenticity is partly a reflection of the transformation we’ve witnessed in the workplace.

Because of the compulsory office closures and social isolation imposed by Covid-19, many professionals have spent the last year and a half working from home. Many of our old barriers between work and non-work personalities, as well as time management, have blurred as a result of this. That has inevitably influenced how we view ourselves at work and what we hope to gain from our involvement. It’s also made a lot of people feel alone and in need of more methods to engage with their coworkers.

It claimed that part of the reason for Glassdoor’s acquisition was to address this demand. According to a Harris Poll commissioned by Glassdoor, 48 percent of employees felt isolated from coworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic, 42 percent of employees felt their career stalled due to a lack of in-person connection, and 45 percent of employees expect to work hybrid or full-time remotely in the future — all of which Glassdoor believes can be addressed with better tools.

Of course, whether Glassdoor can persuade its visitors to utilize the new Fishbowl-powered capabilities remains to be seen, but if there is a community of people yearning for a new form of LinkedIn and there are surely enough who love to complain about it, then this may be one version of that.