John Pino loves launching companies and loves Philadelphia.
So where else would you expect him to launch what he says just might be the next big professional networking service?
In November, Pino founded and self-funded i-Meet.com, which utilizes social-networking features to connect like-minded people in their efforts to organize, plan and promote events. The South Philadelphia-native, who grew up near 17th and Oregon Avenue in St. Monica’s Parish, didn’t want his tech startup based anywhere else but Center City, which he says is on its way to being the next great corridor of innovation.
His “strong launch team” all learned the tech-business game in Philly.
“The impetus,” for the launch Pino says, was a “screaming need for a worldwide network in the meeting and event industry, and we decided we would make it happen. Especially when we figured out how to put a business overlay over the social aspects of the community.”
Now i-Meet has more than 7,000 members from 100 countries worldwide, Pino says, and, though he wouldn’t disclose specific revenue figures, the company has a real monetization strategy, including premium options.
We didn’t mention that we caught the social networker on Facebook, but he did mention how he’s going to make bank, why we don’t need another social network and that his parents were not part of organized crime.
Transcript of interview was edited for length and clarity.
- How are you going to make money?
Our revenues are generated in three ways: media offerings, lead generation fees and white label sites for those that want it. [We also have a] marketplace approach, connecting buyers and sellers in our space.
- Why do we need another social network?
We don’t, at least not in the traditional sense. i-Meet is an industry-specific social network. It’s actually a professional and social network for people who plan meetings and events.
- Why should people go to and use i-Meet?
If you have any connection whatsoever to planning meetings or events, even a supplier that delivers products or services in this segment, you can connect, collaborate and communicate with a growing number of like-minded people. Networking, business opportunities, lead generation, career and work opportunities — all are at i-Meet, and it’s focused on this industry.
- Give us two South Philly stereotypes: one you fill and one you don’t.
Growing up, you just made sure you were part of the culture, you know, hanging on corners. It identified you and made you part of something special — I can identify with that one. A stereotype that I don’t fit — my parents were not part of the Mafia.
- What’s the latest? What is coming soon? What should we look for?
The latest: rolling out our proprietary RFI Engine, allowing planners to connect with, meet, and request information from 80,000 suppliers around the world. Coming soon: more robust group and communication tools, enhanced searching and targeting tools. Look for: our skills marketplace, where planners and organizations can contract for project work within our growing network of qualified individuals.
- What is the earliest lesson in business you learned and still use?
My very first boss was fanatical about dealing with client problems immediately: facing people, looking them in the eye and doing whatever you could to make things right. Don’t wait, and never ignore problems. He never passed off critical comments as insignificant. That is something I have always valued, and try to stay true to it today.
- Why is i-Meet Technically Philly?
I like this city and have had great success here. The labor base is strong, great educational institutions and easy access to the rest of the world. I was born and raised in South Philly, and there is nothing like this city. I’ve started other businesses here, and grew others to national prominence — I want to ride that!
- Have you seen the Philly tech scene grow?
Yes, I have. I started a company called StarCite in 1999, which has become the world leader in on-demand meeting and event services, and it’s here in Philly. It’s a good place for start-ups, with a strong community and venture help is available.
Every Friday, Technically Philly brings an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia’s technology community. See others here.