LifeBrand flags your Facebook and Twitter posts that could get you in trouble

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Many people have posted something they regret on social media – a curse at a frustrating sports match, a political rant in response to the news, drunken debauchery as a student. These squeaky messages are often harmless, but sometimes they cost people a job when employers snoop on their social media.

Enter TJ Colaiezzi, a Delaware County native and former executive in the fitness industry. In 2018, he launched LifeBrand, a tech start-up that cleans up clients’ social media accounts. The company also offers social media screenings for employers who are “above the board” in obtaining consent from job applicants.

LifeBrand’s technology was released just over a year ago, but the West Chester-based company has already added professional sports teams as clients and won a pitch competition hosted by Kevin O’Leary, the personality from the commercial reality TV show. LifeBrand has raised $ 16.2 million from investors and plans to grow from 50 to 70 employees this year, said Colaiezzi, founder and CEO.

The company has become present at Eagles games with signs at Lincoln Financial Field and radio commercials featuring Heisman Trophy winner and Philadelphia wide receiver DeVonta Smith.

“What we’ve built here at LifeBrand is a way to help protect individuals’ personal brands, to protect them during the hiring process, but also to help protect businesses,” said Colaiezzi. “I wanted to help employers find a way to weed out bad people, but protect good people from things that shouldn’t be seen. “

The company’s technology deploys artificial intelligence (AI) to browse a user’s social media feed, flag potentially problematic posts, and allow users to delete them. When performing an employer background check, applicants have the option to remove annoying posts and can choose whether or not to send a report about themselves to the company.

The projections are super sensitive, noting not only offensive language but even innocuous words that might be incriminating in other contexts. For example, LifeBrand posted the word “bud” on this reporter’s Twitter account. It was an abbreviated way of saying “buddy,” not a reference to Budweiser or marijuana.

Messages reported by LifeBrand are often not horrible but can still cause problems, Colaiezzi said. The company’s AI found a Twitter post from a C-suite executive that called a reporter a “jerk.” Colaiezzi himself used colorful online language to rent a piece of avocado toast. In both cases, the executives decided to cut the posts.

“We prefer to flag everything and give you the option to take it out and then some things fall through the cracks,” Colaiezzi said. “Most people might not care to use the word ‘hell’ on their social media. Some people do.

Over 70% of employers view candidate social media accounts, according to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey of more than 1,000 hiring and human resources managers. Of these companies, more than half found content that made them decide not to hire someone.

Such projections are mostly done informally by hiring managers, said Jason Thatcher, a professor at Temple University who has studied how political social media posts influence hiring decisions. Managers often claim they are looking for job-related information, such as confirmation of something a candidate has said.

“The problem is, sometimes people post things that they don’t realize that other people will find offensive or problematic, especially when they’re in the workforce,” Thatcher said. “If you publish articles on politics, especially your partisan affiliation, it negatively influences people with affiliations of parties opposed to hiring you. “

Thatcher said there are at least a hundred other companies that do social media management and background checks, but he knows of no others that give job seekers the ability to delete posts before that an employer cannot see them, as LifeBrand does.

Colaiezzi, 40, former sales manager for New York-based Crunch Fitness, said he was embarrassed that employers would scroll candidates’ social media without their consent or let candidates challenge the information they gathered. When he couldn’t find a solution he was comfortable with, he decided to create one himself. He partnered with Oak’s Lab, a Prague-based technology company that helped design, design and launch the LifeBrand product.

Lifebrand has approximately 35 corporate clients, including the Eagles, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Braves, and New England Patriots. The company focuses primarily on corporate clients, but also has 4,400 individual users. The company aims to reach $ 10 million in annual recurring revenue by the middle of next year, Colaiezzi said.

Consumers can pay a one-time fee of around $ 10 to filter their accounts or pay an additional $ 4 per month for unlimited scans. Pricing for business accounts depends on the size of the business. LifeBrand recently billed a company with 19,000 employees about $ 11,000 per month, or about 58 cents per worker per month, Colaiezzi said. In addition to background checks, LifeBrand customers may offer the scans as a benefit to their customers’ current employees.

For two years, Colaiezzi said, he put it all into the LifeBrand idea, maximizing credit cards and selling goods to spend more on the business and support his family. LifeBrand’s big break came when O’Leary, a judge on ABC Shark aquarium, chose LifeBrand as the winner of another start-up pitch competition. The prize was a $ 10,000 grant, but O’Leary’s approval proved more valuable, Colaiezzi said.

“It’s early stage credibility that we would have needed three or four years of sales and big name customers to get the credibility he brought us almost overnight,” he said. .

The startup plans to expand into education next year by selling accredited online courses on social media. The online courses, which could be sold to parents or schools, would train children or young professionals in the best and worst practices on social media, including how to build a strategic brand, Colaiezzi said.

The goal is to make LifeBrand the world leader in social media education, detection and prevention and then be bought out by another company. This may require another fundraiser over the next two years, Colaiezzi said.

“There are bigger tech companies with greater reach, with greater distribution, that can really help us get this out to the masses even faster than we could,” Colaiezzi said. “So we plan, at some point in the next three to five years, to be acquired.”

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