What happened to jigsaw com?

Jigsaw.com was a popular online community and information portal launched in 1996 by entrepreneurs Jan Brandt and Anurag Lal. At its peak in the early 2000s, Jigsaw had over 10 million members and was generating millions of dollars in annual revenue. However, after the dot-com crash, Jigsaw struggled to remain viable and ultimately shut down in 2010. This article will explore the history of Jigsaw, examine the reasons why it closed, and look at its lasting impact on online communities.

The Founding of Jigsaw

Jigsaw was founded in 1996 by Jan Brandt and Anurag Lal, who were colleagues at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. They recognized the business potential of online communities and set out to build a platform to connect professionals for networking, career development, and knowledge sharing.

The name “Jigsaw” was chosen to reflect how the service helped connect the “missing pieces” for users to build their professional puzzles. Jigsaw positioned itself as a pioneer of social networking before the term was even mainstream.

In 1997, Jigsaw raised $3 million in venture capital funding to scale up operations. The headquarters was located in San Mateo, California during the company’s heyday.

Growth and Popularity

Jigsaw saw rapid growth in the late 1990s, as the internet was entering millions of homes and workplaces for the first time. Here are some key stats about Jigsaw’s popularity:

– By 2000, Jigsaw had over 5 million members.

– In 2001, membership surpassed 10 million users.

– The majority of users were professionals in fields like tech, consulting, marketing, finance, academia.

– High engagement, with the average user spending around 90 minutes per month on the platform.

– Peak traffic in 2002 of over 3.5 million monthly visits.

Jigsaw achieved this growth through word-of-mouth, viral marketing, and advertising campaigns in major business publications. The service tapped into people’s innate drive to connect, learn, and advance their careers.

During the first dot-com era, Jigsaw was considered one of the leading online communities, alongside services like Classmates and TheGlobe.com. Jigsaw helped pioneer concepts like professional networking and knowledge sharing that are now commonplace.

Key Features of Jigsaw

So what did Jigsaw actually do? What features made it so useful for members?

Here are some of the core offerings:

– **Profiles** – Each member had a profile with background info, photos, interests, expertise areas. This allowed browsing and searching for connections.

– **Discussion Forums** – Forums covered topics like starting a business, succeeding at work, home life, hobbies, and more.

– **Knowledge Exchange** – Users shared advice in areas like resume writing, interviewing, and professional development.

– **Mentor Matching** – Members could search mentors and subject matter experts to get advice.

– **Job Postings** – Companies posted employment opportunities targeted towards Jigsaw members.

– **Events Calendar** – Jigsaw had an events section to publicize conferences, networking events, training seminars and the like.

Overall, Jigsaw aimed to provide the essentials for members to network, discuss ideas, advance careers, and satisfy curiosity. The mix of features showed how online communities could create meaningful value.

Business Model

So how did Jigsaw actually make money during its peak years?

Its business model relied on a mix of advertising revenue, subscription fees, and corporate services.

– **Advertising** – Banner/display ads were shown across the site. Jigsaw attracted big brands aiming to reach its professional demographic.

– **Premium Memberships** – For extra features like increased searchability, users could pay a monthly subscription fee.

– **Corporate Programs** – Companies paid for private branded communities on Jigsaw to connect employees or customers.

– **Job Postings** – Employers paid a fee to advertise open positions on Jigsaw’s job board.

– **Events** – Jigsaw hosted various local events and charged admission fees.

– **Research** – They sold data reports and insights about members to help companies improve products/services.

At its peak around 2001, Jigsaw was generating over $50 million in annual revenue through these diversified streams. The company was able to turn the community into a thriving business.

Downfall Following the Dot-Com Crash

Jigsaw’s trajectory took a major hit following the dot-com crash. Here’s a quick overview of what happened:

– When the tech bubble burst in 2000-2001, internet businesses collapsed and investor sentiment soured.

– Jigsaw struggled to raise follow-on funding. Venture capitalists were no longer pouring money into web services.

– Many failed dot-coms went bankrupt, leaving employees jaded towards online communities specifically.

– Ad revenue dried up for all web publishers as marketing budgets tightened industry-wide.

– Jigsaw’s growth and engagement both declined as rivals emerged and the novelty of online communities faded.

– Unable to pivot successfully, Jigsaw raised a down round at a lower valuation in 2004 to stay afloat.

– By the mid-2000s, Jigsaw struggled against larger social networks and professional sites like LinkedIn.

– In 2010, Jigsaw ultimately terminated the service and laid off remaining employees.

While once a trailblazer in social networking, Jigsaw failed to adapt to changing market tides. The cratering of the dot-com boom meant the end of the road.

Acquisition by Salesforce

In late 2009, business software company Salesforce acquired Jigsaw for an undisclosed sum. This was likely a bargain price, as Jigsaw was struggling.

Salesforce was interested in Jigsaw for the following reasons:

– Gain the company’s database of 12+ million members, contacts, and data.

– Acquire the technology infrastructure built over the years.

– Benefit from the team’s experience running an online community.

However, Salesforce ended up shutting down the main Jigsaw community and product. It opted to use the assets to bolster its own Salesforce CRM and marketing products.

So while Salesforce kept some of Jigsaw alive behind the scenes, the front-facing community platform was terminated. This cemented Jigsaw’s shutdown as an independent company.

Legacy and Impact

Though Jigsaw itself ultimately shut down, it left behind an important legacy:

– **Pioneered social networking** – Jigsaw paved the way for many of today’s social media and community platforms.

– **Connected millions** – During its peak, tens of millions of users had their lives enriched by Jigsaw.

– **Inspired professional communities** – Jigsaw showed the appeal of vertical communities focused on careers and industries.

– **Normalized online interactions** – Jigsaw helped acclimate people to communicating, networking, and learning online.

– **Lasting partnerships** – Many members formed business connections and friendships through Jigsaw that continued offline.

– **Influenced later startups** – Following Jigsaw’s path, companies like LinkedIn and Spoke built professional social networks.

While not enduring, Jigsaw played an instrumental role in the first wave of online communities. It ushered in concepts that became commonplace just a few years later.

Why Did Jigsaw Ultimately Fail?

Stepping back, there are a few key reasons why Jigsaw likely failed to survive long-term:

– **Dot-com crash** – The overall collapse of internet stocks and funding in the early 2000s put Jigsaw on the backfoot.

– **Increased competition** – Larger social networks like Facebook lured away users starting in the mid-2000s.

– **Loss of novelty** – Online communities were no longer seen as unique, so engagement declined over time.

– **No clear business model** – Jigsaw struggled to adjust its business model to keep revenue growing each year.

– **Market saturation** – Too many communities popped up in specific verticals like tech and business.

– **Mismanagement** – Some cite company leadership being slow to innovate and pivot during uncertain times.

– **Overstaffing** – Jigsaw maintained too large of an employee base as growth leveled off.

No single issue is blamed fully. But cumulatively, Jigsaw failed to overcome mounting challenges in a rapidly changing internet industry.

Could Jigsaw Have Avoided Failure?

As outsiders looking in, it’s worth asking – could Jigsaw have made different strategic decisions to stay viable for the long-haul? A few ideas that may have helped:

– Pursuing strategic partnerships with larger tech players to join forces.

– Developing a mobile app earlier to ride the smartphone revolution.

– Focusing more on international expansion to tap into global markets.

– Premium subscriptions for “power users” to better monetize the userbase.

– Cutting costs sooner before cash reserves fully dwindled.

– Being acquired by a giant like Google or Microsoft who may have kept it running.

– Making tough decisions to lay off staff instead of being optimistic.

Of course, many internet companies ultimately fail once market tides change. But in hindsight, Jigsaw may have been able to extend its lifespan a bit longer with savvier strategy. It serves as a case study in how quickly internet businesses can rise and fall.

Could Jigsaw Be Revived?

Given how pivotal Jigsaw once was, some have wondered if it could ever make a comeback. After all, vintage brands often get revived after some time passes.

However, a Jigsaw return seems unlikely for a few reasons:

– The Jigsaw brand is dated and carries baggage from the dot-com collapse.

– Key staff and leadership have long dispersed to other companies.

– Many clones now occupy the niche of professional networking.

– Salesforce owns the rights and has already integrated assets elsewhere.

– Raising sufficient funding would be a tall task with the history.

– User bases and data are long outdated.

– Social media and discussion forums are very different now.

While nostalgia remains for Jigsaw among some internet veterans, the factors above make a true revival quite implausible. The brand will likely remain dormant, but important as a pioneer of its era.

Key Takeaways

In summary, here are some key things to learn from the demise of Jigsaw:

– Online communities must continually innovate and pivot to stay fresh.

– Dot-com era sites struggled to adapt once the bubble burst.

– Overstaffing and excessive spending can sink companies quickly.

– Brand loyalty is fleeting when something newer and shinier comes along.

– Strategic partnerships and acquisitions are safer bets than going solo.

– Success today offers no guarantee of future staying power or profits.

Jigsaw was a shooting star that burned bright but faded as the internet marched on. Its contributions helped pave the way for the social-driven web we know today.


Jigsaw holds an important place in internet history for its role in pioneering online communities, social networking, and professional engagement. It demonstrated how the web could successfully connect people worldwide around shared interests, careers, and curiosities. However, the shifting tides of the dot-com bubble proved too much to overcome. While Jigsaw itself shut down, the model it championed lives on in many forms today. The service is fondly remembered by members as encapsulating the optimism and experimentation of early internet days.