BOULDER – Local startup Conspire aims to take online professional networking to a level beyond LinkedIn as it launches its new platform nationwide on Wednesday.
The 2013 Techstars Cloud graduate’s platform not only allows users to build their professional networks. But it also allows users to see the strength of their connections – and their connections’ connections – by analyzing headers from users’ email messages, the To, From, Cc, Bcc, date and time fields. So if you’re a sales person, for instance, trying to get in touch with a key contact at a potential client company, you can more easily assess which of your own contacts provides a fruitful path to a warm introduction.
The issue with a site like LinkedIn, Conspire co-founder Alex Devkar said, is that it treats all of a user’s connections the same so that, if you have 500 connections, it’s difficult for anyone to know if you met those people at a conference for five minutes or if you’ve been a friend or business associate for decades.
“LinkedIn is a really great place to put your resume online,” Devkar said. “What they don’t do well and what we do well is understand the relationship between two people. We really understand in a fine-grained way whether people know each other well.”
Signing up for Conspire is free, though the company, officially Aireum Inc., is planning to roll out a premium subscription model next year that will enhance the search capabilities for heavy users of the site.
Conspire began opening the service to acquaintances in the tech startup and venture capital communities last year for beta testing. In October, the service was opened to anyone with Gmail or Google Apps email accounts. Wednesday’s launch makes the platform available to anyone on any email system.
Devkar declined to disclose the number of users signed up so far on the site. But he said the network built off of those users reaches 37 million people through the users’ email contacts. When recommending connection paths, the network reaches out as far as third-degree connections for users, meaning the paths it recommends never include more than two people in between users and the people they’re trying to reach.
For all 37 million email contacts in Conspire’s network, the platform makes profiles that are built up from publicly available information online. Those profiles can be edited by any user to help ensure that information is up-to-date, with some checks in place to make sure users aren’t posting false information about someone.
Devkar acknowledges that privacy concerns are maybe the biggest hurdle for his company. Conspire tries to eliminate such fears in a few ways aside from simply trying to have a robust security system in place around the data it collects. For one, contact information is never divulged on the site. Users merely see that their connections know another person and the strength of that relationship. The bodies of emails are also never analyzed, only the headers.
“(Privacy) has to be a no-brainer for people to say, ‘I’m getting so much value out of this,’” Devkar said. “As we go broader and broader, I think that is really important that we message that appropriately so that people see this as a good deal to make.”
Devkar, who grew up in Boulder, founded Conspire in 2013 with Paul McReynolds, with whom he was friends at Stanford University. Both got law degrees after college and went down separate career paths before they reconnected to launch Conspire.
The two 32-year-olds’ business was funded initially with a $1 million seed round in 2013 before last August landing a $2.5 million funding round led by Techstars Ventures. Conspire, which has six full-time employees is based at Galvanize’s downtown Boulder facility.
“We’re hoping to expand our headcount pretty significantly over the course of the year,” said Devkar, noting that he expects the company to have at least 10 full-time employees by the middle of this year.