I’m looking at the Facebook page of a well-known angel investor in Silicon Valley, staring at a little icon silhouette of a person next to his profile picture. It’s faded out and grey, meaning he’s eluded the networking efforts of the social plug-in I’ve added to my account to help me find people we both know. If the little man were green, I could hover over the icon to see a bio and our mutual connections across other social networking sites like LinkedIn LNKD +1.07%.
It’s partly a game now to see who will pop up green, and which contacts will show up in common–for another investor who became a billionaire off a bet on Facebook, I see an old college classmate, a CEO I’ve interviewed in the past, and a former colleague from my last reporting gig–and it’s also a little stressful.
I’ve learned a couple things very quickly. I am not Facebook friends with many people through my job, and so most of my friends are actual social acquaintances past and present, who typically show up grey, out of reach. But more importantly, the little icon is a constant reminder of how small and inter-connected our circles can be, our work contacts blurring with those friends in ways we don’t expect.
And it’s sort-of creepy, frankly. I’m not seeing anything I shouldn’t, as the information is all public. I can find mutual connections on LinkedIn, or figure out someone’s Twitter TWTR +2.61% account without much effort. Having everything together, though–it feels a little different, an increasingly filled-out social profile of a person’s personal and private identity all laid out at once.
For a recruiter or a hustling entrepreneur, that’s a dream. When I interview venture investors famous for their startup success, I’ll often hear their pipeline is entirely through connections. Send a Midas List member an email out of the blue, and you’re unlikely to get a response. The same goes for top dogs at the big companies you might want to meet for a sales pitch, or the executive you’d like to meet as a recruiter.
That’s where these little icons come in. They’re the product of Discoverly, an enterprise startup launched by former Salesforce product manager Ted Summe. On Discoverly, Summe and I share a primary contact, an old friend from high school who’s now a correspondent for another business magazine. Guess who introduced us.
Discoverly launched its Twitter integration this week, now connecting your profiles from the big three social networks, and the little icons are popping up on more websites like AngelList and CrunchBase now, too.
“Whether you’re a recruiter or a sales person, you’re looking for common ground,” Summe says. “Common ground just gets a higher conversion rate.”
The average person has about a 30% overlap between their Facebook friend and LinkedIn contacts, Summe adds. Just go to one site, and you’ll get some value, but you may miss the big picture. Discoverly uses social clustering to track you publicly (and legally, if again, a little creepily) across the Web. By grouping people you are connected to across multiple sites, it can figure out that you’re the right Alex or Ted on GitHub and Facebook despite a bunch of repeat names.
And because it’s not LinkedIn or Faceook itself, there’s no playing favorites. The full profile pops up for you wherever you go. “We see ourselves as Kayak, where we aren’t a social network ourselves, but we are Switzerland in between for your social data,” Discoverly’s founder claims. That icon? It’s actually supposed to invoke a Russian nesting doll representing the layers of your online presence.
Discoverly is free, but hopes to make money from a pro version coming out around October, selling a version that runs on top of their own systems with the dolls embedded right into their sales software. Two early users, Invoca and SendHub, both say the product’s worked so far.
“Even though really great candidates could be connected to friends you’re close to, it can be a challenge to find them,” says Paul Rudwall, a senior marketing manager at Invoca, a marketing automation company. ”Discoverly uncovers a valuable pool of talent, across my personal networks, that would be very challenging to tap into otherwise.”
The company’s still a baby when it comes to growing a business, too. Summe got funding while still at Salesforce for his idea and is hoping to partner with his old company soon. A graduate of enterprise accelerator Alchmeist, Discoverly’s got $750,000 in seed funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, Atlas Ventures and enterprise tech executives and will look to raise a Series A round after its next launch, an integration with Google’s GOOGL +1.02% Gmail, later in the fall.
More networks tied in will be key, and even then, the service isn’t perfect. Testing it out for a week, I found that Facebook, for example, is a tough one to crack. Most people I’m already friends with I’d feel comfortable reaching out to already. But many people I searched whom I was not friends with also popped up grey and undiscovered on the tool.
If it gains traction, Discoverly sounds like a company that a big player would want to gobble up fast. LinkedIn bought a company that made a similar widget for Gmail, Rapportive (another reporter’s god-send for helping spot a correct email address), back in 2012 for just a few million. Salesforce might be interested, or a company like Microsoft MSFT -1.06%, too.
Summe says he’s not particularly interested in selling right now for as a basic a reason as the buyer would focus on one strategic area, either sales or recruiting.