Michael Yavonditte wants Hashable --which combines the connection mojo of LinkedIn, the hashtag shorthand of Twitter, and the check in functionality of Foursquare--to change the face of networking.
"People are really interested in accessing who is connected to whom, and how strong those connections are. That is the kind of data we have," Hashable's CEO tells Fast Company. More to the immediate future, Yavonditte and his team plan to unleash a guerrilla marketing campaign at SxSW that they hope will make them the darlings of the interactive conference, a position Foursquare clinched last year.
"Foursquare popularized the notion of a person wanting to know if their other friends are at Starbucks [or some other location]. With Hashable you are checking in with a person as opposed to location. We are the inventors of people check-ins."
Founded last summer, the site officially came out of beta yesterday, meaning you no longer need an invitation to join. It works like this: Sign up for free and then use Twitter, Facebook, your email service, iPhone, or Android app to make introductions, record, and track your connections and interactions. Hashtags are the golden keys to the Hashable kingdom. New relationships are forged by #justmet or #intro. #Lunch or #coffee can be graciously followed up with #thanks which Yavonditte maintains is a better, faster way to express gratitude to those you've connected with.
The "icebreaker" function allows you to play matchmaker between two people (you can #thank them later). Perhaps one of the most useful tools during SxSW will be the way Hashable's mobile apps can eliminate the need to exchange (and keep track of) pesky business cards. For instance, Yavonditte explains, you meet someone on the conference floor. Replace the fumbling about for cards with entering the person's email address and Twitter handle. Hashable's apps will then dispatch a virtual business card to them with your contact info via email or Twitter, allowing you to add an optional message or share the connection internally within the app. The app also adds the person to your address book.
But keeping the virtual Rolodex jammed isn't the only reward. Yavonditte's betting that Hashable's baked-in point-and-rank system distinguishes the platform from other social media check-in sites. Hashable's got a leaderboard which rates users by their Hashcred, the community's virtual currency. Hashcred can be earned through connections or general usage. Hashable also incorporates a rating system for relationships depending on their strength. That data, says Yavonditte, allows Hashable to take the LinkedIn concept one step beyond just making connections.
And though he freely admits to not having a monetization plan in place yet, he's counting on the value added by drilling down into connection data. "First we want to get the product right and make it fun and easy to use. We aren't there yet, but making good progress."
Investors think so too. Hashable's already scored $4 million from Union Square Ventures, that was after Yavonditte pulled the plug on a totally different platform called Tracked.com which he explains was to be like a more detailed Yahoo Finance. What he kept was the core team who'd been with him at Quigo before it was sold to AOL in 2007 for $340 million.
"Virtually every popular web service has figured out a successful business model. Through usage patterns and data it becomes obvious but it's hard to predict. The more experienced with Internet start-ups the person is, the less likely they'll be willing to guess at monetization," adds Yavonditte.
Ultimately, Yavonditte says Hashable will live or die on its own, but he underscores it's very much a work-in-progress. "Codifying the moment you meet someone is one step on the journey to building a successful company. But if users don't like it, we'll make it better."