Thursday, October 21, 2010
Interview with 7 Degrees, Tim Sheehan
Last week, Salt Lake City-based 7 Degrees (www.7-degrees.com) announced that it had raised a Series B round of funding, for the firm's PeopleMaps service. Tim Sheehan, the firm's CEO, who formerly lead Yahoo Finance, spoke with us about the company:
What is PeopleMaps, and what is 7 Degrees all about?
Tim Sheehan: Essentially, what we have is a universal social graph. What we're able to do, is determine how anyone is connected to anyone else, or to any company. For example, we can show a salesperson how he or she can get a warm introduction to their prospects, or we can show a recruiter how to explore their network so that they can find the best candidates or identify objective references. It's all about leveraging your connections and relationships, and enabling you to it in an automated way. It not only leverage explicit relationships you have, whether that is through contacts in Outlook, LinkedIn, or Facebook, but also implicit connections--where we have determined that you actually know these other people who you're not connected to on LinkedIn or Facebook, but you had perhaps worked with in the past. We're able to figure all of that out, based on all of the data we've amassed in a huge, universal social graph.
What's your background, and how did the company start?
Tim Sheehan: I've done a few different things. I did a startup with Paul Allen, Starwave, and built a bunch of sports websites, including ESPN.com, NBA.com, helped launch E*Trade, then ran Yahoo Finance. I was then promoted, and given a few other Yahoo properties. I've also worked with a number of other startups. We started 7 Degrees in September of 2007, and we've been at it for about three years. We've got some pretty sophisticated technology. There's a very powerful social graph database which underlies all of this, and we're pulling every piece of data we can about people and their relationships from the Internet, and also through commercial data sources which we have licensed as data feed from vendors.
A lot of people are already using LinkedIn and other social networking services to do this--are they competition, or how do you fit into that world?
Time Sheehan: We view them as really data sources. They are very complimentary, and we love both LinkedIn and Facebook, and think they are fantastic for what they do. But, what we do, is we try to leverage those so that the users can get a full picture of all of their relationships. They might have contacts in Outlook, friends in Facebook, connections on LinkedIn, and they probably also have personal friends through Gmail. They probably have a bunch of people they know well, people they have worked with as an observer on a board with, or perhaps someone they've done nonprofit work with, who are not connected to on the social networking sites. We call those the hidden gems, and we try to discover those additional relationships that people have but that are not explicitly connected to them on a social network.
Who are the kinds of people who find this most useful?
Tim Sheehan: The service is most popular with users such as salespeople, recruits, fundraisers, and also people looking for a job. If you're someone looking for a job, is a way to get warm introductions to hiring managers for a job they're interested in, and see the best way to get into a given company or set of companies they would like to work at.
What you will be using your new funding for?
Tim Sheehan: It's really for continuing to add more and more data to the universal social graph. And also, to scale up the company, both on the product development side and also on the sales and marketing side.
Finally, what are you working on now and what's on your horizon?
Tim Sheehan: It's really building out our universal social graph. We're continuing to build that out. In the same way that Google is never done with web search, we're never done with people search. It's all about acquiring more and more data, so that the search can be comprehensive, and so you can enhance and improve your algorithm so that you're surfacing the best connection path to the top.