Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Connecting Professionals Offline Using Technology, with James Sinclair of CanWe
Looking to take your online business connections and turn that into a stronger, in-person, off-line relationship, Austin-based CanWeStudios (www.canwestudios.com) launched its app yesterday. We caught up with co-founder James Sinclair to learn more about the company.
What is CanWe Studios?
James Sinclair: CanWe Studios is a platform company that designs technology that allows users to identify other people that have commonality with one another. It's based on an outcome prediction tool. We can understand who someone is, and figure out what type person people are based on their profile and factors such as skills and reading between the lines. We take that personality and other information, and match them with people they are likely to have good opportunities with. The first proof of concept is business to consumer, CanWeNetwork, a mobile app designed specifically to let people see other people and figure out if they should meet.
Where did the idea for the service come from?
James Sinclair: We started a year ago building our first platform, which was focused on the social area, helping people meet in the social area. However, the further we got into it, we figured out that the opportunity was within the business and not the social environment. We felt there was more of an application and benefit in the business networking area, rather than in the social area. Using that as a backbone, we continued to develop it and moved our focus. There are more applications, more verticals, and more opportunities in the business area, and our roadmap is becoming more of an enterprise platform, to provide insight for big companies.
What's your background?
James Sinclair: My background has always been in technology. I've been in this area for many years, and have been part of many small technology startups that I've believed passionately in. I met this company a year ago this month. They had started developing this on a technical level, on the engineering level. We talked about this, and had a conversation about predicting people you ought to be meeting, and to drive value and opportunity. It was something that really resonated with me. I lived in Los Angeles, and they were based in Austin, I started to come out here to meet with everyone, and saw a very path to commercial viability and monetization. I saw a roadmap, and got it and understood. I jumped on that, and was thrilled and have been up and running since.
You're pulling your data from LinkedIn?
James Sinclair: Our first vector we've chosen to pull in is LinkedIn. We feel obviously that they are the leader in business networking platform. There's an incredible amount of data people put out there, and we use that in our first foray to understand people. They also have a great developer program. We were able to jump in and get a rich profile of our users in LinkedIn data, which helps us read between the lines. There's many social sites like Facebook and other networks, but LinkedIn is the very obvious choice in for us, because you list your education and business networks, and experience, and is how people represent themselves in the business area. It's essentially LinkedIn is an online resume. When you join the CannWe Network, login is via LinkedIn, and we pass everything through our big data, machine learning, and decision science engine. The point of it for the user, is I don't think they need to understand what is going on behind the scenes, so our app provides five matches and why. That provides a conduit to make introductions. It's an opportunity to take online relationships offline, and is based on our personal belief is how you do business is by knocking on doors, and if you work on getting out and meeting great people, the more opportunities are likely to occur. We put the odds in favor of our users, by showing them people they otherwise wouldn't tend to meet, that they should.
What's the next thing you are working on?
James Sinclair: We'll be launching this in the App Store, followed by Android, and then shortly on the Windows platform and Blackberry. This is the conversion version of our technology platform, and we're also looking at testing this for B2B, under the topic of human capital management, or figuring out essentially how you take a pool of people and get the most value. Large companies might want to use this to identify the best people for a role or task, or use it to identify or gain more value out of their existing infrastructure and our platform. The consumer app is a preview of that technology, and our opportunity to put the technology into everyday use, and drive people to meet others and seize opportunities that they don't come across every day.