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Start-up, round 2:

April 6, 2010

Although I’ll still be making sure the transition of Tjoos goes smoothly over the next few months, I do find myself with a fair bit of time to work on new stuff. Recently I was part of the team that launched DateBrowsr while on the StartupBus (thanks Elias!). More seriously I’ve been doing some initial work on an old idea:

I have a problem. I have facebook, twitter, an iPhone, Outlook, LinkedIn and I use all of these to connect with people and communicate. It’s a mess. I don’t know who I’m connected with where. I never have someone’s phone number when I need it most. As I said, it’s a mess. To solve this problem I thought it would be cool if a website could get all the contact details out of all my accounts and de-dupe it. Then I would be able to tag my contacts (friend, business, ex-girlfriend, collegue) and setup a rule so that I automatically connect on LinkedIn with all my business contacts.

I’ve pitched this idea a few times and I’ve heard others pitch very similar ideas, but has anyone built it yet? I’ve had a look at Plaxo, Soocial and UNYK, but it’s not quite what I’m after. Has anyone found anything better? Unless someone has:

I’ve decided: I want this tool, so I’m building it!

While I’m designering this start-up I’m planning to share lot’s of information on the process, because the more and the earlier I get feedback, the better the end result. Especially since I’ve met so many smart entrepreneurs over the last few years! I’ll be roughly following the StartupCamp formula, only spread over a longer time period. So let’s get started:

Domain Name:

About 18 months ago I registered this domain. It’s short and hopefully memorable. It refers to the fact that (pronounce: access to me) gives you access to your digital self (hmm, bit fluffy).

About Us helps you manage your connections across social media, email and mobile.
(this section needs a lot of work)

Features (the bare minimum)

– Import Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn contacts
– Tagging of contacts
– Auto-connect on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn
Is this really the bare minimum or could I launch with less?

More features

– De-Duplication
– Import CSV
– Import Outlook, (iPhone)
– Synch with Outlook and iPhone
– Sent message to a group using whatever method is available (Email, Twitter, Facebook message, SMS, etc)
– Update status on all or some platforms all at once
– GMail integration
– API to access all your data
– Find additional info about contacts (such as their blog/flickr/twitter/etc)

Crazy future features

– Full backup and history of all changes
– Import all updates from all networks, etc and aggregate onto a single dashboard
– Aggregate all status updates, blog posts, photos posted, tweets etc of your contacts onto a single page
– Also aggregate the above for all your contacts or for certain tags (an overview of what is happening in the world of your friends, or your family, or people in your company)
– Etc, etc, etc

I obviously think this rocks with bells on! But am I missing something? Is this only cool for me and 3 other people, or is there a need for this? Comments please!


From → Rubbish

  1. Hi Bart,

    Really good idea.
    Think the ‘bare minimum’ features you’ve identified are just right for launch.
    Good luck!

    PS We met at the StartUp Camp in Canberra last year.

  2. Hey mate,

    Sounds interesting. I met a guy – can’t remember details – from Scandinavia who was trying to shop this idea (or a variation on it – iPhone focused?) to VCs in the Valley when I was there last Oct. I know this is a problem a bunch of people are trying to solve, but I don’t know of anything that solves it, but I also experience the frustration.

    To help refine the problem, I’d probably suggestion a slight twist or pivot; as more and more people from IRL come online and get involved in Twitter, Facebook and more, following me and friending me, I have found the need for Groups to be a stronger and stronger force.

    I know Facebook do this groups stuff for me, and I’ve used it a bit, but it is just so damn hard to use the interface. That this only address Facebook groups, and not groups of overlapping contacts in Gmail, LinkedIn and the rest, means the 1000’s of contacts and connections I have could require a day or so just to organise; using 4 interfaces, most of which suck, to do this, is a pain point.

    Currently it is a latent pain point – I haven’t even tried a Google search yet for a solution, so it certainly doesn’t fit into the ‘must have’ pain category – but the more I turn up to a lunch with civic leaders and our local member of Parliament starts a conversation by referring to something I’ve said on Facebook, the more I realize that this grouping and categorising of who I say what to matters.

    Anyway, getting back to the MVP, I’d suggest:
    1. Drop Twitter. While people you know on Facebook and LinkedIn will have Twitter ID’s, often the bio data on Twitter is so woeful, de-duping them would be a painful, manual process, without a lot of benefit: Twitter doesn’t have phone numbers you could use!
    2. Include Gmail in your MVP. It has a super sweet API, using OAuth, and it already supports groups. Sychronising the groups you have in Facebook with the groups that are in Gmail would be a win in my book. Oh, and since all the cool kids use Gmail, you’d be catering well to the early adopter “I’ll give this a try” crowd. I don’t play with LinkedIn as much, but I imagine it has a similar structure/concept?

    I’ve also heard that Facebook have changed the way some of their APIs work, so now you *can* access the email address of contacts (I could find out who they were shagging, but not their email address as a developer before – I guess they’re confident enough about their spam control measures now to release that info), which will probably be an important aspect of a future de-dup.

    Good luck mate – feel free to filter/reject any of this of course πŸ™‚

  3. Hi Geoff,

    That’s great feedback! I had the idea of tags, but you’re right, this is groups and can be imported (yay!). Twitter out, gmail in. LinkedIn has tags, so it seems GMail, Facebook and LinkedIn would be a great start.



  4. Some other offline feedback I got…

    Benjamin: I don’t see the pain. At least not enough pain to make money.

    Tim: hey great idea, i think one thing i’d find useful is to be able to “universally tweet” from xs2me, because its annoying to have to repeat yourself on twitter, facebook, etc. maybe if it lets me opt into various things each time when i want to broadcast something.

    Vincent: My feedback, it’s a nice idea, however for me my Facebook, Linked in and Twitter contacts are different kinds of people only a few are in more than one. I use the services for different purposes. If it all fit in with the iPhone contacts, that would be handy. I’m not big on status updates, neither facebook or twitter and definitely not linked in.

  5. I think Ben is right; this is very much a tinker thing rather than a business opportunity.

    Tim should take a look at – does just what he asks, and does it very very well. It supports groups too, but I just tend to use it via a Skype bot for very quick and simple posting across Facebook, Twitter, Yammer and more.

    I reckon Vincent is probably right, but this is changing. I thought Facebook was only for my “have a beer at the pub” friends, but more and more professional contacts are making connections there. Same sort of thing in reverse with LinkedIn, and Twitter is god-knows-what, since it is so focused on handles and not people.

  6. Cool, I hadn’t seen before (I’ve been living in a bubble while running tjoos). Any idea how they monetize besides selling t-shirts? Do you think should even try to monetize, or just go for size?

  7. Hey Bart, here’s the OneLogin service I mentioned: Probably more complimentary to what you’re thinking of building but they do have REST APIs which can be used to manage your account. I think the technology by OneLogin is quite good, as a total service it’s just coming together.

  8. Bart,

    I love the openness of this πŸ™‚

    I would use this if it really made things easier (but that’ll depend on how it turns up). I think for a minimum release all you really need is your first bullet point: Import Facebook, (–Twitter—) gmail, LinkedIn contacts

    The world of social graphs is really just a big mess. Too many graphs, and not enough cohesion. FB is obviously the 800lb gorilla, and things like portable contacts are useful in theory, but will probably end up being not very useful in practice (like open social) unless FB supports it.

    Regarding the business model, I wouldn’t pay for this as a consumer, but there at least one interesting idea of web startups as customers:

    – A lot of web startups will want to be social, but not necessarily spend the time to build their own graph or integrate. A pay as you go API would be useful for them. Octazen had a contact importer that was moving that way before facebook bought them

    – If you de-dupe the data, and build a unified list of contacts and their online facets, there might be a lot of value in a ‘people’ API as well. Rapleaf is trying something like this.

    On a mildly related note, one thing I’ve always wanted (and would pay for) would be a central repository of addresses. I hate having to update my address book when someone moves or changes companies. They should just update their contact details and everyone who is ‘following’ their address should have access to the updated info.

    • Thanks… some interesting links there. Integrating with a service like Rapleaf might be useful.

      What if your address book got updated when a contact updates their email in facebook, linkedin or skype? Would something like that help? I think it’s going to be hard if you have to rely on your contact to use a specific service, but by keeping an eye on facebook, etc we might be able to pickup email changes.

  9. Thanks! Looks like a great service. I’ll have to give it a go. Interesting also how they target businesses and charge $5/month. Their free version only allows 5 apps, so is pretty useless. So this is not really freemium, but more try and buy. Interesting…

  10. Looks good bart! I rekkin you could make this work πŸ™‚

  11. Can think of a hundred things why I think there are better businesses to go after.

    But knowing it’s you Bart behind it, I’m shutting up – I’ll give you some ideas next time we speak. Suffice to say, I’ve also be underwhelmed by the contacts solutions out there and you definitely can do some things.

    • Fair point. I’ve got plenty of ideas that will probably be more profitable, but my main reason for building is that I personally need this tool and can’t believe there’s nothing decent out there. So this is something I’m extremely passionate about and it’s a relatively small project. Seemed like the right thing to work on.

  12. Humphrey permalink

    The companies I found which might be competition:
    Microsoft Live Mesh
    Windows Mobile (HTC Sense 2.5 Integrates with Facebook)
    DubMeNow (I think the leader)
    rmbrMe and BeamMe

    Good Luck though. Anytime you want to chat happy to brainstorm ideas. I love this idea just didn’t have a cash and thought it a bit too crowded. Cheers, H

  13. Marta permalink


    It is a huge pain point for me, allow me to get a clean CSV (help me a bit with duplicates) out of gmail+facebook+my offline address linkedin (could skip this last one) and you got a customer but… not sure I will pay for it to be honest

    A friend of mine sold a simpler start-up a couple of years back (to Vodafone) that just backs-up phone numbers from your cell into the cloud, that is a sweet extension too

    Have you thought about monetisation strategy? That was sweet in tjoos, but it is a hard one with good consumer app ideas…

  14. I really want this service. Count me in as a beta tester.

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