Baltimore Startup: Kithly Take Hold Of Your Contacts & Do Something INTERVIEW

You probably have a rolodex… ok scratch that, no one has a rolodex anymore. You probably have a contact list with hundreds if not thousands of names on it. It can probably become a pain to organize, I know that mine is.

Well Baltimore startup Kithly sets out to help you manage those contacts. Then, they take things a step further and recommend things to do with those contacts so that you never lose touch with them again.

Co-Founder and CEO Devin Partlow tells us that Kilthy offers a Pandora type interface and intense algorithms in the background that offer up suggestions and recommendations of things to do with your contacts. If you don’t like the suggestion your an just ask for another.

This is definitely a new approach to a contact management app. We got a chance to interview Partlow. Check out that interview, after the break.

What is Kithly?
Kithly is a mobile app that keeps your important connections alive by recommending things to do with those connections.
Our company name “Kithly” is a play on the word “kith” which means one’s friends, acquaintances, and relations.
Think of us as Rolodex 2.0 We store your important contacts, but we take it a step further by recommending things to do with those important contacts so you never lose them no matter how busy life gets!
The app is a Pandora-inspired interface for recommendations. Kithly recommends WHO to hang out with and WHERE to go with them. You simply follow it or ask for another recommendation.
The more you use it, the better Kithly’s recommendations get!
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Devin Partlow is CEO of Kithly and also Lead Developer. Devin Partlow got his BS in Computer Science at Morgan State and went on to become a professional software engineer for the Department of Defense. Devin Partlow created his first Facebook App in 2007 and has been developing apps in his leisure time ever since. To date he has 3 Facebook Apps, 4 Android Apps, and 1 iPhone App under his belt to go along with his 6 years of professional software engineering experience. His current venture is his first stab at building a business.
Omar S. Muhammad is Director of the Entrepreneurial Development and Assistance Center (EDAC) located at the Earl G. Graves School of Business & Management on the campus of Morgan State University. He is responsible for developing, fundraising, and managing innovative entrepreneurial initiatives. Prior to becoming the Director of EDAC, Omar was an instructor and counselor for Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore, Inc. (WEB). As an instructor, he was responsible for assisting over 150 students in developing business plans and providing additional resources for starting, operating, and growing small businesses. Prior to WEB, Omar served as Vice President and Director of the Community Lending Group, an affiliate of the Development Credit Fund, Inc. He carefully managed $4.0 million in an Empowerment Zone revolving loan fund for the federally funded Empower Baltimore Management Corporation. Omar serves on Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development Neighborhood Business Works Program loan committee and an alumnus of the Greater Baltimore Committee Leadership Program (2006). Omar received the United States Small Business Administration’s Minority Business Champion of the Year Award in 2006 and Small Business Journalist Award in 2008. He has been involved in entrepreneurship since the age of 12. He currently operates IP Collaborations, an entrepreneurial idea lab that focuses on media resources for entrepreneurs and building opportunities around innovative technologies. He promotes entrepreneurship through his weekly radio workshops on a National Public radio station, social media properties, and as a columnist for the Baltimore Business Journal.
Stacy Weng has a diverse background in the IT industry, with experience in consulting, Web development, account management, business development and marketing. Currently, Stacy serves as the Business Development Manager for an IT consulting firm, where she oversees corporate marketing related activities, partner relations and sales operations. Stacy holds a B.A. degree in Economics and Art from the University of Virginia.
Where are you based?
Baltimore, MD
What problem does Kithly solve?
Kithly solves the problem that a lot of busy professionals have, which is keeping up with the important things outside of work, namely, relationships.

We have our calendars and our bills reminding us daily of job-related things that we have to do, but who’s reminding us about our friends, family, and the key individuals in our professional network that are integral to our successful in the first place.

Even the new breed of social/professional networking and discovery apps push you to expand your network, but what about your existing network? Is your foundation old news nowadays?

We’re passionate about utilization of your EXISTING network. Often this is where you go for the support and encouragement you need to be your best. Kithly was created to make sure your existing network, your foundation, remains strong.

What is your secret sauce?
Our recommendation system is powered by artificial intelligence.
Every relationship is different and that’s how we intend to treat them. You may prefer to catch up with your close friend every week vs. a business partner which you only need to meet once a month.  Instead of picking some universal number (i.e. 30 days) for all relationships to abide by, our algorithm learns and applies the exact number of days that each relationship needs between interactions to remain strong.
Our A.I. learns the patterns of each individual relationship and produces recommendations from this knowledge. As a user interacts with their kith through our app, the recommendations will improve.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned in the startup process?
Ideas, like muscles, need to be exercised to reach their true potential.
There’s a lot of NDA’s and stealth start-ups scurrying around behind the scene nowadays and I believe this is actually detrimental to the health of these start-ups. Founders need to pitch, share, discuss; exercise their ideas every chance they get. Founders should never turn down the chance to receive critical feedback for their ideas. They should welcome tiny holes being poked in their ideas so that, just like muscles, they can come back bigger and stronger than ever.

Previous revisions of the idea behind Kithly have been “ripped” numerous times and every time the idea came back bigger and stronger than before. I’ll never get used to people missing the value prop or questioning the existence of the problem Kithly intends to solve, but its necessary and should not be avoided. Yes its painful for someone to tell you about how your idea, the idea that you’ve poured your life and soul into, is NOT the next big thing, but don’t let that deter you. Put aside the allegiance to your baby and listen to the feedback. Is this something you’ve heard before? Is this coming from a member of your target audience? Is there a way to incorporate this feedback into your idea quickly?

But remember, no pain, no gain.

It seems like Baltimore has one of the healthiest thriving startup scenes in the country and everything is moving really fast, is that the case?

Is Baltimore a healthy start-up scene and are things accelerating? Yes. Is it one of the best in the country? I can’t really say. Just about all the major cities are doing their thing in terms of small business and entrepreneurship thanks in part to Startup America. Unfortunately the only comparison I can personally make, because of my lack of experience with other tech scenes, is to that of San Francisco and I don’t believe that’s a fair comparison

Does Baltimore have a tremendous upside? Definitely, I’d keep my eye on this city if I were you

What do you like best about building your startup in Baltimore?
What I like best about the Bmore Tech Scene is that its challenging but straightforward.
Its challenging because there’s a lot of gimmicky apps out there that wouldn’t make it out of the garage in this city. A lot of the investors here want to see your business plan before they see your traction. Where gimmicky apps can show you traction without the former, a solid business knows that it needs both. Also local start-ups have to contend with defense contracts which suck the majority of the technical talent up in the region. You better have a solid business if you intend to attract a technical co-founder away from the lucrative careers available at the D.O.D.
Its straightforward because there’s a nice path to follow IF you’re up for the challenge. GB.TC has a weekly podcast consisting of all things Bmore Tech for aspiring entrepreneurs to take advantage of like co-working events, happy hours, and meetups; places where you can find business partners for your eventual venture. When you and your team are ready to take the dive, the Emerging Technology Centers (ETC) is a nationally recognized incubator with seemingly unlimited resources. They also have just kicked off the AccelerateBaltimore program, an Accelerator in which we are part of. Finally, once you’ve completed your product, you can demo it to 150+ at the Baltimore Tech Breakfast.
What’s next for Kithly?
Right now Kithly recommends things to do between 2 people and allows them to coordinate the date. In the future we will start to recommend things between 3 or more of your kith so you can have group outings. Also Kithly will start to take your current location into account to recommend things to do right now.
In 2 years look for Kithly to be proficient in spontaneous group outing recommendations.
Check out Kithly and get an invite here
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