London Startup: GreenLight, Not Just Another Social Discovery App INTERVIEW

GreenLight,London Startup, Paul Carr, TechCrunch,PandoDailyEveryone could use more friends right? Well now that finding friends has turned to social networks and everyone wants to be the for friends, social discovery has become a common household phrase (at least in startup circles).

Most social discovery platforms use your social graph to determine who you need to meet. For instance, before being acquired by Facebook, Glancee would use your likes and interests on Facebook to match you with likeminded people close by. We quickly realized how faulty this process was.

Case in point, I signed up for Glancee, and used it at SXSW. Now for whatever reason, when Mark Zuckerberg got a new puppy named Beast, I liked him on Facebook. Shortly after that when I attended SXSW this year I was matched up with 30 people who also liked Mark Zuckerberg’s puppy. Maybe we should have started a fan club and had a drinking party or something but really that raw data algorithm is flawed.

Gaz Evans, one of the co-founders of GreenLight, tells us that their social discovery platform is better. They actually ask personality driven questions about each user in order to match them up with other users. They also tap the users social graph so some of their likes are built in, but overall this may be a good alternative to other social discovery platforms.

We got a chance to interview Evans and the team from GreenLight, check the interview out below. You better read it quick though, before the next social discovery platform comes along.

What is GreenLight?
GreenLight makes your life more fun by finding people and things you like.
GreenLight is a social discovery platform that finds new people you are likely to get along with based on your personality. As we all get busier and demand things to happen faster, social discovery will become a more and more prevalent part of our lives. It’s already easy to stay in touch with the people you know – now it’s easy to find new people you will want to know. We do this by using the things you like, and the things you don’t, to build a profile of the type of person you are.
GreenLight came about because we were visiting a bar in a new town and got into a conversation with a group of strangers. We didn’t really have anything in common with them, but we exchanged polite small talk. It was pretty boring for us and probably very boring them too! We were talking to them entirely at random, so it was to be expected.
It occurred to us that if you took the entire bar and found out what they were interested in, what they found funny and what they liked doing, and then rearranged the bar to group those people together, everyone would have a better night. Another group in the bar would have found the people we were talking to interesting; they were just unlucky enough to have ended up talking to us. GreenLight was the result of this. GreenLight finds out about you and then introduces people like you, to you.
We decided to take GreenLight from idea to reality because more than anything else, we want a tool like this to exist.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Matt Casey

Matt came up with the concept of GreenLight. He handles the majority of the feature creation and developed the matching algorithm we use to recommend people to each other.

Due to a general impatience to feel like a grownup – he left school early to get a job. After developing software to make his life easier at his first few jobs he moved into a successful career in IT. Using his skills for analyzing data and understanding human behavior and incentives, he became a key part of the senior management team that turned the company he worked for into one of the largest IT consultancies in the UK. Three years ago, he started his own IT company, which was recently sold to enabled him to focus all his attention on GreenLight. He still doesn’t feel like a grownup.

Gaz Evans

Gaz and Matt have been friends since childhood, and have owned a business together for the past 2 years. Gaz is the engine of GreenLight, he is the one who makes things happen. Left to his own devices, Matt would have an idea, and nothing would ever happen with it. Gaz is the person who brings people together to turn these ideas into reality. He handles all the branding, marketing and operations for GreenLight.

After completing University, Gaz moved to Tokyo and began a career in IT recruitment. He joined as a junior consultant and quickly moved up through the ranks to become an Associate Director. After a lengthy period of convincing from Matt – he returned to the UK to become a Director at Matt’s IT company. He was successful in developing its sales channels and was part of the team involved in making it profitable. He is now focusing fully on GreenLight.

Dave Stephens

Dave has been friends with Gaz since they met at University in 1999. Gaz always thought that Dave was a massive geek, but Dave would vigorously deny it until about a year ago when Matt and Gaz approached Dave with the GreenLight idea. Dave is the senior developer and technical architect at GreenLight.

Dave specializes in Linux and Ruby and is an active member of the Ruby on Rails community. His extensive experience of working in secure technical environments at top tier investment banks is vital for GreenLight given the volume of data we will store for each user. His planning, attention to detail, and exceptional technical and development skills have given GreenLight the strongest possible foundations. He is still a geek.

Where are you based?

We are based in London, UK

What problem does Greenlight solve?

As we have all become busier and more focused on work we have less time to focus on socializing and less time to waste on things we don’t like doing. GreenLight is a tool to help you find the right people and the right things to spend your time on. There are a vast range of products available that keep you connected to the people you already know – GreenLight allows you to make new connections to new people and makes your life more fun.

What is your secret sauce?

Our secret sauce is the way in which we collect data on our users and the way we use it. We ask them direct questions and match them to other people that are similar to them and introduce them to each other. It’s not a dating site – you can be matched to men or women – it matches based on your personality, not your life goals or vague guesses based on your online activity.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned in the startup process?

Make sure that your team doesn’t get in the way of each other and that you trust each other completely. If you are constantly questioning each other’s actions you won’t get anywhere. Set your goals and trust the others will use their skills sets to get there. If you are the business focused member don’t question everything the technical members – you probably won’t understand it and you will slow them down, just make sure there are clear objectives. If you are technical then trust that the business team will take you market and do what they need to do.

What’s next for GreenLight?

We are working very hard to have the beta launch in July. We are very close now and just working through the last stages needed. We have had a small initial group play with it and feedback was overall very positive, with some good ideas about changes that we are now putting into GreenLight.


Sing up for early access to GreenLight here

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