Most people believe that everyone is connected somehow and some way. Like six degrees of separation, when you start looking at who yo know and how you know them you typically find connections. Portland startup Wikisway believes that people are connected to more than just other people. That’s why Wikisway is the ultimate way to find out how people, places and things are connected.
Did you meet a new friend at the mall? Then the two of you are connected to the mall. Did you meet your wife at a restaurant? That’s your place now. What things are you connected to? What things are your friends connected to? All of that is intertwined in this very different spin on a social/event discovery app hybrid.
With Wikisway they hope to show you how everything is connected. You could even use Wikisway to find out what startups are connected to what investors and vice versa. Wikisway promises to be a very robust platform, specifically for showing connections.
We got a chance to talk with the Wikisway team. Check out the interview below.
What is Wikisway?
Wikisway is revolutionizing online content by showing how people, places, and things are connected. The platform lives on the web and mobile, and users search for entities that they are interested. From there, they see that entity in the context of its connection to other people, places, or things. i.e. a company and its investors, or a person and the companies they have worked for. Wikisway takes a visual approach to navigating information — if Google Maps and Wikipedia had a baby, it’d look a lot like Wikisway.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
“Hey Grandma, you know how you always ask me who my friends are, where they went to school, where they work, and in essence how they are ‘connected.’ Well now I can paint you a picture of that on the internet. But, Grandma, even though I am really smart, right now I can only draw pictures of investors, companies, and founders are connected.”
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Huston Hedinger, founder & CEO has a background in private equity finance and commercial real estate. He has studied data science and network science academically, but is mostly a self taught hacker. Most of 2012, Huston was working for an early stage fund in the Middle East.
Kate Bagoy, Cofounder and user design lead has over 10 years experience in marketing and design, including product management at Silicon Valley startup GENWI. She’s worked for Nike, Apple, Ricoh and HP.
Toby’s background is in computer science and artificial intelligence. He has worked with the web for close to a decade, and co-founded a profitable systematic trading fund.
Grace has a background in cross-cultural communication and management. She’s worked closely with companies to create long term strategic plans and streamline business processes. Grace has also worked with startups in Brazil, such as Sautil, F123.
Where are you based?
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
Amazing. Per capita Portland has one of the most talented and creative communities in the world. Also, Portland is just big enough that there is tons going on, but it is not so big that there are real fractures or divisions in the startup community. People are very laid back, and the dress code is generally similar to Silicon Valley– with a hipster and outdoor twist! There are certainly different flavors of start-up, and a myriad of personalities with the different folks that run those companies and invest in them, however if you don’t have a clue, you won’t get too far here. Most startups that are thinking big, Shopigniter, Simple, Tellagence, Janrain, are raising money outside of Portland. Generally, folks are extremely helpful.
How did you come up with the idea for Wikisway?
Huston learned about the power of network analysis and visualization while he was getting his Master’s at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The analysis enabled by structured and semi-structured data is giving folks entirely new insights in academics, advertising, social media, etc. The visualizations that articulate these analyses allow users (scientists, marketing pros, etc) to better communicate their insights – Wikisway is bringing this insight to consumer content on the Web.
How did you come up with the name?
“If Google Maps and Wikipedia had a baby, it’d look a lot like Wikisway.” Also, the “wiki” is to signal collaboration through technology, “sway” corresponds to the effect that collective understanding of the connectedness of the world will have on society.
What problem does Wikisway solve?
We are making it fundamentally easier and quicker for user’s to understand the content they are most interested in. For example, the tech founder that is interested in what companies their target investor has coinvested on with another investor. Users are more and more often finding online content overwhelming, and disorganized. We organize the noise based on how people, places, and things are connected. Right now we are focused on the tech world- shortly we are going after sports and entertainment. We’ll be trying to show how everything is connected to… Kevin Bacon =)
What’s your secret sauce?
We’ve built a stunning front end web application, which is relevant across many different types of content. Our core database application is big data scalable, and we’ve adapted a number of other data base applications to perform some ‘first of a kind’ tasks for consumer on the web. Super stealthy top secret search stuff. Long term, we are looking to scale our NLP prototypes, to generate connections from raw, unstructured data.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
We have raised the first tranche of our seed round, and now we are raising a larger one. We are keeping it private until we have closed the round.
What is your goto market strategy?
We recently launched with crunchbase data so we can provide a tool for our fellow startups and startup fans. Over the next year we will be layering in different types of data including social, sports and entertainment so that people can see the connectedness of the world. We are focusing on specific sets of content so we can consolidate our marketing efforts as we grow.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
We have a big vision. At first we were told we weren’t articulating the vision too well. This of course was true. But what we realized were some folks were actually just looking for a smaller vision! Now that we are executing on the big vision, it feels really good to have validation from the folks that weren’t believers before, but now are.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
Our mentors and role models are really our advisors. They collectively have expertise in everything from business, law, investing and start-ups.
David Chen, Equilibrium Capital
Tim Morgan, TriLinc Global
Jerry Carleton, Immix Law Group
Ross Baird, Village Capital
Adam Lowry, Urban Airship
Jeff Cutler-Stamm and Eli Tucker, Vizify
What’s next for Wikisway?
We’re scaling up our engineering team. We’ve identified a handful of the folks that will be hired in late January or early February, and we are always looking for talented and passionate folks to join the party. Also, we are rolling out some really interesting content in the next few months- think github, linkedin, hollywood, and sports.