PeopleGraph is a brand new startup from Tom Savage and Razvan Dinu – former members of the Bristol-based startup support hub, SETsquared, and the innovators behind technical talent search engine, 3sourcing. Tom also helps run a bi-monthly Bristol meeting of some of the biggest entrepreneurs in the region.
While 3Sourcing was very much niche, this new venture sees the pair widening their net, aiming to create a human Google: an index of everyone online. We spoke to Tom about this mammoth undertaking.
TechSPARK: Hi Tom, can you start by telling us a little about yourself and Razvan?
TS: Ha ha. Where do I start? Well, we’re a great team, if I say so myself. I’m emotive, passionate and a fairly good people person but not really a detail person, Raz is very calculating, strategic and technical, so we complement each other well.
Our roles rarely overlap, although given the size of Raz’s brain, he seems to be able to hold the entire technical stack whilst also offering wise counsel on strategy, finance and some of my areas of business. The same is certainly not true in terms of my coding ability.
More importantly, we trust each other and try to enjoy the journey. Because we’re in different towns mostly. I am currently holed up with the whole team in a house in Sicily as we do a ‘working retreat’ – our third this year. Raz and I went skydiving last year together too – hairy given my parachute didn’t open first time and also paddleboarding in Santa Cruz.
More importantly, we’re there for each other, Raz went through a difficult time last year and it was good to be able to help him through by going camping together and spending some time together. I try to be a servant leader, meaning I’m there to serve my team to enable them to be better, rather than to enforce rules or my desires.
We’re inspired by teams like Buffer, 37Signals, Patagonia, and people like Dee Hock and Ricardo Semler, rare inspirations in the business world who are focused on building happy businesses which are successful too.
TechSPARK: How did you two meet?
TS: In a previous life I started and ran an executive search business in London and San Francisco, so ‘searching for people’ is ingrained now. I read article after article that told me that the technical co-founder was the most important part of a new tech startup, so I went to town – spending six months looking for the right person.
I identified 1500 people and interviewed 200 before I asked Raz to join me, so it was an incredible journey to the starting line. That work was worth it though. Raz, who has two Olympic medals in maths and a PhD in artificial intelligence, is extraordinary, and is a better partner than I could have hoped for. Even with all the work I put in, I got very lucky.
‘In the same way that Google was a rocket-ship, pioneering, web search engine, we want to build a business that helps people find and connect with one another online’’
People often forget in tech that, despite technology, things take a long time. I wish I’d had PeopleGraph then, and perhaps that’s partially what inspired us to create it.
TechSPARK: Can you describe PeopleGraph?
TS: PeopleGraph is a people search engine – a Google for people. We aggregate people’s online presence, public information, into a single profile. We’re going to release our search engine soon – you can sign up on the website. We also have an API that developers can use to access the same information: our Chrome extension was built using the API for example. As well as our recruiting tool, www.3sourcing.com, other high-profile companies using us are CrunchBase and Web Summit.
TechSPARK: What sort of people do you expect to use PeopleGraph?
TS: 30% of all searches online are for people, so eventually everyone. Often people don’t know they’re using PeopleGraph information, if you look up someone on CrunchBase, the people information is often ours.
TechSPARK: Are there any issues arising with personal online privacy as you index people?
TS: Yes, there are issues, but our aim is to be a positive force. To explain, the information we index is nothing that can’t be found on Google, or other search engines. By enabling people to find it more easily, we are actually helping people regain control of their online presence.
Work/Life balance: The PeopleGraph team, Adrian Budau, Razvan Dinu, George Ionita and Alex Cazacu
Too often people are surprised about the information that exists about them, and use PeopleGraph, where we’ve given access, to enable them to improve their web identity. If you can’t find information, or it sits on page 77 of Google, people often don’t realise it’s there.
TechSPARK: How long have you and Rezan have been successful tech entrepreneurs and developers?
TS: Ha. Successful eh? Is there a line that you cross? I know Raz has been a successful developer for some time, but successful tech entrepreneurs? I’m not sure about that, yet.
TS: It’s hard. However, given my experience in search, I have dedicated myself completely to finding the best team. We have a few advantages.
Firstly, Raz is Romanian, so we have focused our office in Bucharest, where we are one of the most interesting companies, rather than in San Francisco, where we would get lost in the noise.
“Often people don’t know they’re using PeopleGraph information, if you look up someone on CrunchBase, the people information is often ours”
Secondly, smart people love to work with smart people, so Raz is a big attraction.
Thirdly, great developers want to work on big problems, we are building a graph that we want to scale to a trillion edges doing Natural Language Processing and other forms of Machine Learning on HUGE amounts of data. This is cutting-edge technology, which no one has ever done before. That’s exciting.
In the same way that Google was a rocket-ship, pioneering, web search engine, we want to build a business that helps people find and connect with one another online. We’re only just getting started.
TechSPARK: What other products and projects do you have on the go at present?
TS: We’re playing around at the moment. At the core, our People Graph is the key technology. Our Chrome extensions, www.3sourcing.com and the in-summit search we built for Web Summits www.wholi.com are all built using the same core dataset. That’s where the value lies for our products and for those people using our API.
TechSPARK: How well received has the PeopleGraph concept been?
TS: It’s early days and we’ve been through a few pivots to get here. As such, we’ve been fairly quiet, excluding this article, but we want to put Bristol on the map about what we’re up to.
Many thanks to Tom for talking to us, to keep up with developments with PeopleGraph follow them on Twitter