Why We’re Building Connect.com (Plus We’re Hiring!)

March 21, 2013 · Print This Article

Below is the story of Connect.com. We’re currently hiring a full-time UI/UX Designer and a Front End Engineer to join our team in San Francisco as our 5th and 6th team members. If you have anyone to recommend or wish to apply, you can email me at ryan@connect.com.

The Founding of Connect.com

Since May 2012 I’ve been working actively on a new startup called Connect.com with a truly amazing team of highly competent and deeply caring co-founders. This is the company I want to work on for the next 50 years. In the long term, the Connect team is building a company that uses technology and design to address major human challenges. In the short term, we’re doing something ridiculously simple–we’re putting your people on a map.

I began working on Connect in May 2012 with my co-founder Anima Sarah LaVoy after coming up with the idea at the Singularity University Executive Education Program in April 2012. I was about to take a trip to Kenya to visit some investments there and I just wanted to see on a map all the people I knew who were in Kenya. There was nothing out there that mapped all your friends and contacts–so we decided to build it.

In the Summer of 2012 we built a basic prototype to test out our idea. We got some amazing feedback and signed up 6,000 people to our beta invite list. Now we’re building the full product–a tool for keeping track of all the people in your life.

So far, the alpha is just your Facebook friends on a Google Map with a few filters to refine the list down by name, work, school, location, gender, and job title. You can try the alpha yourself at http://labs.connect.com.

Why Are We Building Connect?

My style of startup is one that solves a problem I have. It’s a lot easier to have empathy for the user in your design process when you are the user yourself. When Aaron and I started iContact in 2003, we were solving a problem both of us had as young web designers. We had clients that wanted to send newsletters to stay in touch with their customers–but they had no easy way of sending a newsletter themselves.

So we built the first version of iContact. We were blown away by the response. Over the course of the following nine years, 1 million users signed up for iContact, 70,000 of whom became paying customers. We were able to build the company up to 300 employees before being acquired by Vocus in February 2012 for $169 million. It was quite the journey. I learned a lot. Lessons I wanted to take with me into my next company.

So as I’m building Connect, we’re similarly focused on solving a problem my co-founder Anima and I face every single day. The problem we face is that we meet a lot of people and have no good tool to keep track of everybody.

We are both on lifelong missions to create a better world–and so having a tool that helps us keep track of the people we know, easily visualize them, group them, and message them would be so helpful. We know that networks matter more than ever in the Connected Age and we knew something pretty special happens when you see all of your contacts on a map of the word.

We know we have to earn our stripes like every other startup out there, so we’re working really hard to build a beautiful, easy-to-use, and super useful product that is a 10x better than the current ways people keep track of people (which tend to be a messy collection of Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, iPhone, Android, Outlook, and spreadsheets).

And so we’re going to spend the next decade of our lives building the best tool in the world for keeping track of everyone you know. I’d love for you to use it and give us feedback as we go. You can try our early alpha of Connect here.

Now Hiring Our 5th and 6th Team Member to Join Connect

We have a truly excellent and passionate initial founding team of four including people from Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, iContact, LaunchRock, and Singularity University. And now we’re looking for a full-time Lead UI/UX designer and a Front End Engineer to join our team here in San Francisco starting May 1st–who are passionate about solving big problems and are excited to join as early team members. It’s important for us to all be in San Francisco to build the type of tight culture we are fostering.

I am funding the company through our incubation period personally using some of the proceeds from the sale of iContact, so we’re able to pay both full salaries and provide an early equity position. We hope to provide the benefits of working at a large company with the control, autonomy, and rapid collaboration of a startup. We are all passionate about things like behavioral economics, international development, design thinking, beautiful design, big data analytics, data visualization, AI, natural user interfaces, and the future of computer miniaturization and are looking for kindred spirits who want to express their passion through their work every single day.

If you have anyone to recommend as our 5th and 6th employee, or would like to join the team yourself, just email me directly at ryan@connect.com. If you are applying for one of the roles, please include a link to a portfolio of design or coding projects and a brief description of what you’re passionate about.

If you would be willing to share the link to�our Connect.com Jobs Page or to this post I would be very appreciative.

Balancing Harvard Business School and Connect.com

After we sold iContact to Vocus in February 2012, I wanted to take some time to look at the key challenges and opportunities in our world today and how I wanted to use the next 50 years of my life to make a difference–before I jumped fully into building my next startup.

I’m deeply passionate about how our generation can create a sustainable and prosperous world–one in which every human has equality of opportunity and access to clean energy, clean water, food, education, and healthcare. I’m deeply focused on how to use technology can help create a more connected world. I very much believe that the more open and connected we can make the world, the more likelihood our species will have to truly thrive in the centuries to come.

Being 28 years old now, I thought of no better place to take time to reflect on global leadership and prepare for building a second company by doing the Harvard MBA program. I applied, was lucky enough to get in, and decided to go for it. So in August 2012 I moved from San Francisco to Cambridge. The last seven months I’ve been doing the first year of the MBA program at Harvard, loving every minute of it, and learning a lot. Since HBS classes end at 2:45pm each day (11:45am PT) I’ve been able to get a lot of work done this year on Connect even while being in school.

In Boston, I’ve also had a chance to be part of the Harvard Graduate Student Leadership Institute–which has given me a chance to truly reflect on authentic purpose-driven leadership and how I want to use the rest of my life. Depending on how things go this summer, I’ll either finish up the 2nd year of HBS in Boston or take some time off to focus on Connect. At the moment I’m leaning toward taking some time off to get Connect launched.

Thanks for reading!


3 Responses to “Why We’re Building Connect.com (Plus We’re Hiring!)”

  1. Park Allis on March 21st, 2013 3:09 pm

    These are thrilling ideas. Go for it in a big way. I continue to cheer on all of you.

  2. Billy Murphy on March 25th, 2013 10:30 pm

    This is awesome Ryan. Looking forward to hearing more about this journey as it progresses.

    You still involved in EO?

  3. Leon Galindo on September 7th, 2013 8:17 am

    You’ve visualized and are rolling out a solution that is a core piece of the infrastructure required to simplify many of the core challenges related to imagining and creating a better world for all. Congratulations!

Got something to say?