After launching an alpha version in March 2011, startup Hachi is debuting its social introductions service in private beta today. The web-based tool finds the best way to connect with any individual, by leveraging a user’s professional and social networks to surface the best person to ask for an introduction. Today’s private beta launch also includes a mobile-friendly HTML5 version, and adds Twitter integration into the tool, which means users can search their Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn networks to find the best way to get a warm introduction.
Hachi founder Rachna Singh calls the tool “Google Maps for your connections graph.” She said she came up with the idea while doing sales and business development at her last job. She was looking for a way to warm up cold calls, and had her contacts spread across different networks so it was hard to know who in her network was connected to potential clients. “I started thinking isn’t there something like a GPS,” Singh said. “Figure out the best way across my different networks to reach them. Who is my best friend or business connection who can give me an introduction so I can reach out to them.”
Once a user signs up and connects their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, a profile is generated which shows how many people they have access to in their networks. Users can search for anyone they want to connect with using their name, title, company, education, industry, or location, or they can get a randomly generated connection suggestion. Once they select the correct person from the search results (not an easy feat if you’re searching for a John Smith), they’re presented with several potential paths to get an introduction to them.
Each path is assigned a score of 10, 10 being the most likely that a person will get a warm introduction based on that path. Singh said this score is based on how well a person in the chain knows the next person (using factors like if they’ve worked together previously, if they went to the same school, etc). They are also adding behavioral factors into the mix in the new few weeks, so it factors in things like whether people actually like introducing people, though it isn’t clear how it’ll determine that kind of trait. Once a user has selected the best path to a potential contact, they can save it to their list of paths, but can’t request an intro directly within the tool.
The tool will be free for individuals, and Singh said they haven’t decided if they will offer a freemium model for premium features. They will be looking at a paid model for enterprise users, but she said right now the focus is on building the product. They’ve done one successful pilot with an unnamed enterprise client, and Singh said they have interest from several other large clients.
Since the alpha launched last year, Singh said early alpha users requested the ability to search by criteria other than a name, and an HTML5 version, which will launch this week as well. Other improvements to the beta version include a redesign, improved search, and Twitter integration.The company is also working on an API.
Professional networks like LinkedIn already have a “request an introduction” feature which leverages a user’s connections within the network, but Singh said Hachi is different because it spans all of a user’s major social networks. “LinkedIn is limited to LinkedIn. Not all of my contacts are on LinkedIn,” she said, but added that they aren’t trying to compete with LinkedIn. “We are not a professional network, we are just solving a very small, specific problem.”
In terms of when the tool will be launching to the public, Singh said “we want to track engagement in a good way, add more value, and then open it up in a mass way,” and so couldn’t give an exact timeline. While Twitter integration and mobile optimization add to the tool’s functionality, Hachi’s true value is in showing people how they’re connected across networks, not just within one service’s ecosystem. But the ability to request an intro within tools like LinkedIn makes it easier to close the introduction loop – Singh said they’ll be adding the ability to request an intro within the app sometime in the future, which should make it much more useful.