Conspire Promises to Help You Make the Right Connections
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led by David Cohen’s Bullet Time Ventures. In total, it has raised more than $3.5 million, Devkar said.
Conspire’s pitch is likely to appeal to job hunters, recruiters, salespeople, entrepreneurs trying to make a pitch, and anyone trying to cut through the clutter of overstuffed inboxes, address books, and social networks.
They could find Conspire to be a powerful and useful tool—as long as they’re willing to hand over some sensitive information. Devkar realizes part of his job will be reassuring potential users the startup will protect their privacy.
“It’s the biggest area to think about,” Devkar said. “E-mail data is incredibly sensitive data, probably the most sensitive data you have on the Internet, maybe excepting bank records.”
Conspire uses OAuth to obtain permission to access Google accounts. It’s a common standard and has been adopted by Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, and many others to allow secure access to their programs.
Once a user is signed up, Conspire only looks at the To, From, CC, Subject and Date fields of the e-mail.
“We don’t look at the bodies or the attachments, which is where the really sensitive data is,” Devkar said.
Conspire promises not to share e-mail addresses or contacts’ e-mail addresses with advertisers.
Devkar believes that once people understand the privacy protections, they’ll come to see the value of the product. Some already have.
“It’s a pitch that will not work for everyone,” he said. “We’ve seen with the tech crowd, the early adopter crowd, they love it, and it’s a tradeoff they’re very willing to make.”
It might help Conspire that people are used to opening up their address books and inboxes to outside parties in some situations. LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks ask users to give them their contact lists so it can recommend friends and connections, and cloud-based e-mail providers like Gmail have access to the contact information, headers, and message content.
When describing Conspire, it’s hard not to compare it with LinkedIn and the way it handles connections and personal networks. Many, if not most, users find their networks unwieldy unless they devote a lot of time to pruning them. That’s why Devkar thinks LinkedIn is losing its value as a social network.
LinkedIn still has its virtues, he said, in particular the way it has become a database for updated resumes and job histories. He doesn’t view his company as a potential LinkedIn killer, but he thinks Conspire can solve some of LinkedIn’s shortcomings.
“It loses any mapping to reality in terms of who your actual network is,” Devkar said. “Because we’re looking at real communication patterns, we can see fading relationships, we can see relationships becoming stronger. We really know the network in a way they don’t, so when you need to get your request to the right person, that’s where we can do something in a much smarter way.”