What is your startup and what does it do?
At RealContacts, we believe that people and relationships matter more than social media connections. We have developed a new mobile app to improve in person relationships. We take connections people create on social media and provide a process for cultivating these relationships.
We offer a tool to evaluate our relationships and meetings and it’s possible to share that information so users can understand how others perceive the relationship with them. RealContacts encourages users to keep in touch with valuable relationships with reminders.
At whom is your startup aimed?
Our primary market is business people and those who need to improve their real-life social skills and reputation. Also, we’re interested in all people who want to improve their real-life relationships instead of only enhancing their social image.
How does your startup stand out against its competitors?
RealContacts has an unique and patented approach to objectively evaluating meetings and relationships without personal and/or emotional bias. Most competitors are focused on collecting contact information from other social networks. They are essentially collectors of social information or social CRMs.
RealContacts facilitates the user in generating valuable information and data about their real life social networks. We are filling the gap between online social networks and real life.
Where did the idea for the startup come from?
The first time I realized there was problem to solve was in 2011 when I visited my brother. We were sitting by the computer and he was posting something on Facebook.
I saw that he had more than 2000 friends and I asked him how many of them he meets regularly in real-life. He admitted that probably just 50 of them.
I realized that social networks are good for people with social skills who are looking to increase their network, but social networks can be dangerous for people with poor social skills. People with poor social skills believe they are in touch with their friends but they are not actually meeting their friends in real life.
Did you have any concerns when starting your business, if so what were they?
Initially, we were concerned that the market was not ready to embrace the difference between cultivating real life relationships and online social networks. In the past couple of years, the people have begun to understand the limitations of an online social life and are interested in cultivating real life relationships. We think that the market is ready to embrace this revolution that will affect social networking in the future.
What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups?
I have more than 25 years of experience in software engineering consulting for large enterprises. I created and led several small and mid-sized IT companies in the past 15 years. After working for seven years as a VP for Innovation and consulting for a consulting group based in Chicago, I decided to pursue a new challenge in the consumer market.
How did you initially raise funding for your company?
We’re bootstrapping for now. RealContacts has just started to raise seed funding.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Our greatest achievement has been in creating novel approach in understanding and quantifying the value of personal relationships.
How have you kept your business relevant and engaged with your audience over the last three years?
We’ve run a pilot for over the past year and a half receiving valuable feedback from the pilot participants which was helpful in improving the user interaction. In addition we got the attention of a number of LinkedIn groups who want to use RealContacts to evaluate the relationships among members.
How long has your business been in making, and who is the team behind the business?
We started in the summer of 2011 – 4 years ago. We started with a small company in Washington DC designing the approach and prototyping the product. In 2014, we reincorporated and rebranded the company and grew the team to 10 people in Europe and the USA to finalize the product for the launch.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Trying to reconcile my native Italian culture with the American cultural points of view. As a European entrepreneur, I bring a unique perspective to the market and to relationships and I have learned a lot from the American points of view in business and in social matters.
In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with your business?
Solidifying RealContacts product/market fit. We’re releasing RealContacts on March 12th 2015 and we’re targeting the business users with large online social networks and people who are aware of their social reputation and want to measure and improve it.
What has been your most valuable lesson so far since starting your business?
Creating breakthrough innovation isn’t easy because it’s very difficult for people to immediately understand new perspectives.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Make certain that you completely believe in what you want to create. Don’t start something on an overnight idea.