Following the latest controversy surrounding Connect.me, I decided to do a quick interview with the man behind the company to get a bit more information regarding the company.
Here's my interview with the Co-Founder of Connect.me - Drummond Reed
Hi Drummond, Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me, I know you guys are very busy at the moment getting ready for the launch, How are you doing?
It's crazy at any startup, but after the reception for our beta invite signup page, getting 50,000 users overnight, we are so excited to get the first full Connect.Me product out that we almost can't sleep at night anyway.
Can you quickly give us some background information about yourself?
I have been working in Internet identity and data sharing since the early 1990s. In 1994 I started a company called Intermind (later called OneName and now called Cordance) that developed the technology behind what's now called XRI identifiers and XDI data sharing. We raised many millions of dollars in funding but were way too early for the market. So I began to concentrate on developing open standards for Internet identity and data sharing infrastructure, which besides XRI and XDI included various XML standards, OpenID, and Information Cards.
I helped start a series of non-profit industry associations for Internet identity and trust, including the International Security, Trust, and Privacy Alliance; Identity Commons; the OpenID Foundation; the Information Card Foundation; the Data Portability Project; and the Open Identity Exchange (OIX). Before leaving to start Connect.Me, I served as the initial Executive Director of OIX, which was set up to foster the development of the first open, Internet-scale trust frameworks.
Tell us about Connect.me and the story behind the idea?
It's a very long story -- in many ways it's the culmination of everything I've been working on in Internet identity and data sharing for the last 20 years. But the short version is that after our work together on XDI context graphs (a very geeky subject), my co-founder Joe Johnston and I realized the demand for personal data lockers (also called personal data stores or personal clouds) was going to go through the roof as soon as the first personal network for connecting them appeared. So we decided to build it.
Everyone is talking about the beta invites and how quickly it got viral, with a possible scam alert going off, how did it all begin and how is it been controlled at the moment?
It began when Joe lifted the password on the Tuesday night before SXSW, after an event called "Social Shopping" at Orange Labs in San Francisco at which Connect.Me had been mentioned for the first time. So attendees that night were asking to sign up for the beta. It was ready, and Joe had his fiancee test it the invite system by posting to Facebook, so Joe sent the word out to a few people.
By 8AM the next morning we had 3700 signups. By 10AM it was 10,000 and by noon 20,000. When it reached 50,000 we turned off the feature that made it so easy to invite others (though never via an autopost) so we could keep the beta to a manageable number.
What would you have changed if you could do it all over again?
We'd provide a little more information about the founders so it didn't turn into a scam alert. But not much -- it's still a stealth beta. And we'd tune the servers a little more. But otherwise it worked wonderfully, and we're pumped to have a great group of excited users for the beta.
What is the business model for Connect.me?
All I can say right now is: 1) it is a completely new alternative to the conventional Web 2.0 model where, as Joel Klein said in the Time Magazine March 10 cover article, "You know how everything has seemed free for the past few years? It wasn't. It's just that no one told you that instead of using money, you were paying with your personal information.", and 2) we will announce the model in conjunction with the unique personal trust framework we will be launching in May.
How are you guys financing the business so far?
With a friends-and-family seed funding round. We're planning an A round post-launch.
More importantly, what should users be expecting with the official launch in May?
They should expect a new way to connect and establish personal trust on the net, and the first service from Connect.Me that takes advantage of this.
What advices will you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start a business?
Do something you are very, very passionate about. Something that you just can't stop thinking about. It's even better if most people you talk to about it don't get it. Sometimes that means you're nuts -- but usually, if you really believe in it, and in yourself - it actually means you're really on to something.
Secondly, get it to market as fast as humanly possible. Or even faster.
And lastly, be sure your beta signup is as simple and compelling as possible.
Thanks for your time Drummond.
My pleasure -- talk to you again in May.