Stanford Startups: Conspire, a startup for smarter connections

Nov. 10, 2014, 12:07 p.m.

Save yourself from the trouble of searching for an employer, investor or customer and awkward introductions at networking events. Conspire, a digital network platform, will help you find the strongest path of connection to any person you’re interested in and figure out the best way to get introduced through analyzing your email interactions.

Alex Devkar ’04 and Paul McReynolds ’04 are former Stanford dormmates who bonded over a common interest in computer science and a vision of creating a startup company. Fast-forward eight years later, they have launched Conspire.

After taking different career paths and attending law school, they soon rekindled their friendship after realizing they wanted to do something different with their careers. With their idea for Conspire in mind, they applied, and were accepted, to the TechStars Cloud program, where they were provided with seed funding and intensive mentorship.

The years living together at Stanford created a special bond. “We have a lot of trust. That allows us to be effective sounding boards for each other and to make decisions quickly,” Devkar said of the co-founder relationship.

Screenshot taken of Conspire in action.
Screenshot taken of Conspire in action.

Conspire reveals the power of secondary connections of your extended network created by e-mail exchanges. The startup will evaluate headers such as the “To, From, CC, Subject and Date” fields of emails. Devkar said, “If there’s little interaction, there’s no pattern. If they respond to each other quickly, that looks like a strong relationship and a strong communication pattern”. As a result, Conspire develops a graph with qualitative connections that vary based on the strength of the correspondence between various people (nodes). The goal of the company is to help people work together. When asked how Conspire is different than LinkedIn, Devkar argued that Conspire serves a different purpose.

“LinkedIn is great for potential employees to display their online resume. It’s also a resource for recruiters and a content feed to share connections or stories,” Devkar said. “But, what makes Conspire different and better is its networking side.”

“[On LinkedIn] requests don’t have any mapping to reality to who’s actually in your network.” Devkar added, “All of the connection requests look the same. Our network reaches out to people you don’t already know.”

Conspire functions as a digital telephone address book that is highly concentrated with professionals. Consequently, you must know what you’re looking for. Unlike LinkedIn, there is no “People You May Know” section, so there’s a lack of guidance if you don’t know what you’re looking for. You must search with an idea and purpose. Like a search engine, it allows you to search for a specific job role, investor or person. After this initial search, Conspire will try to determine the most appropriate second-degree connections to reach the person you’d like to get introduced to. No connection request needed. However, if you start out with a small network of e-mail addresses and only have a few exchanges, you might be out of luck and limit your ability to expand your network. Additionally, Conspire currently only supports Gmail. The nature of Conspire requires a certain critical mass of users in order to help piece together this high-resolution view of connections that can go deeper than the typical LinkedIn search. Devkar emphasizes the importance of finding authentic relationships. The company isn’t trying to force relationships, but forge relationships. “We just want an accurate picture and want to access your network in the best way possible,” Devkar said.

Although the cofounders did not disclose the number of current users, the Conspire network reaches over 27.3 million people. Right now, these are the early tech adopters, but the company hopes to reach out to a broader network.

Conspire is headquartered in Boulder, CO, so the team can be close to their board member and lead investor, David Cohen — the founder and CEO of TechStars. In addition to the beauty of the mountains, the Conspire co-founders enjoy the smaller startup community. “It’s a lot like Silicon Valley, but it’s a lot more tight-knit,” Devkar said. Even if you’re a small business, you still have the opportunity to reach out to the “bigger fish” in the startup world. “If I want to meet the most experienced guy in the area, I can actually get that meeting,” Devkar explained.

Devkar and McReynolds say they want to help students realize the power of their network. Whether it’s searching for a new job, investor or salesperson for a company, Conspire might be a solution. At the very least, it’s a fun way to do a quick search on potential connections with members of the Valley technocracy.

Conspire is currently hiring, and they encourage you to check out their technical positions. (Cool perk: they have an open vacation policy and encourage everyone to work remotely — from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection — for up to a month per year!)

Contact Kasey Quon at kquon ‘at’

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