OK, this is cool. A new networking utility called Hachi is taking some of the best functionality offered by LinkedIn (searching by name, company, title, etc. and seeing how you’re connected to other users), and is merging that with your social graphs from other services like Facebook, and soon Google contacts, Twitter and even your Outlook address book. That way, you can see who you know where – meaning, the actual path of connections between you and another person – even if you’re not connected on LinkedIn.
Um, totally bookmarking this.
Also cool: unlike LinkedIn, the service isn’t limited to 2nd or 3rd degree connections – it can go deeper than that. And it can offer cross-network paths to get you from point A to point B. For example, it can show you how you’re connected to PersonA via LinkedIn, who knows PersonB on Facebook, who’s connected to PersonC via Twitter (Twitter integration goes live next week).
And, in the case of multiple paths, it can compute the smartest path to get there via something called the “Path Score.” Hachi founder Rachna Singh says the Path Score is calculated on the basis of how well one person in the path knows the other one he or she is connected to. In the initial version, Hachi looks at factors like similar company, school and common friends. Later this month, more real-world and behavioral factors will be added to the algorithm, she says.
Using Hachi is pretty easy. You create an account, connect your networks, then kick off a search. The search box defaults to searching by name, but links below let you search by company, title, industry, location, or school/education. When there are multiple results, such as for company searches, they’re ranked in order by smartest/quickest path on down.
While networking is an obvious must in startup world, especially for entrepreneurs hoping for intros to investors, the need to know who you know and how you know them is something everyone who works for a living wants. In fact, LinkedIn’s primary value today still comes in a large part from its ability to build out your graph of professional connections and then arrange for introductions via friends and colleagues. But not everyone is on LinkedIn, of course. (Just ask BranchOut about that).
These days, many of us are building our network or networks elsewhere, like on Facebook and Twitter, for example. Plus, the line between our “professional” lives and “personal” lives has blurred to where it no longer makes sense to only think about maximizing our business-only connections to reach out to people we want to meet.
Although still in private alpha (and a little less polished than this), Singh tells us that the private beta will launch in mid-May, but she’s opening up access to the first 200 TechCrunch readers who email firstname.lastname@example.org today with the subject line “techcrunch.”
Singh also says that following Twitter integration, support for Google contacts will roll out later this month, and the mobile version will arrive next week. The service is currently being bootstrapped, but Singh has already completed the first pilot with an enterprise customer.
“We didn’t intend to go enterprise – but there was a lot of interest,” she says. “We’re in talks with a couple of other enterprises as well, who’ve approached us.” She has also been turning down investors and seed funds while building up Hachi to something she felt was “demonstrably kickass” (and yep, it is), but now she’s talking about raising a seed round.
Something else to note – Singh is a non-technical founder who has somehow managed to build this thing with a small team (“myself and a few interns,” she says), which she admits has been incredibly challenging. So how does that work?
“Understand (invest that time) into how the problem is to be solved technically, rope in 1-2 people in your team, break the problem into small chunks, and focus” says Singh, “things are much solvable then.”