Vaporware Labs, a software company that makes social, mobile, and web apps, like Steve Young Football for the iPad and iPhone, and MEETorDIE, an an online tool that tells you how much money your company is wasting by having meetings and how it might be spending that money more productively. (You can read our coverage of MEETorDIE here.) Today, Vaporware Labs is launching a new product called Commonred, which is putting a new spin on professional networking.
Commonred wants to be the place you go to find a common link (the name is a shortening of “common thread”) with just about anyone — though they’ll need some user adoption to ensure that last bit. Essentially, the startup wants to take the cold call/email/approach out of the networking process. Or, another way of looking at it: Commonred is an attempt meld the meetup and “new people” discovery space, inhabited by startups like Sonar, Meetup, and LetsLunch, with professional networking sites/apps like Branchout and Hashable.
Vaporware Labs, like many others, holds a monthly meetup (called Startup Grind) that allows entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley to meet each other, network, and share ideas. The motivation for Commonred was bred from these meetups and from the observation — that is endemic to all new meetup experiences — that giving entrepreneurs (and people in general) ways to more quickly find commonalities between themselves and the people they’re meeting leads to less awkwardness and a greater chance of building a strong(er) relationship.
According to Vaporware and Commonred Founder Derek Andersen, Commonred is an attempt to “streamline the serendipity of finding someone that you went to the same high school with or someone that has also lived in, say, New Zealand”. Since much of our personal information is scattered across the social networks, “or lives on our blog or Plancast profile”, he says, when one wants to build a working relationship with someone, the process can be akin to a scavenger hunt.
So, how does it work? Pretty simple. You connect all of your social profiles to Commonred, and the site takes your social graph data and builds a profile, taking a user’s social infrastructure and combining it with its own set of data. Commonred then presents its users with a snapshot of commonality they share with others — it’s not a fire hose of information, just the quick bullet points, like schools, places, hobbies, and companies, that help you quickly find things you have in common. You can compare your contacts to other individuals, which then appears in a tree-like view (which you can see to the right).
In turn, this makes you slightly less (or more, depending on how you look at it) creepy when you approach someone or email someone in hopes of networking.
Of course, the problem with this is that we all have a lot of collective contacts on Twitter, Facbook, LinkedIn, etc., but, in reality, we have 5 to 10 relationships that we value higher than the others — those people that we’d go to bat for in any circumstance. Commonred has created a “Board of Directors” feature that allows users to select their 10 most trusted (or most valued) contacts. This will not only allow other users to know how cool you are when Mark Zuckerberg shows up on your Board, but just another filter for finding commonality.
Commonred is offering 200 free invites to TechCrunch readers, which can be accessed here. Check it out and let us know what you think.