Prepare for the concept of the address book to be flipped. Today, a startup called mon.ki is launching a new way for you to discover “who you know” by providing that information to you in the context of what you’re viewing. The product, which they’re calling a “social compass” of sorts, automatically extracts information from the web page you’re viewing, and then displays relevant information from Twitter about the people and tweets related to the page. To be clear, it’s not just about finding out who tweeted about that page, but about the people related to that page.
For example, a TechCrunch article would point you to the author’s profile, as well as Twitter profiles related to that writer. And Twitter integration is just the beginning. The company is adding support for Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, too.
In addition to today’s launch, mon.ki has also closed a round of $400,000 in seed funding.
The investors in the seed round come from five different countries and include Tom Chiu (Director Sandhill Angels), Daniel Zumino (Investor Vistaprint, France), DAD (Spain), Groupon Latin America co-founders Oskar Hjertonsson and Daniel Undurraga, and Saeed Amidi (Plug & Play).
The idea for the startup arose from co-founder Tim Delhaes’ challenges in dealing with an overwhelmingly large and distributed contact list. With thousands of contacts spread out through multiple Google Apps accounts plus social and business networking services, finding who he knew where took a lot of effort. It’s the whole, “I have his info somewhere…” problem that he wanted to solve.
To address the problem, the team at mon.ki knew they had to keep it simple. “We didn’t want another application or tool that gives you more management tasks,” said Delhaes, “contact management must be as boring as expense reporting.” So they went after the space from a search angle, and began thinking how you could build a personal search engine – not one for webpages or documents, but for people.
To develop the technology, mon.ki, whose other founder is Marcelo Iturbe, teamed up with a research team at a university that worked for Yahoo for five years. “It seemed like something you couldn’t just pull out of your pocket with a couple of hackers and 48 hours sitting naked in front a computer,” said Delhaes. (Umm…), “It looked like there’s a major problem to be solved and no one had really solved,” he explained.
The resulting tech is deceptively simple, you install a browser extension (Chrome for now), and then, when you need information about the page you’re on, you click it to launch a pop-out sidebar detailing the Twitter profile info of the person or persons related to that page, as well as related tweets.
In two to three weeks, mon.ki will add more social networking accounts, and in eight weeks, they’ll have integrated these better, so that each person’s profile is displayed as a single entry (as opposed to having their profile on Facebook separate from Twitter, separate from LinkedIn, etc.).
While mon.ki is definitely attacking a challenging space, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. For example, testing the app on the TechCrunch homepage didn’t surface the profiles for the writers except for MG and Mike Butcher. But at the end of the day, the idea itself is promising – it’s like a Rapportive (the email plugin/lifesaver that shows profile info related to who you’re communicating with) for the web.
For now, mon.ki is still in private beta, but the first 500 readers who sign up at mon.ki then email their Twitter ID to email@example.com will be added to the beta in the next few days.