Knozen, TheLadders’ Founder’s New Personality-Probing Startup, Closes $2.25M Seed From FirstMark, Lerer, David Tisch & Others

Knozen is the new startup from Marc Cenedella, serial entrepreneur and founder of the veteran job matching site, TheLadders.

Cenedella is not giving too much away about his new project at this early stage — it was founded “this year”, he says, rather non-specifically — but he’s just revealed one key detail to TechCrunch: Knozen closed a $2.25 million seed round last month — with an impressive roster of investors behind it, including FirstMark (Rick Heitzmann); Lerer Ventures (Eric Hippeau, Ben Lerer); David Tisch (Box Group); Greycroft Partners‘, John Elton; and Whisper/TigerText Founder, Brad Brooks.

What exactly Knozen is cooking up remains to be seen — its public face currently consists of an enigmatic sign up page depicting Botticelli’s Birth of Venus — but the startup is evidently drawing on an area Cenedella knows well, having had some 10 years of jobs matching experience at TheLadders. Namely: personality.

“We think we’ve found a unique new way to gain insights into people, and that’s why we were able to attract such top-flight investors,” Cenedella tells TechCrunch.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could know what people liked about us? We’re bringing personality to the internet: Knozen is a mobile app to discover and share personalities with your friends.”

Extrapolating out from personality, Knozen looks like it wants to figure out ways to identify, categorise and help people share observations on personality — with a view to applying the resulting psychological insight in various sectors, such as HR, sales, marketing & advertising, technology, and so on. Cenedella specifically name-checks those sectors when asked about future monetisation plans.

He wouldn’t fully flesh out how exactly Knozen will encourage people to say which of their friends are overly generous and which natively parsimonious — and the product won’t launch until early 2014, being at the alpha stage right now so it’s still going through various tweaks — but he did say Knozen will take the form of a mobile app that involves “fun, free” social games.

“We use fun, free, social games, in a unique new way, to show people’s personalities, so that you can comment and share, and let people know what you think makes them unique and different. This is a positive, supportive place for discovering and sharing personality,” he said.

“By using social games, rather than testing or single player diagnostic puzzles, we’ve been able to do something pretty interesting,” he added, when asked how it differs to the current crop of online personality tests.

“This product connects with the personal/intimacy of mobile — helping to make people better by telling them what people like most about them,” he continued. “I became so enamored with the idea, that I spent the last year learning Objective C, C, Python so that I could build the first version myself.

“This is more disruption of traditional HR, traditional work styles, traditional employee and customer relations. We will be the personality API for the internet.”

Social networking giants like Facebook have made it their business to pry into their users’ lives by joining up the dots of the things they like and do online — and then flogging that intel to advertisers. Knozen, presumably, wants to gain less circumstantial insights into the lives of its users, based on analysing specific behaviour cues and getting them to volunteer personality data.

By cutting out some of the guesswork Knozen will be hoping it can mine a rich seam of valuable data about its users — and then apply that in various ways. Cenedella said areas where the data Knozen will gather could be applied include, the following:

  • references, personality, 360s, reviews and recruiting
  • tailoring and customizing ads, marketing, and messaging
  • configuring software and apps to work according to users’ personality

“What we’ve learned so far is that people are really interested in what people are like, and what people think about them.  Knozen is a positive way to share those interests,” he added.

Getting people to want to share such personal data — about their friends and themselves, however positive — may still be a challenge for Knozen. Unless it really has come up with the ‘Angry Birds’ of Myers-Briggs personality tests in addictive app form.