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February 13, 2013

Whom do you want to meet today? Get connected (that'll be $3,000)


Andrew Ross Sorkin's New York Times piece about a new company called Relationship Science brings good news and bad news.

The good news: For $3,000 you can find out how you're connected to pretty much anyone in the world.

The bad news: Your 3K only buys names — not their phone numbers or email addresses. 

For that, you're on your own.


Below, excerpts from the Times piece.

It sounds like a Rolodex for the 1%: two million deal makers, power brokers and business executives — not only their names, but in many cases the names of their spouses and children and associates, their political donations, their charity work and more — all at a banker's fingertips.

Such is the promise of a new company called Relationship Science.

It turns out that over the last two years, with a staff of more than 800 people, mostly in India, Relationship Science has been quietly building what it hopes will be the ultimate business Who's Who. If it succeeds, it could radically change the way Wall Street does business.

Here's how it works: Let's say a banker wants to get in touch with [Henry R.] Kravis, the private equity deal maker, but doesn't know him personally. The banker can type Mr. Kravis's name into a Relationship Science search bar, and the system will scan personal contacts for people the banker knows who also know Mr. Kravis, or perhaps secondary or tertiary connections.

The system shows how the searcher is connected — perhaps a friend, or a friend of a friend, is on a charitable board — and also grades the quality of those connections by identifying them as "strong," "average" or "weak." You will be surprised at the many ways the database finds connections.

The major innovation is that, unlike Facebook or LinkedIn, it doesn't matter if people have signed up for the service. Many business leaders aren't on Facebook or LinkedIn, but Relationship Science doesn't rely on user-generated content. It just scrapes the Web.

Relationship Science is the brainchild of Neal Goldman, a co-founder of CapitalIQ, a financial database service that is used by many Wall Street firms. "I knew there had to be a better way," Mr. Goldman said about the way people search out others. Most people use Google to learn about people and ask friends and colleagues if they or someone they know can provide an introduction.

Relationship Science essentially does this automatically. It will even show you every connection you have to a specific company or organization.

Kenneth Langone, a financier and co-founder in Home Depot, said that when he saw a demonstration of the system he nearly fell off his chair. He used an unprintable four-letter word.

"My life is all about networking," said Mr. Langone, who was so enthusiastic he became an investor and recently joined the board of Relationship Science. "How many times do I say, 'How do I get to this guy?' It is scary how much it helps."

Mr. Goldman's version of networking isn't for everyone. His company charges $3,000 a year for a person to have access to the site.

Apparently, his sales pitch is working. Already, some big financial firms have signed up for the service, which is still in a test phase. Investment bankers, wealth managers, private equity and venture capital investors have been trying to arrange meetings to see it….

I discovered I had paths I never knew existed to certain people or companies. (Mr. Goldman should market his product to reporters, too.)

One of the most vexing and perhaps unusual choices Mr. Goldman seems to have made with Relationship Science is to omit what would be truly valuable information: phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

Mr. Goldman explained the decision. "This isn't about spamming people." He said supplying phone numbers wouldn't offer any value because people don't like being cold-called, which he said was the antithesis of the purpose of his database.

Ultimately, he said, as valuable as the technology can be in discovering the path to a relationship, an artful introduction is what really counts.

"We bring the science," he said. "You bring the art."

Don't forget the 3K.

February 13, 2013 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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If you have to pay for it...

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Feb 14, 2013 7:37:50 AM

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