Editor’s note: This is the second in a six-part series on entrepreneurs in the current round of Seed Hatchery’s “cohort” boot camp.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
Mundane problems are often the geneses that inspire visionaries to build first-class companies around them.
There’s a famous story, for example, about how Reed Hastings rented “Apollo 13” in the late 1990s, back in the days of VHS tapes, and returned it late. He got stuck with a whopping late fee. It was a light-bulb moment that inspired him to found Netflix, which at first was a DVD-by-mail service with no late fees and now is recalibrating itself to focus on instant streaming.
It’s the same kind of personal experience that’s led David Traxler and Cole Hawkins, friends for more than 20 years and new arrivals in Memphis, to launch a startup built around social media and which aims to fix one of the biggest problems average users might encounter.
The venture, of which Traxler is the CEO and Hawkins is chief operating officer, is called Friendsignia. And there’s almost a straight line a person can follow that leads from the two guys’ friendship to the startup, which is one of the six companies in the current round or “cohort” of Seed Hatchery.
The pair is so passionate about their idea, in fact, that they relocated to Memphis from California to be part of Seed Hatchery, an entrepreneurial boot camp based Downtown at which ventures such as Friendsignia get seed funding, guidance from mentors and the training to hopefully make it on their own.
This is the second of a series of profiles in The Daily News offering a snapshot of the current, six-member cohort.
If you’ve ever been to a party that’s so crowded you can’t get a good sense of everybody in the room – and, more importantly, you can’t find the people to whom you want to talk to most – you have the basic idea behind Friendsignia.
“Something like 92 percent of the information on Facebook is actually not relevant to you.”
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” said Traxler, a graduate of the University of Mississippi, of his friendship with Hawkins, also an Ole Miss grad. “Like anybody, we’ve also made some unbelievable friends along the way, but we’ve also lost touch with a lot of people along the way.”
Similarly, they’ve run into what many people do on social media – the fast, sometimes massive accumulations of friends and contacts, until a particular service is so cluttered that its usefulness can decline.
“Something like 92 percent of the information on Facebook is actually not relevant to you,” Traxler said, referring to the way some not-so-close friends you’re nevertheless connected to will post things you’re not particularly interested in but which show up in your news feed anyway.
Or maybe it’s a person who did that so much you stopped following them. If someone else shares their content, there it is again.
“The stuff you don’t want seems like it’s always going to get back into your feed somehow,” he said. “Our ideal user is anyone who suffers from this problem. It’s everyone who wants to use social media effectively.”
The Friendsignia program, when it’s opened, will show the user at the center of a mass of people they’re connected to via social media, all of whom are arrayed outward from the center in order of descending “closeness.” The value proposition of the program is that it helps the user get a better sense of whom they’re connected to and with whom they have the most close-knit relationships – at least online.
Both men are from Jackson, Miss. After graduating college, they moved to the West Coast and worked at major entertainment agencies. They also got hooked into social media and became excited by the prospect of apps they could develop together.
After doing what they needed to join the incubator program, they moved to Memphis at the end of January.
Said Traxler: “I want nothing more than to make this work.”