How did I start my business? Join us as Shahram Seyedin-Noor shares the startup story behind GraphDive.
Shahram is co-founder and CEO of GraphDive. Shahram co-founded GraphDive with the vision that the explosive growth of social data presents an amazing opportunity for all companies to better serve their customers. Prior to GraphDive, Shahram was on the founding team of NextBio, a “big data” analytics company that is leading the path to personalized medicine and revolutionizing research.
He helped grow NextBio into a profitable leader in the life sciences with millions in revenues from top-tier customers. Before NextBio, Shahram was an investment banker and strategic advisor to technology companies at Goldman Sachs & Co. and Bank of America. Earlier in his career, Shahram worked at the leading Silicon Valley law firms of Wilson Sonsini and Cooley. Shahram has a degree in economics from Pomona College and a JD from the Harvard Law School.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is GraphDive all about?
GraphDive is a social analytics and personalization platform serving retail and media companies. We believe that social sign-on tools like Facebook Connect give businesses the opportunity to understand their users better and truly personalize their offerings. Our platform leverages proprietary semantic and behavioral technology to enable this deep analysis. The end result is that we drive sales for our customers.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
GraphDive is my second “big data” analytics company. Prior to GraphDive, I was the founding CFO and VP of Corporate Development of NextBio, a platform that can quickly analyze petabytes of genomic data to drive personalized medicine in the clinic. Three years ago, my cofounder Sina Sohangir (PhD, Stanford) and I saw a similar potential in the social media space to provide tremendous value through algorithmic innovations in how data is analyzed. That was the birth of GraphDive.
Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
We are driving serious innovation in the types of inferences (or insights) that businesses can derive from the social data of their users. The beauty is that we provide these insights with the user’s consent – contrary to the data vendors out there that make billions selling user data culled without any consent at all. Remarkably, our analytics, inferences and insights are all derived exclusively from the Facebook data that a user shares. It’s a game changer in data analytics.
Q: How many users are currently on this platform and how do you plan to keep the numbers growing?
Our daily API calls from businesses have exploded over the past three months to more than 10K calls per day, and growing quickly. We now have dozens of businesses using our platform. We are already the leading analytics platform based on social sign-on tools, and we hope to accelerate our growth in Q4 of 2013. We are getting lots of organic referrals, but we will need to expand our sales team in 2014 to build our user base. We’ve already upgraded our IT infrastructure multiple times this month alone due to our growth.
Q: What were the top 3 mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from it?
Our biggest mistakes? First, we launched a few features too early before they were “battle tested” through beta deployments. Although it’s good to release fast and often in the consumer space, in the enterprise space that can be a mistake.
Another mistake was to pay a few “platform partners” to be part of their ecosystems. My experience has shown that any company that charges for membership in their platform usually has no real value add – otherwise they would do a straight revenue share.
The third mistake? We did a project for free early on for a prominent Fortune 500 company just to use their name as a customer. That was unnecessary – they would have paid (and are now). At the end of the day, if your product has value, you need to charge for it.
Q: Please share some advice for newbie tech entrepreneurs, someone who’s just starting out.
Build your prototype before raising money, choose your early team very carefully, and make sure your customers love your product.
Q: What was the best business advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?
My dad taught me always to be honest in business, and not to let others take advantage of you. That’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten in business.
Q: What are the top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company?
Q: What’s your definition of success?
Happiness: for you, your team, and your customers.
Q: What are three books you recommend entrepreneurs to read?
Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love (by Marty Cagan)
Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential AND HOW YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOURS (by Shirzad Chamine)
Steve Jobs (by Walter Isaacson)
Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?
“What’s measured improves” – Peter F. Drucker
Bonus: “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” – Peter F. Drucker
Q: How can our community get in touch with you?
Please follow my company on twitter: @graphdive. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org