Social search start-up Wajam was born out of Quebec-based start-up accelerator Bolidea in 2009. It was founded by Martin-Luc Archambault, Magali Janvier and Olivier Cabanes.
“Our vision is to make your collective/social knowledge portable so that you find out when your friends have something to recommend,” Wajam community manager Alain Wong says.
“Wajam gives you social results when you search on Bing, shop on Amazon or look for answers on Wikipedia.”
Archambault talks to StartupSmart about building a personalised social recommendation engine.
What inspired the idea for Wajam? What niche did you identify?
With the popularity of social networks, I wondered why it was so difficult to search through what my friends had shared with me.
I thought, my friends share bits of wisdom each day across social networks – there has to be an easy way to tap into this knowledge. This idea gave birth to Wajam.
Wajam has changed quite a bit since it was first conceived a year ago. Originally, there were two aspects to Wajam – injecting social search results into Google/Bing/Yahoo and a sidebar for saving sites, adding comments and sending to friends.
The future of Wajam goes beyond serving social results in search engines. Wajam is focused on being the best personalised social recommendation engine, everywhere you search.
In other words, Wajam is a social lifeline at your fingertips. As you grow your friend network, you elevate your social search knowledge level or what we have coined your “social IQ”.
As for niche, we believe that users want access to the shared knowledge of their friends, regardless of which platform they use.
Wajam gives you recommendations from friends on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ when you search on sites like Google, Amazon, Yelp, Trip Advisor, YouTube and eBay.
You can also search directly on Wajam.com and we’ll soon release a mobile app so that you can have access to your friends’ knowledge wherever you go.
How did you fund the business?
Wajam is privately funded by Bolidea.
Prior to founding Bolidea, the managing team enjoyed previous success starting CDT Inc., a web publishing and advertising company that we sold to Zango.
How do you promote the business?
Wajam is promoted online, and the browser extension is available in the Chrome web store, Firefox add-ons, and also available on Safari and Internet Explorer.
We’ve been lucky to get good coverage from the press.
We’re working on distribution partners and will also be releasing an API in the near future so that publishers can build on top of our social search engine and show results on their sites.
How many staff do you have?
What started with an engineer with a business guy quickly grew to a 10-person start-up mostly comprised of engineers.
What we are doing is very hard technologically and we are lucky to be surrounded by some of the best at what they do.
Our team is passionate and hard-working and nobody ever shies away from a challenge. That’s a good thing because most of what we do has never been done before so there’s a lot of challenges.
For example, we released social search for Google+ before Google even released their API.
What are your revenue projections for 2011/12?
We do not divulge that information at this time.
There are so many social start-ups around nowadays. What are your points of difference?
Every day, your friends share lots of useful stuff on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Most of this content never reaches you since there’s too much to keep up with. That’s why Wajam adds this content on top of your normal search results.
Wajam is a social search engine that gives you access to the knowledge of your friends using three unique interfaces: a web application, a browser extension and an upcoming mobile app.
Our differentiator is that we’re building a social search engine that can be added on top of your regular search behaviour.
And we’ve organised the display of results semantically so that you can find relevant pictures, places, videos and products when you need it.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
With social content growing at an exponential rate, according to Mark Zuckerberg, our biggest risk is being unable to keep up with the growth rate of data as we acquire more users.
For each user, we index all the links, photos and videos that their friends share with them, and this results in a tremendous amount of data being stored.
We’ve done a good job so far scaling our infrastructure and data centre in order to meet our users’ needs.
We recently surpassed one billion pieces of social content indexed in less than one year after we launched.
What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Similar to the answer to the previous question, our greatest challenge so far has been to scale our infrastructure to manage the information we index.
By using bleeding-edge big data technologies like Cassandra and Hadoop/MapReduce, we’ve been able to keep up with the growth.
The next step is to improve the relevancy of search results so that users get the most relevant social results from their friends.