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Editorial

Using AI to Tap the Full Value of Our Networks

4 minute read
Anita Brearton avatar
Think about how much data you are amassing in your professional life and how its value would increase if you could mine it to find what you need.

LinkedIn has saved my life time and again. How? By capturing the names and faces of the people I meet and work with. Unlike my post-college years, when I didn't bother with a calendar because I just remembered my meeting schedule, I'm now dependent on my calendar and set alarm reminders for meetings. I used to remember names, faces and phone numbers too. Now I'm terrible at remembering names and faces — though I'm still really good at phone numbers.

I’m pretty diligent about documenting new connections in LinkedIn. The good news about having a long career is that I have a large, varied network of contacts. The bad news about having a long career is that I have a large, varied network of contacts. I’m well into thousands of connections on LinkedIn and now spend more time than I have trying to remember the name of someone I met six months ago that I thought could be helpful (clearly, I’m not good at tagging my connections). I know I have an incredibly valuable contact network — if only I could make better use of it. 

Finding the Human Needle in the Network Haystack

My co-founder and I have experienced a lot of serendipity in our startup journey and are big believers in putting things “out to the universe” (aka whining a lot about what we need) and hoping the universe answers back. In this case it has. 

Glasswing Ventures, one of our investors, brings its portfolio companies together on a regular basis to share ideas and learn from one another’s experiences. At our last gathering I had a chance to chat with Omer Trajman, founder of AskFora, and I think he’s developed just what I need. With AskFora I can enter some information about what I’m looking for in a person and “Fora,” the company persona, will leverage AI to search through my contacts, find the people that match that profile from within my personal network, and then provide an embellished profile by tapping into LinkedIn and other public resources. 

AskFora does much more than search your contacts. It actually helps you find contract help and then manages the engagement process (invoicing and 1099). There are a lot of great marketplaces for top talent including Upwork, Catalant, Top Talent, 99 Designs, MeasureMatch and LinkedIn, which Omer describes as “ebay for people.” Our company logo came from 99 Designs and we’ve found great resources on Upwork. As fantastic as these marketplaces are, my first choice is always someone I know or a referral from a trusted peer. Omer told me that “99% of individuals would rather work with someone they know.”

Related Article: A Networking Strategy to Grow Your Peer Base

Take AskFora for a Test Drive

I love access to early stage technology, I enjoy it in the same way I enjoyed new toys as a child. AskFora is still in the early stages but is in public beta if you want to try it out. Today on AskFora, you can search within your contacts to find people you might want to work with. AskFora will mine your contact database to find people that match your criteria and then round out their profile for you. AskFora doesn’t charge for this, it monetizes the transaction component of the relationship if you choose to leverage the platform to handle the contract agreement, invoicing, etc.  

Learning Opportunities

Over time the company plans to give users the ability to create groups so you can create referral networks, but for now, if you like trying new technology jump in and give the beta a try. And don’t be reluctant to provide feedback — your experience and feedback will help create a better product. That cycle of exposing innovators to new technology and then absorbing their feedback is what makes startups work. 

Related Article: 4 Ways Virtual Personal Assistants Will Affect the Workplace

An AI Triumvirate = Admin Nirvana

We talk a lot about the data we make available about ourselves and the privacy risks associated with that. But do you ever stop and think about how much data you are amassing in your personal and professional lives that would be so much more valuable if you could quickly mine it to find what you need? AI-driven tools such as AskFora will be of great assistance in helping us tap into our own data.   

As I look ahead, I think the marriage of AskFora, x.ai and Otter.ai (a tool I can’t live without) will give me the perfect virtual administrative assistant. With those three, I’ll be able to find you, schedule a meeting, and record the details of our conversation, all with minimal effort on my part. Nirvana! I for one am excited to see AI starting to deliver on its potential.  

About the author

Anita Brearton

Anita Brearton is Founder/CEO and Co-CMO of CabinetM, a marketing technology discovery and management platform that helps marketing teams manage the technology they have, and find the technology they need. Anita is a long time tech start-up marketer and has had the great fortune of driving marketing programs through the early stages of a startup all the way to IPO and acquisition.

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