Built on a “No Asshole” Policy, Traackr Wants to be the Google for Discovering People

Perhaps you noticed that Google has started including authors in their search results.  The images you’re seeing next to certain results point to an individual’s Google+ profile.  Google is betting that the future of search is people – eventually all articles will be tied to their authors, as opposed to stand alone links.  Authority will belong to the individual, not the URL the author leant their work to.

This is the same bet being made by Traackr, the San Francisco-based startup that helps brands discover people who are influential in particular industries, topics, or communities.

We caught up with Pierre-Loïc Assayag, Traackr’s co-founder and CEO, to learn more about how Traackr is bringing order to data instead of adding to the chaos, the reasons to move from Boston to San Francisco, and why his company lives by the “No Asshole” policy.

Tech Cocktail:  What is Traackr and who is it for?

Pierre-Loïc Assayag:  Traackr is a people discovery engine. We find people in the same way Google finds web pages, surfacing those individuals most relevant and impactful to any topic as defined by our users. It has some B2B uses for those spending a lot of time online looking for people (marketing, market research, recruiters) or seeking a way to filter the web to find the most important and relevant information for their business (brand execs, product managers).

Tech Cocktail:  What was the inspiration behind Traackr? What do you enjoy most about working on it?

Assayag:  From the onset of Traackr, we defined it as a “post Web 2.0” business: we didn’t want to create more data or widgets but rather extract the value of existing data. We quickly gravitated around the idea that re-indexing the web by “people” rather than web pages was a great proxy to separate the signal from the noise in the overwhelming mass of online content. We’ve only scratched the surface of the numberless fields of application of our technology, and as we keep working, we discover that the problem we’re proposing to solve keeps getting bigger. This is what excites me to get up in the morning.

Tech Cocktail:  What is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of starting up in Boston?

 Assayag:  Well, we started in Cambridge, MA. Our office was equidistant from Harvard and MIT. There’s no shortage of talent and smart people in the Boston area, and the “Republic of Cambridge,” as locals refer to it, is a microcosmos for invention.

Cambridge was really awesome for us to kick ideas around and experiment with our technology in the early days. As soon as our business started gaining traction, we experienced the shortfalls of Boston showing its risk-adverse business culture (both from clients and investors). We since relocated our headquarters to San Francisco to leverage the amazing ecosystem the Bay Area is and kept some of our engineering function back East.

Tech Cocktail:  Describe a challenging moment or a crucial decision for your startup. How did you deal with it, and what did you learn from it?

Traackr mascot.

Assayag:  Moving our headquarters to San Francisco was a big business and personal decision for us, and there was a huge risk associated to disrupting the traction we started to gain with the business.

At first, we started spending more time in SF to gauge opportunities (clients, investors) and ended up pulling the trigger 6 months into it. What we learned in the process was that even though we tried to gauge the very tangible risk of moving against the intangible and much less visible risk of inaction, at the end of the day the decision was a leap of faith. No regrets since.

Tech Cocktail:  What’s one quirky fact about you, your team, or your office culture?

Assayag: We have a strict “No Asshole” policy at Traackr. We hire not just smart and dedicated people, but “good” people, which breeds a culture of ownership, mutual respect and collaboration. It makes Traackr a fun place to work.

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.
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