By Alyssa Schoeneman
With so many social media sites on the Internet, managing personal and professional contacts can prove to be a major challenge. Luckily, there is an app for that.
5Degrees, formerly GitBax, is a mobile and web application that aggregates all of a user’s contacts into one location, making it easier to manage relationships while on-the-go or behind the desk. The app gives users powerful tools to control the relationships they have. 5Degrees users can: tap into the content that their social circles and contacts are sharing on the social graph; schedule reminders to follow-up with professional and personal contacts; and get back to people from the app, creating an automatic record of their interactions so that they are always moving relationships forward.
Future versions of 5Degrees will allow for business cards to be swapped virtually and for users to access analytics analyzing their most effective methods of contacting. With the help of the latter feature, 5Degrees users can see how and when to contact people the most readily; the app shows the user what communication medium and time frame are ideal in each individual circumstance.
5Degrees (then GitBax), which launched at a Tech Cocktail mixer in Chicago in early April, was recently voted one of the Top 3 Chicago early-stage startups in a TECH Cocktail poll.
5Degrees was spun out of The App House, the mobile technology firm founded by CEO Jeb Ory and CTO Kilton Hopkins in September 2009. The pair met one another at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Ory explained that he and Hopkins originally developed the 5Degrees software as an internal tool to help them keep in touch with people they had met at conferences; now, it represents the future of their business.
“In the process of building these apps, we had participated in a number of showcases and tradeshows… and at events like that, you meet a lot of people and walk away with a lot of business cards,” Ory said. “The biggest challenge comes in getting back to the people that you meet; the key to networking is converting the relationship to something of value for both parties.”
In other words, it is necessary to follow-up with professional contacts after an initial meeting to establish new connections.
“The people who are successful are those who have a great product and then continue to engage with people that they meet,” Ory said. “That moves the relationship from being “’some cool person that you met,’ to being someone that you interact with on a business level.”
Ory and Hopkins created the 5Degrees software as a way of nudging themselves to “do the correct behaviors” in maintaining their own business relationships.
“We’re not great at getting back to people,” Ory admitted.
Five Degrees has four equity partners – Ory, Hopkins, COO Kelly Schwedland and CFO Bill Hope – in addition to two full-time employees and four summer interns.
Because the 5Degrees team formed at the University of Chicago, it got involved with Illinois Launch “a little bit differently than the University of Illinois businesses,” Ory said.
“We aren’t directly affiliated with the University, so it was sort of serendipitous for us,” he added.
The team met Academy Assistant Director Amara Andrews in early April at a TECH Cocktail event in Champaign-Urbana.
“We were there publicizing a trivia game show app…we met Amara and gave her a brief background of what we were doing,” Ory said. “We followed up and I was able to explain the future of our company – this application called GitBax. We were changing our model to be more sustainable.”
Andrews invited the startup’s cofounders to apply for the Illinois Launch program, and they were accepted to the program in May.
The team attended the Startup Illinois 2011 event in May, as well as the Illinois Launch Speed-dating and Networking event on June 22. 5Degrees team members also recently took a trip to the University of Illinois to run focus groups; they came away with a lot of insight – and a new name.
“This is the early product we launched to see what works and how people respond,” Ory said. “We want to know we’re adding the right features when we come out with the final version.”
Ory explained that the team will eventually monetize another version – a premium version – that is currently under development.
The 5Degrees team used its U of I connections, specifically design team Michelle Lenzen, John Pearce and Maurice Branch, to rebrand the company.
Ory provided the U of I group, which has dabbled with the name “Visionary,” with Gitbax’s pitch deck and a short executive summary, and the team created some new designs. After hearing the design team’s pitches, Ory’s team chose 5Degrees as its new moniker.
“We were impressed that people relatively young, without much professional experience, could ‘nail it,’” Ory said.
And from the looks of it, the 5Degrees team is doing a good job of “nailing it,” too.
Learn more about 5Degrees by visiting their website (where you can sign-up for their private beta) or by contacting Jeb Ory at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can reach the team by phone at 866-866-8179.