How could Marmalade AI be useful to you?

Let’s hear your suggestions!! The Marmalade AI MVP (Minimum Viable Product) for the Y Combinator Startup School we’re participating in during Q1 2020 focused on just one networking problem: How can we, through this app, intensify your experience of a virtual professional network enough to make it something you’d want to use every day?

Put differently, today, for example, we say we don’t want to network with people (connect on Linkedin, for example) that we don’t know - why would we? They’re unvetted; we don’t know how we could help them or how they could help us. So, what would this app have to provide for you as a smart virtual network if you were actually going to use it every day?

Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash

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For me the most meaningful vetting is when a new person is known to someone I already know. It is also meaninful when a new person is part of a professional organization or online forum (such as that I am part of. Being an alumni of the same school is less meaningful to me since I graduated from large universities. I would want to be able to review or filter contacts based on how close of a connection they have to known people/organizations. I would also want Marmalade to be the intermediary connection between me and a new person, like on Etsy convos, instead of sharing my email address.

For me to use Marmalade every day, the people I have the opportunity to contact should be vetted (as above), and also should be able to share information about my current top-priority goals. I would like to be able to filter this easily to avoid distractions from my current goals, but have a second-tier of contacts for backburner projects.

Perhaps I could enter keywords in the app to be matched to people who are involved in similar projects. For example, if a keyword in my pursuit profile is retro eveningwear Mexico City, then the app would match me to someone who has similar wording in their knowledge profile.

So let me play that back to see if I’ve got it: vetting based on 1) closest connections in terms of people/organizations, 2) contact w/o email sharing, and 3) as a second-tier of contacts, i.e. w/o distraction from current goals, and 4) keyword matches from a “pursuit profile.” Is that right?


Yes, those are the relevant points in a nutshell.

It occurs to me that many people these days want to (or at least SAY they want to) spend significantly less time on their phones. The question about what would make you want to use Marmalade every day is a good one because it will help you hone in on relevant user needs, but I wonder if you might want to incorporate a work smarter, not harder message, emphasizing that Marmalade will allow you to use your minimal phone time more efficiently and effectively.

Also, people probably do not want to be bombarded with notifications. I would rather know, infrequently, about only the connections that are most relevant. I want to work my way out of the mindset that more notifications means an app is really doing something for me. Quality over quantity! This might be achieved by allowing users to rate the relevance of connections, or weight the importance of their keywords.

Agree, actually;) I realized while working on a one-liner to go with a logo (yuck, separate problem; got ideas?) that “The app for smart connections” is better than “use every day” (which sounds like a lot of work).

On the point about user management of notifications, reminds me of Google news feeds, where I’ve been able to get it to cancel some feeds at a macro level, like not sending me sports news, but despite deleting 3/4’s of stories it does send, there’s no way to actually get less of those and I feel like I’m spending a lot of time cancelling news items to no effect.

Back to your point, though, great idea to have users be able to rate importance of connections and (re-)weigh the importance of keywords. Seems like this needs to be drag or swipe-easy, and also modifiable over time – our interests change, often in ways we can’t predict. Wondering how would you visualize how these two things would work: relevance of connections and importance of keywords (especially if there are a LOT of virtual connections)?

Example of a classic MVP (Minimum Viable Product = shows the idea, but is as basic as possible):
Self-serve part of a cartoon by Mark Armstrong: would be useful to me if it exhibited the ability to get a significant number of people out to hear world premieres of my compositions.

Like it! But how would it do that? Do you picture how that would work? (realize I’m sounding kind of naive here, but actually detail would help). More?

I use linkedin almost every day but not every day to look up people. I hardly ever care about keywords. Early on I accepted invites from anyone but now I only accept invites from someone that is in same company or outside contact that I’ve met. Once in a while I’ll accept invite from someone that has background that I’m interested in but I hardly ever go back and contact anyone that way.

I think it is important to focus on the specific needs of the individual at that point in their career. I see people going through cycles of network for: job seeking, collaboration, building a network, and seeking to sell/reach the right decision-makers. If it is “the app for smart connections” (which I like by the way), it needs to focus on doing those and better matching (improvements over tools such as Shapr).

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Thanks, Tony! So are you saying that the “smart connections” should reflect your current goal(s), so maybe generate current groupings overlaid on prior suggested groupings? Your four types seem great, by the way! A user could check off one or more of those boxes, or give them priorities. Also, been assuming these smart connections are virtual, meaning we haven’t met and don’t know each other. Is that how you picture them?

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Hi Jim, Thanks! I know you said you don’t look up people every day, but curious what you do to look up people on Linkedin when you do do that, since that is essentially what we’re automating, expanding, focusing in the MVP. Also, the follow up issue you mention was one of three problem areas that came out of our user research (not including that in the MVP project currently). Pretty much everyone said they felt they were terrible at follow up, and also terrible at effective networking in person at events.

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Sometimes I want to know what a person has been doing since we last met. For a new person, it’s a quick intro to the person’s background and to see if I know someone that knows the person.

I think I’m with Emily here. I’m less interested in the big connections, and more the smaller, more intimate ones: is this person a member of the same professional society that I am? Are they currently working at the same company I am? (This is only a big deal if you work for a big company, mind you).

I think some matrix of skills / matching / mentoring could be really interesting too, to make it communitarian. A clear way for me to be able to say “This is what I’m good at, and I’m willing to mentor…”, and the opposite — a way to look for mentors. Especially as I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve come to really value both mentoring and mentee relationships, and none of the social networks really do that at all.

If i could find people that are working in a start Up or open source project similar to one of mine… or if could find people in my same area with a particular skill set.

Thanks for your comments, Gabriel. Given how difficult it is – even in the context of the Y Combinator Startup School and even with and random pairing phone calls for me with other startup founders around the world happening several times per week the past few weeks – it’s clear that this kind of matching could create a lot of value.

Just wanted to add that the mentoring (as well as mentoree) aspect of and random startup pairing calls the past week has been an eye opener.

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From my perspective:

• Show people that are relevant. That goes both ways; they have things to offer that I am interested in and/or they are looking for something I can offer (we feel good when we can help)
• Show information in their profiles that can be used to break the ice or help make the first networking request easy; specially if they have things in common
• Maybe build a CRM-like tool to manage my network and remind me to follow-up with them and develop the relationship over time
• Interested in a good mix between small network group and occasionally introduced to one good match for potential networking opportunity. In networking, less is more for me.

Thanks, Peter! On your point, figuring out how to provide the right mix between focused small network groups and serendipity seems tricky. Do you think this is maybe something where it could start with a default, like maybe 5 or 10% serendipity, and then enable people to personalize it to what works best for them?

Hi Craig, per our discussion earlier this week I wanted to share my thoughts on how Marmalade could be most useful to me.

  • Prioritized interests - all of these platforms seem to collect interests, but perhaps prioritzing them would help provide the mot relevant matches.
  • "Channels" like Slack, I suppose this could be called interest groups as well. But eg, I would be interested in joining a channel with other Product Marketing professionals.
  • Curated “suggested topics of discussion” delivered ahead of the call so both parties know what their common interests are and what the other party might be interested to discuss. As a bonus, you could have users rank how useful/relevant each topic was after the conversation and feed that data into the AI algorithm for better matches moving forward!

Let me know when there is a beta version/MVP available and I will be gladd to participate - as you know I am looking for any and all ways to network for my job search during these unusual times!

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I think networking has to be purposeful. For example, if I am a founder, I want to hang out with potential investors. I

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