Pete Kazanjy is the co-founder of Honestly.com, a community-contributed professional reputation and peer review website. Pete founded Honestly.com with his co-founders, Jason Heidema and Danis Dayanov, to help bring professional reputation into the Web age.
What are you working on right now?
Well, at Honestly.com, we’re pretty much focused on one thing: How can we help professional reputation information — that is, who’s great, who’s good, and who you maybe might not want to work with — surface out of the professional workforce, and come online, so that people can make better decisions about other people in their day-to-day work lives. And what that means in a practical sense is working on features that make it easy for people to effortlessly surface this information and make it easy for others to consume and understand.
3 trends that excite you?
These are mainly going to relate to what we’re working on at Honestly.com, so don’t be shocked!
One concept is information transparency. Things like Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, Quora and others have really set the tone with respect to helping information that exists in the world but is mainly locked away in the minds of individuals, come onto the Web, and be useful to others. We, of course are trying to do that with professional reputation information, but this general trend toward all kinds of information surfacing online is something that is really powerful, and thus exciting.
Another trend that’s exciting to us is the idea of portable, verifiable identity on the Web. One of the things we do to ensure that the reviewers on Honestly.com are real people, contributing their honest opinions, is by using Facebook Connect as a way to verify that this user has a legitimate track record of existence “on the Web,” and isn’t some brand new e-mail address, created to leave fake reviews. This is really powerful, because it helps address a lot of the issues that folks like Amazon Product Reviews, Yelp and others have with bad actors creating fake accounts, to try to game the community. That’s a lot harder to do when you require portable, verified identity, and thus makes the community more sound and productive.
Lastly, the power of online communities, which is related to the above two items, is something else that is exciting to us. When you have a group of people, pulling together in the same direction, with the same goals, with Web software tying their efforts together, you can get some amazing results. We’re looking to empower that with our community, with the goal of surfacing professional reputation information, on Honestly.com
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m the kind of person who gets inspiration from a variety of sources, typically mixing and matching ideas I see in different places in new ways. For example, it was my own experience as a hiring manager, and person who was hired, at my former employer, VMware, that familiarized me with the pains associated with understanding what someone is really like, aside from what they say about themselves, or how they present in an interview. At the same time, as the product marketing lead for some consumer software products, I was keenly aware of the importance of online reputation — in our case, in the form of reviews on Amazon.com and Apple.com — in driving how the market made decision about our products … not to mention, how we understood and consumed market feedback to help us improve our offering. It was the confluence of these two ideas that inspired how community contributed reviews could help solve the information transparency problems with people. So, to help power that furnace, I like to consume and experience lots of information, to help power those kinds of remixes.
What inspires you?
A desire to make the world a better place, and a desire to help great people get their due.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
I would say that a mistake we made with Honestly.com was taking so long from initial inception of the idea to getting it out the door. There’s nothing like real market feedback to help refine your approach.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are always great gains to be made in taking information that is currently not flowing from those who have it, to those who need it, and making that market.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
Book? Well, I’m currently reading “Building Web Reputation Systems” by Randy Farmer, but I imagine that’s a little specific for folks. A great book to bring ideas to life? I loved “Why not?” by Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, which is all about ideation and thought tools for teasing out good ideas.
A tool? This may be a little specific, but Balsamiq Mockups is a really great, lightweight mockup software tool for sketching out ideas for software of all types. Well, that and a really big white board. And a good one, too. Porcelain on steel. None of that plastic stuff!
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Wow. Tough one. You have great folks on here. I suppose it depends on who your audience would get the most value out of. Well, I know that there are a lot of folks in the software entrepreneurship world I know I respect, and that I think your readers would get a lot of value out of. Our investors, Josh Kopelman, Saar Gur and Phin Barnes are really sharp, accomplished software entrepreneurs in their own rights. If your readers were interested in software product management, my co-founder Jason Heidema is pretty stellar there. So yeah, those would be good ones.
How do you contend with the controversy of Honestly.com, and how many folks see the ability for anyone to review anyone else as problematic?
We look at it from the standpoint of how reputation works in the offline world, and has worked for hundreds of thousands of years. My reputation exists outside of me. I can influence it, but I can’t own it. I can participate in the conversation, but I can’t dominate it. People can talk about me without my permission, and they can continue to talk about me, even if I’m not 100 percent jazzed on what they’re saying. This is how reputation works, and how it has helped humans as a species encourage good, communitarian behavior, by rewarding excellence and encouraging improvement where needed. We believe that bringing that age-old conversation online will only make that information more useful, and in the end, make the community stronger. So even when people react adversely to the concept, we are confident that, in the end, this will be a useful tool that people will value.
How do you deal with the stress of a startup?
I have a great team that I rely on to support me, much like I support them. Great investors who have our backs. A wonderful family and girlfriend who support it all. So really, it has to do with the folks who put up with me, as I deal with this!
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