Miami of Ohio grad launch Glacir
Six degrees of separation -- the idea that every person is no more than six relationships away from any other person on the planet -- has been a pop-culture touchstone and a Hollywood-oriented fad, as in the game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon."
Now, it's a Web site.
Miami University of Ohio graduates Brad Balzer and Zak Dziczkowski recently launched an Internet firm, Glacir Inc., based in Columbus, that shows users of the Web site www.glacir.com their own six degrees of separation from people and events around the world.
A user starts by registering on the Web site, searching for first-degree connections with friends who also are registered there. He also sends messages to other friends, requesting that they sign up.
Glacir then goes to work, showing how the user and his first-degree friends are connected to other people -- from two to six degrees away.
While the site can be amusing, Balzer and Dziczkowski see its professional uses as the site's real money-earner.
"This can be a powerful networking tool for professionals," Balzer said. "We think it will have big application for marketing or networking."
For example, a Glacir user who plans to meet with new clients could quickly scan for possible connections, all the better to break the ice. Or someone at a large business luncheon could use an upcoming application involving mobile phones to learn whether anyone among all the strangers there might be only a few degrees of connection away.
"You can strike up a conversation with someone you might have walked straight past," Dziczkowski said.
"Some people find that application intriguing, while others become very concerned," Dziczkowski said. "With every capability comes stringent privacy controls. It's very important to us that people aren't made nervous by joining the site, but excited by what it can show them."
A feature currently under development that will be released in the coming months includes Facebook Connect, which automatically finds Facebook friends on Glacir and invites those who are not yet members to join.
Another application in the pipeline is News Connection. "This shows connections, not only people to people, but also people to news," Balzer said. "That's never been done. Say CNN or The Dispatch has a story and at the bottom there's a link to Glacir, and you click it to see how you're connected to that story. People can see that a news story is not just a distant, far-off thing. That's something we believe will make it very powerful."
The idea for Glacir came to Balzer in a dream a few years ago, and he told Dziczkowski about it.
Dziczkowski, a computer science major, was taken aback. "I looked at him and said he was crazy."
Even so, the idea intrigued both men and they continued to discuss it, even though Dziczkowski went off to Virginia to pursue a doctorate and Balzer moved to California for what he then thought was his "dream job," to work on prototype vehicles.
Eventually, the challenge of making those links -- and doing so quickly -- emerged after what Dziczkowski said was "hundreds of hours in a Starbucks."
The solution is proprietary, "the secret sauce," Balzer said. "That's the key to the whole thing. But I can say that the solution is very elegant in its simplicity."
After testing the program, they launched the site on Sept. 17. To date, more than 500 users have signed on to www.glacir.com, and the numbers are growing steadily.
Membership is free to the site.
The company plans to make its money from advertising, mobile applications and premium business accounts.
Balzer quit his job in California to move back to Columbus and is the site's only full-time employee, working out of his kitchen, he says with a grin. Dziczkowski works on Glacir out of coffee shops part time while he continues to pursue his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University full time.
"The whole site will evolve as long as it exists," Balzer said. "Our tagline is 'Connecting Humanity,' and that's what we're trying to do. The implications are far-reaching."
So far, though, the two founders haven't figured out how many degrees of separation they are from one corner of humanity.
"I wish I had an answer to the Kevin Bacon question," Balzer said, laughing.
"Our tagline is 'Connecting Humanity,' and that's what we're trying to do. The implications are far-reaching."Brad Balzer, co-founder of Glacir Inc.
The operators plan to make money, in part, from advertising and mobile applications.
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