Naveen Jain Interview : Date Check, People Search & Entrepreneurship

Part of learning about business, search and technology is learning about those who have done well in each respected field. While SEJ generally concentrates on search marketing or search optimization, there are many other fields of search that prove of interest.

People Search is the cornerstone of many different search related business models, from the White Pages of Yahoo & Verizon and the social networks of Facebook & LinkedIn, to the background check platforms of Intelius and other companies. I was reading up on Intellius and saw that the company is branching out beyond traditional personal information checks.

Intellus launched Date Check last year for the iPhone as a practical and interesting application for conducting people searches of potential dates and people you may meet, to be able to find out more about them than you can by Googling their name before establishing a more intimate relationship. Date Check launched with the slogan “Look Up Before You Hook Up

Today’s dating scene is tough to navigate, which is why Intelius developed Date Check, a free mobile app that deciphers fact from fiction in the palm of your hand. Simply enter a name, phone number or email address and instantly get accurate and comprehensive results. With features like Sleaze Detector, Compatibility, $$$, Interests and Living Situation, you can be in the know on the go. “Look up before you hook up.”

Here’s a video about Date Check … I think it’s not only hilarious, but brilliant. Not only did I check it out, but I asked many single friends and colleagues about the tool and they ALL thought it was useful and practical.

I looked into Intelius and Date Check a bit, and got connected with the man behind the company and its vision, Naveen Jain. Naveen has a pretty long history in the world of people search, and his company acquired, a people search engine that incorporated social networking features into its people search results. I found this to be a great chance to not just talk to Naveen about his success (which is inspirational to me as an entrepreneur, publisher and a co-founder of a growing tech company with 20+ employees), but also about Date Check and the direction Intelius is going in social and mobile. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.

Hi Naveen, thanks for the time to chat. I’ve been following you for a while and am quite interested in the direction Intelius is going in. But what interests me more from a business perspective is the formula for success. What things can you attribute to your success?

  • Passion – You must be passionate about what you are trying to achieve. It must mean something to you and you must be willing to sacrifice a large part of your waking hours to this purpose. Your passion will ignite the same intensity in others who join your team and help the same cause. Your team members and your customers are more likely to believe in what you are doing because of your passion.
  • Focus – Great entrepreneurs see many opportunities where others see nothing; this is a gift but without focus can be the downfall. We can only focus on things that we can control and that means we need to stay focused on our efforts and let the results be what they will be. You have to always remember that most companies die from indigestion rather than starvation i.e. companies suffer from doing too many things at the same time rather than doing too few things.
  • Hard Work – Success comes from hard work; there is no such thing as overnight success. Behind every overnight success lies years of hard work and sweat. Even the luckiest people will tell you that there is just no easy way to achieve success. Luck comes to those who work hard. Successful entrepreneurs always give 100% of their efforts to everything they do. There should never be any regret in the outcome if one knows that they are giving it their best effort and leaving no stone unturned.

What are one of the first things you notice when you meet another business professional?

Whether they are humble. Over the years, I have learned that those who are humble typically have accomplished the most in life and have had the realization that its time to focus how YOU can help others. They usually attribute their success to having good timing and luck along with all the hard work and vision they likely had.

Since family is very important to me, there’s a common bond with those professionals who share similar values. Regardless of what size company you are CEO of, at the end of the day we are spouses, and parents concerned with the broad issues that impact us globally

How do you see people using social media and Date Check?

We’ve seen positive success with Date Check our first mobile application…consumers want immediate access to information that can help them make more informed decisions…We plan to expand our mobile offerings into services help Parents keep kids safe, business people more aware of potential partners, and overall verification of credentials

Speaking of family, with Date Check – would you let your daughter use it?

Since my daughter isn’t in college yet, she usually uses Date Check to look up her new school friends addresses or if she needs a student or home phone number quickly.

But she really thinks its useful and when she’s older and dating it will come in handy

Why is this so important today? Why now instead of before the rise of social networking?

Now people are so accustom to meeting others online with various social networks, or gaming that there’s this false sense of “trust” that’s emerge and you really have no factual information about this person you may plan to date or give phone number or invite over to your home. Years ago before social networks and online dating, you typically would get more information on the person before “blindly” inviting them over or going on a date. We receive many letters thanking us for Date Check that it reinforces all the situations where this information is helping them live a safer life for them and often their kids.

On SEJ, we write a lot about reputation management and also the sharing of information with business colleagues. For example, I take my Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and even MySpace accounts very seriously and treat them differently depending on my respected connections in each network.

Can you talk about the need for people to “manage” their online profile in today’s increasingly online world?

We’ve truly entered a new level of transparency in our private and professional lives – thanks to the Internet and the resultant “digitalizing” of information. More and more public records about your life, ranging from education and real estate transactions to social activities and business relationships are now accessible to people. From a personal, professional and safety point of view, it has never been more important than now to effectively “manage your digital footprint.”

Whether you’re being considered for a job, buying a house, having a child over for a play date or just moving next door to new neighbors, there is now a world of transparency available to give you peace of mind for important aspects of your life.

Intelius equips people with knowledge about their Internet footprint – whether it’s through our free People Search, which offers an aggregate profile of what’s online about a particular person, or through Identity Protect, which monitors your credit report, address history, aliases, and more, to make sure that you’re being accurately depicted online and beyond.

Also, there’s always the danger and threat of information being misused. The threat of identity theft is real and growing rapidly. Intelius has specific products, such as a Comprehensive Identity Report and a Real-Time Identity Fraud Watch to provide consumers with proactive means to protective many times can be used for improper purposes – we help people protect themselves from this type of practice.

Backing up a little, what makes a successful entrepreneur today?

That’s an interesting question. Openness to change, persistence and thinking without boundaries – both geographically and intellectually are key attributes I would point for being a successful entrepreneur today.

I’ll give you a concrete example. My twenty-year old son is one of the founders of a student-led global organization of young business leaders, called Kairos Society founded on the principle that entrepreneurship is the key element to driving world innovation, progress and prosperity. This year, for the second year in a row, they will bring together 500 of world’s most promising student entrepreneurs with a select group of world leaders for two days of discussion, relationship building, mentoring and idea exchange.

Entrepreneurship then is essential built on a foundation of openness and sharing of ideas, constant learning, building relationships and execution. That’s what’s happened with the Kairos Society in just two years. Let’s face it a group of college kids who have built a global organization that attracts speakers such as Bill Clinton, Phil Condit of Boeing and Bill Gates Sr. in less than two years is remarkable. These young people have truly demonstrated entrepreneurship in what they’ve accomplished. So one word of additional advice to aspiring entrepreneurs – listen to and watch what young people are doing these days. You can learn a lot by being a mentor to this up and coming generation of entrepreneurs.

On your website, you devote considerable time to philanthropy and “giving back to the community,” can you elaborate on these concepts and why they’re so important to you?

Over the past two years, when many corporations were cutting back on charitable giving because of the difficult economy, we’ve significantly increased our contributions. Quite simply, when our country has an unprecedented number of people in need, we felt it’s our responsibility to step up when others are forced to step back.

Groups who received gifts from Intelius include a mix of nonprofits supporting education, healthcare, youth and family issues. We’ve been listed among the top 15 Corporate Philanthropists in the greater Puget Sound area. Among the community organizations that have benefited from their activities are: The United Way, Children’s Hospital, Hope Link, Tree House, Boys and Girls Club, The America India Foundation, Vedic Cultural Center, Seattle Art Museum, Children Rights & You and the Bellevue School Foundation. In fact, our family foundation, this year, the Ana & Naveen Jain Foundation will hope to be among the Top 60 in the United States, the only one founded by an immigrant from India or Southeast Asia.

We hope to match or increase our contributions as a corporation while also encouraging the giving spirit in its employees. In order to achieve this, we’ve developed programs to help employees own a personal stake in the philanthropic success of the company, including:

  • A corporate matching program. Employees can donate and Intelius will match up to $250 annually to a qualified charity of the employee’s choice.
  • Paid volunteerism. Intelius will grant employees paid leave to volunteer with their favorite charities.
  • My philosophy has always been “doing well by doing good.” Like any company we want to be financially successful, but more important than that-we never want to lose sight of our core values and the understanding that we are only as good and productive as the communities we do business in.

And the results are multiple, including employees who are truly proud and energized to be associated with such an organization.

Can you talk about the concepts of “trust” and “humility” and why they are so important to how you run Intelius?

CEOs, it seems, have a natural tendency is to attract likeminded passionate workers. A sense of humility and an awareness of one’s own limitations help a CEO resist the temptation of being surrounded by “yes-men” who are more interested in telling you what they think you want to hear. As CEO, I need to welcome ideas different from mine and ensure I build a trusted culture where employees see this benefiting the company and the individuals. Another benefit, as mentioned earlier, is that the humble CEO also gets out of the way of his team. Employees than thinks more like entrepreneurs and are more self-reliant because they aren’t depending on the CEO to solve every problem. Employees must trust their bosses to provide intelligent leadership, but leaders must be humble enough so they aren’t stunting their employees’ entrepreneurialism and intelligence through micro-management, the inability to hear bad news or a misguided sense of infallibility.

At Intelius, I can tell you that trust and humility have certainly driven us to be far more customer-centric then we were when we first started the company six years ago. We’ve increased our customer services capabilities seven-fold and the result is today our Intelius Screening Solutions is ranked #1 overall in the category of employment screening services by HRO Today Magazine.

How important are these concepts to both your and Intelius’ overall success?

Our customers rely on Intelius to help them decide whom to trust with the most important parts of their lives, whether that’s their children, their finances or their marriages. We must hold ourselves to the highest possible standard of trust and integrity that’s the very thing we are delivering to our customers in millions of transactions daily.

As I’ve said before in a number of interviews, the foundation of a successful entrepreneur is based on three things: integrity, education and humility. That’s how I’ve built my own career starting at Microsoft and that’s also how we’ve built our company’s success. With this foundation, we’ve also built Intelius’ success on maintaining our focus, executing on our plan and also working hard to continually upgrade our customer service and reinforce a high level of trust with our customers, truly enjoying what we’re doing here.

We built Intelius to be a visionary company that also conducts all its business practices with a high degree of transparency and integrity, and with great respect for individuals’ privacy. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve worked hard to gain the highest qualifications in our industry that acknowledge customer service and consumer. We’ve assembled a very high quality Board of Directors who strongly support our activities here. And we’ve made our services available to intelligence agencies, the US military and others who can properly use our resources for positive purposes.

What’s your outlook for Intelius going forward – what kind of company will it be in 10 years’ time?

I think we’re sitting at the center of societies is being transformed around the world by the open access to information of all kind. All of us, in our personal and business lives will have to adapt to this new transparency and accessibility of data – and it’s already begun. From a personal, professional and family perspective, there has never been a time where it is absolutely essential to “Manage Your Digital Footprint” – and Intelius offers the most advanced, comprehensive customized solutions to address this issue in a very customer friendly way.

Two goals I would set out for Intelius going forward are the following: first, continue to be recognized as a visionary in this new global “community of information” which is growing each day and is empowering people to make better, more informed decisions. We have to do this by being entrepreneurial and implementing new ideas quickly. Second, maintain customers’ trust in everything we do, from continuing to build up customer service to being very responsive to their needs and concerns.

It’s a challenging time for many people who did not grow up with this new world of transparency, but it is the new a reality for all of us. My hope is that Intelius becomes known as an innovative and reliable partner for people trying to manage their affairs in this new, global, transparent world. The array of products we’ll be able to introduce in the coming years is literally endless. But my hope is that along with business success we also achieve a level of esteem and trust among our customers that is equal to the great global brands.

Thank you for your time Naveen. I’ve learned a good amount from this interview and I’m sure our readers, who are a majority of entrepreneurs in the fields of search marketing and social media will find some inspiration as well.

Thank you Loren.