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Alumnus to launch new website

Kristen Durbin | Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Notre Dame is not often associated with the phrase “tech startup.”

But the Notre Dame-bred creators of the social media website Wikify.me hope to put the University on the tech world’s radar with the site’s March 26 launch at Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross.

“We’re trying to put Notre Dame on the map for a tech startup, to become known as ‘that tech startup that came out of Notre Dame,'” founder and 2011 alumnus James Ingallinera said. “Seeing a tech startup out of Notre Dame is pretty unusual, so the idea of the startup being successful would bring the school into a new domain.”

Ingallinera founded Wikify.me in the fall of 2010 with the goal of offering users a “third-person perspective” on social media by featuring a “page about you created by your friends,” he said.

“It’s an alternate perspective to everything out there in social media, which revolves around the first-person perspective,” Ingallinera said. “You are the moderator of your own page, but others can contribute to it. You have complete control of everything on your page, from who can contribute to it to who can see it.”

After enlisting a firm to build the original version of the site, Ingallinera recruited 2011 alumnus Trey Griffith, senior KC Youm, juniors Kyle Buckley and Bobby Thompson and sophomore Michael McDonald to serve as the site’s “house team.” Since graduating from Notre Dame, Ingallinera has quit his job at Bain Capital to pursue development of Wikify.me full-time.

Wikify.me will initially be open exclusively to students at Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross. Based on the site’s performance and user feedback, the team will decide whether to expand to a larger audience or keep it on “home turf,” Ingallinera said.

“We’re starting here because we feel that the feedback we get would be more useful from somewhere we’re already affiliated with and help us create a successful company,” he said.

Thompson likened the site to a “reverse Twitter” that focuses on users’ thoughts about a given user instead of a user’s thoughts and opinions on others. Wikify.me pages also display a list of contributors on the side of the page, which Thompson said fits in line with the “followers and following” feature of Twitter.

Youm said the current version of the site has been simplified to a few core features but will change according to user feedback.

“We had a bunch of ideas in the beginning and we had to streamline it, so we are going to start with as stripped down a version as we can and then build on it based on user feedback,” Youm said.

Ingallinera said user feedback will be especially important in developing the site, which is one of the first of its kind in terms of its unique perspective on social networking.

“It’s a new concept that hasn’t been tested too extensively to date, so it’s kind of a question mark,” he said. “Well over half the people we’ve run the idea by found it interesting and were willing to sign up, so I think it will be pretty well-received.”

In addition to offering users personal pages featuring contributions from other users, Wikify.me will eventually incorporate pages for other organizations based on user feedback, such as restaurants, local businesses and student organizations, Ingallinera said.

“The concept of the site involves the outside looking in versus the other way around,” he said. “We want to start with people but branch out beyond individuals to whatever our users want to see in terms of what everyone is saying about those things.”

Youm and Thompson said they and other team members have been promoting the site among their friends and in related classes, including computer programming and Internet development, and feedback from these promotions has been generally positive.

Based on this initial feedback, Ingallinera and his team said they are optimistic about the future of Wikify.me and its ability to bring Notre Dame into the realm of social media development.

“We hope to help Notre Dame establish a presence in an area that it is largely unknown for … by building a real company,” Ingallinera said.

Contact Kristen Durbin at kdurbin@nd.edu