Sramana: Was it difficult for you to come to Silicon Valley?
Adeyemi Ajao: I contemplated three options. One option was for me to come here on trips using a tourist visa; however, I was concerned that I would not have enough time to really start anything. Another option was for me to come and work for one of the large tech companies, but I did not really see myself having a boss. A third option was to come here as a student and use my time as a student to network and meet people.
After evaluating all of my options, I decided to do the third option and I enrolled at Stanford for business school. I went to Stanford in 2008 and graduated in 2010. We officially launched Identified in October of 2010. Brendan Wallace and I met at school, and we started working on the project in business school.
Sramana: What is Brendan’s background?
Adeyemi Ajao: His background is completely different from and complementary to mine. He is from the U.S. He went to Princeton and studied political science. We went straight to work at Goldman Sachs and then opened the Blackstone private equity office in LA before he decided to go to Stanford.
Sramana: What was it about Brendan and you that made you have synergy in terms business ambitions?
Adeyemi Ajao: Two things. We both have a lot of intensity. The first time we talked it was about our summer experience. We did not know each other, but we had both taken that summer before business school to travel the world and climb mountains. We both like to maximize our time. Second, we are very different. I personally excel at product. I like thinking about design, coding problems, and UI problems. During my second year as CEO of Tuenti.com all I did was handle business issues. I was dealing with lawyers, investors, and thinking about sales. I disliked that. My strength lies with product and people.
I wanted someone who was very good at business operations and execution. Brendan was very good at that. At business school he was the one who had operations and execution polish. In the two years we have worked together, he has definitely lived up to that challenge.
Sramana: When you launched this company, did you fund it yourself?
Adeyemi Ajao: We basically went over to the Stanford Engineering School and talked to some professors and students there. We explained the concept. I believe that Facebook has changed social identity. With Tuenti.com I could put on a picture of a new haircut and get feedback from other about it. I would think, “Wonderful, I am going out tonight.” If I had zero likes, then I would delete the picture. I actually measured the level at which users would delete pictures if they did not get enough likes. That fascinated me.
That feeling was very real. People struggle all their lives to figure out what their next move will be and what they want to do. There is nothing that gives you continuous feedback in professional spaces. I believe that there is enough data out there in social networks like Facebook to see what people have done with their lives that it was possible to build a service that would tell people how they were doing. I want to replicate that feeling of “Oh, my haircut is good” on a professional level.