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Fast contact search puts Israeli start-up on Fortune 500 map

SphereUp’s technology helps users wade through the morass of names, phone numbers, and email addresses, to find the person they need almost instantaneously

Yevgeny Safovich (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Yevgeny Safovich (Photo credit: Courtesy)

In a world where patience is at a premium, and where information on almost any topic can be found instantaneously – thanks to the Internet – tracking down individuals can still be a time-consuming chore. There’s really been no equivalent to a Google search for contacts, whether you’re on your own or in an academic or business institution.

Until Israeli start-up SphereUp came up with one, that is – enabling users to do lightning-fast searches for individuals based on name, job description, location, or any other significant attribute. SphereUp’s approach is so unique that the company has been drawing attention from corporations, hospitals, universities, investors – and some of the biggest data companies in the world, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Although SphereUp CEO Yevgeny Safovich wouldn’t confirm any of the rumors that sites with large numbers of members — like Facebook or LinkedIn — have expressed interest in partnering with SphereUp, the fact is that several high-profile investors who have “been around” the tech scene have invested significant amounts in the company, in the belief that SphereUp is a start-up with a big future. In its most recent funding round, SphereUp raised $2.5 million, with financing led by US investment fund AJJS Holdings, managed by CEO Alex Jurovitsky and Jacob Shochat, who sold Dynamic Imaging to GE Healthcare in 2007, along with Ofer Ben-Shachar, who founded Java software platform NetDynamics and sold the company to Sun Microsystems (since acquired by Oracle).

SphereUp’s specialty, said Safovich, is “smart contact search,” which means giving users the ability to find anyone on a website, smart phone, contact database, or any other information source with a quick, easy search on any website or other user interface. For example, if you were searching for a doctor on a hospital website — where there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of contact names to wade through — SphereUp will let you search by name, specialty, department, or any other criteria. The search is nearly instantaneous, with SphereUp indexing all the relevant information using its patented system.

One of the big advantages of SphereUp is its ability to eliminate duplicates and triplicates in contact lists, a chronic aspect of nearly all contact collections. Often, business users will have five or six entries for the same person, with different phone numbers (some outdated), email addresses, and other contact information. Sorting through the data and figuring out which one is the “right” person can be a frustrating experience, to say the least.

But SphereUp has the ability to parse through the relevant sources and aggregate the information, letting users have quick access to all contact information, displaying it on one screen. “We can collect data from unstructured sources as well as organized databases, eliminating duplicates and displaying only the relevant data.” The information displayed is just about everything available associated with the person being searched — phone numbers, email, photos, websites, etc., said Safovich.

Safovich (former r&d group manager at Comverse) and his founding partner Ronen Abramov began SphereUp in 2009, but only started marketing the service in the past year or so. Since then, the company has landed numerous high-profile Israeli clients, including Leumit Health Funds, FedEx Israel, the Wolfson Medical Center, and others.

Meanwhile, word is getting out to the rest of the world about SphereUp, said Safovich. “We expect to soon be signing contracts with some large companies in the US. Many large enterprise firms are interested in our technology.” And those Facebook or LinkedIn sale rumors? “I really can’t say anything about that, but we are getting a very positive reputation among Fortune 500 companies. They see our technology on other websites, and they are interested in it for themselves. Companies like Facebook and LinkedIn, where users have many contacts, would benefit greatly from our technology. I am sure we will find a way to work with them.”

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