IdeaPlane is a startup that brings enterprise social networking to companies in regulated industries, such as finance, that might otherwise have been reticent about embracing social technologies. 

I caught up with CEO and founder James Fabricant, himself a former executive at MySpace, to find out more about his vision for the company and the future of the industry.

In one sentence, what is IdeaPlane?

Built in partnership with one of the world’s biggest investment banks, IdeaPlane is an enterprise social network that provides the best of both worlds: easy-to-use social tools combined with enterprise-grade security, compliance and privacy controls.  

What problems does IdeaPlane solve?

I truly believe that enterprise social networking (ESN) can aid collaboration and knowledge sharing among employees in the financial sector and in regulated companies such as law firms.

While ESNs are catching on quickly in many kinds of businesses, improving internal collaboration, it has been difficult for companies in regulated industries to tap into this trend because of concerns over security, compliance and privacy controls. Until now.

When and why did you launch it?

We launched about two years ago. As a former MySpace International executive, I experienced first-hand the power of social networking. However, I was always intrigued to find out how this power could be harnessed in a business environment. 

Nowadays most of us use social tools regularly, whether it’s LinkedIn for professional networking or Facebook for socialising with friends. But the use case for businesses has never been entirely clear. 

How are you funding the company?

The company is privately funded at the moment; we have a number of high profile investors such as Kevin Eyres and Clare Flynn Levy are currently looking to complete a first major funding round.

Who is your target audience?

I believe that most businesses will be able to extract significant value from enterprise social networks. With our focus on security and control, we are specifically looking to target regulated industries such as those in financial industries, banks, law firms, and life science companies.

What are your immediate goals?

The market for ESNs is growing fast. IDC has forecast that spending will grow at a compound annual rate of 42.4% from $0.8 billion in 2011 to $4.5 billion in 2016. McKinsey also estimates that the use of social technologies within enterprises could contribute $600 billion to $867 billion in value annually. 

We think we have identified a gap in the market and so will be looking to educate companies in these sectors as quickly as possible to secure first mover advantage. From the conversations we are having at the moment, it seems as though there is significant appetite out there from companies that, until now, would have been cautious. 

What were the biggest challenges involved in building IdeaPlane?

Education is a big part of what are looking to achieve at the moment. This is a disruptive technology and challenges businesses to think and act in new ways. One we have proved the business case and demonstrated that IdeaPlane is built with security and compliance as part of its DNA, the decision to deploy is relatively simple.

How will the company make money?

We operate a simple licence model that allows companies to deploy and implement IdeaPlane across the business very quickly and are currently running an exclusive Alpha Programme for a select number of forward thinking companies looking to work with us to shape the future of enterprise social networking.

We will offer our solution to these special companies at £100 per month for the first year of deployment.

Who is in the team and what does it look like?

I lead a fantastic team of 13 people that have significant experience in start-ups, technological development and compliant industries. Prior to founding IdeaPlane, I was an executive at MySpace International and played an integral part in its global expansion, including launching MySpace in 17 languages across 30 countries. 

Our CTO, Francesco Bovoli, oversees the engineering and development of our platform. He brings 10 years of experience in technology development and more than six years experience in financial services consulting. Prior to joining IdeaPlane, he worked as a technology consultant at Accenture, Google and Cisco. 

Customer experience is very important to us and our VP of product and user experience, Edward Kind, has over 10 years experience working for My Space and Mubi. He lives in San Francisco and is an active member of Silicon Valley’s startup community.

Where would you like to be in one, three and five year’s time?

We expect to see a massive shift as broad adoption of enterprise social networks takes hold across financial services companies. Eventually we expect all companies to have a ‘social engine’ at their centre, where users will discover information most relevant to them. 

Regulated industries have only scratched the surface in terms of harnessing the power of social networking. Once companies know there are secure, compliant solutions with the necessary control to reflect working habits in highly regulated environments, then the potential to unlock corporate value will begin to be realised.