Handy Elephant – A Memory Extension For Savvy Networkers

App helps entrepreneurs and business people maintain relationships 

A Cambridge entrepreneur has developed a productivity app that extends the skills used to maintain stable relationships in the real world into social networking. Benjamin F. Wirtz, founder of Handy Elephant, says it is not communications technology but the capacity of the brain that limits the number of stable relationships you can maintain.

He says: “Social scientists believe there is a limit to the number of people we can maintain stable social relationships with. This is known as Dunbar’s number and is taken to be approximately 150. The internet and social networking has greatly increased the number of people we have in our network, but Dunbar’s number still holds true. You can pile up hundreds of contacts, but that does not mean all of them are actually useful and active relationships.”

During his Bachelors degree Ben studied social and psychological aspects of computing, including why people use social networks. He then went on to study the impact of networking for entrepreneurs and how it can improve their chances of success. Using this knowledge of how humans build and maintain relationships, Benjamin developed Handy Elephant to give a structured and productive approach to relationship management.

The Handy Elephant productivity app provides an ‘extension to the memory’. It keeps track of interactions such as phone calls and emails to ensure that important business relationships aren’t allowed to slip. It monitors these relationships and tells you what to do with this information, letting you know who to get in touch with and how your follow-up is most effective.

It was evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar who first developed the concept of an optimum social grouping by studying primates. He plotted brain size against group size and for humans came up with 150. Although initially looked implausibly small, it turned out that this was the size of a typical community in hunter-gatherer societies and the average size of a village size in the Domesday Book.

Handy Elephant builds on these innate networking skills and is unique in the way it is approaching this.  Without any action required by the user, Handy Elephant analyses the user’s past interactions with his contacts to suggest a good channel and time to follow up with these contacts.

Since most sales teams already use a relationship management application which can store thousands of contacts, Handy Elephant integrates with CRMs such as Salesforce so data is automatically synced. The process is fully automated and in real-time, so calls from a field sales employee to a client no longer have to be logged manually. The time saved can be invested more productively into securing sales or nurturing relationships.

The team at Handy Elephant have released an Android application, which is available for free on the Android Market, as well as a paid addon application which logs phone calls to Salesforce automatically. They are soon to release a web application, which also includes email communications and an iPhone app.

Written by Rachel Holdsworth

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