“Most product ideas never get built because they never get started; so if we can help people start projects by finding a collaborator, CollabFinder has the potential to have immense impact on the world.”—Sahadeva Hammari

Sahadeva Hammari + Gil Hildebrand + Simon Lawrence + Zhengjun Chen + Chris Jee: Co-Founders, CollabFinder

“most product ideas never get built because they never get started; so if we can help people start projects by finding a collaborator, collabfinder has the potential to have immense impact on the world.”—sahadeva hammari

Interview with Sahadeva Hammari:

Are self-selected groups, versus assigned groups, more successful?
CollabFinder Groups work like most Groups: someone steps up, creates a Group, and provides a place where members of an existing Group can connect, or they form a totally new Group. In the case of totally new Groups, it works like you’d expect: someone creates a Group on a topic like Climate Change, and people around the world interested in that topic Google it, come across the Group, and form a community of likeminded people that, thanks to CollabFinder, can team up and build real projects. It’s pretty rare that our Groups are used with a very specific group of people in mind. Our Groups are more of a way to find and make a community of people who are loosely tied together by a cause, organization, or location more tightly knit together and collaborative. In cases where every member of a Group already knows one another pretty well, CollabFinder isn’t as useful.

How has technology made it easier for collaboration?
It’s actually very hard to overestimate the impact of technology on collaboration. Translation tools, like Google Translate, allow people to communicate and collaborate across language barriers in real-time. Online editing tools like and Google Docs allow people to collaborate in real-time across distances and timezones. And tools like CollabFinder allow people to find great collaborators around the world in a few clicks. The web itself was created to help scientists collaborate and share data across the world with ease, and everything, from science to music to publishing, is being reshaped by technology, much of which is aimed at collaboration.

CollabFinder Logo

courtesy of sahadeva hammari

In your opinion, what are the most helpful types of collaboration tools?
Well, email probably beats everything. Beyond that though, at CollabFinder, we think that helping people take the first step in product development—taking their idea into reality—will have a much bigger impact on the world than explicit collaboration tools. In other words, most product ideas never get built because they never get started; so if we can help people start projects by finding a collaborator, CollabFinder has the potential to have immense impact on the world. If you think about it, everyone has a ton of ideas, and most of them never get worked on, often because people don’t have the knowledge or skills to build them alone. CollabFinder shines when someone, like an engineer, has an idea, but can’t develop it because they need a designer, a chemist, or a filmmaker to build it with. We help people with ideas find someone who’s interested in that idea. If you imagine that only 1% of project ideas ever get started, often because someone can’t start it themselves, just increasing that percentage to 2% will have a bigger impact on the world than all of the other stuff that happens after someone starts working on an idea. That’s our goal.

Just two days ago, I got an email from someone who started an app with two people he met on CollabFinder. He had an idea in his head for a long time, and was finally able to start because of CollabFinder. Their app helps people who are depressed or suicidal find someone to talk to with one click, instantly. Those few moments in someone’s life are so crucial, and this app could have a meaningful impact on them. That’s the kind of story we live for.

Do you think interactive social tools can ever equal physical proximity for collaboration?
Nothing beats sitting next to someone working on an idea in real time, and probably nothing will. Face-to-face communication is far more effective than online tools.

For people who can’t be in the same room at the same time, though, or from the perspective of organizations, having collaborative software and tools has an immense impact. You can’t have a thousand people in a room all talking at once, for example, so having sophisticated tools to handle that has allowed large organizations to work at incredible speed. Similarly, if you have to choose between working with someone nearby that’s just an OK musician, for example, or with a world-class musician across the world, it may now be possible to produce a better piece of music in the latter case with online collaboration tools.

Why does CollabFinder work well?
CollabFinder works because it focuses on a part of the collaboration world that most people don’t appreciate—helping people find collaborators. Many, many great ideas require more than one person to build them, and that’s where we come in. We’ve shown that people can start real, amazing things with people on the internet—many funded startups have come out of CollabFinder, for example. A few years ago, people thought it was crazy to try to date people you met on the internet, and now something like 25% of marriages come out of relationships started on the web. We’re doing the same thing for creative collaborations.

Have you noticed a trend in the types of projects that people join?
CollabFinder has probably followed the same trend as most web tools: first, early adopters use it, then everyone else jumps in. When we first started, it was only four programmers and designers, and most of the projects that people worked on were startups and apps. Now, we’ve opened up the platform to musicians, scientists, artists, and others. The variety of projects has exploded, and we love it.

What comprises a great group?
We have a feature called CollabFinder Groups that lets anyone create a place for certain kinds of projects. For example, UC Berkeley has a CollabFinder Group where their students can connect with one another across campus, and that provides a place on the web for their students to post projects that other students can jump in and help build. CollabFinder Groups can relate to a place, like a university, or a topic, like photo sharing or music. Groups allow people to more easily find likeminded people, and organizations are using them with great success to help their members connect with one another and team up on new projects. UC Berkeley saw a huge spike in the number of cross-disciplinary, cross-campus collaborations happening, thanks to CollabFinder. There are a ton of ways to use CollabFinder Groups, and often the best ones are the Groups that are well defined and focused on making a specific place more collaborative. Or, they focus on a problem like climate change, where people around the world can connect based on their interest in that topic.

How many of the groups collaborate long distance?
Many of the CollabFinder Groups are global, though many are tied to a specific location. For something like climate change, having a global Group works really well because it helps scientists, engineers, and others connect with one another based on very specific projects. An engineer working on a new kind of solar technology, for example, can easily find chemists, engineers, and designers who are interested in working on solar projects in that Group, that may not exist locally.

Can you describe an example of a successful collaborative that came from CollabFinder?
One of the first really successful projects built by a team that formed on CollabFinder is, a site that connects people with products that need to be produced with manufacturers across the United States. Another recent favorite is the Kindly App (, which is getting a lot of buzz on the web right now. Also, the University Groups are seeing some fantastic projects, and that’s what I’m most excited about.