We saw a huge opportunity to not only bring data online, but to make records meaningful. Matthew and I knew that if we could pull it off, this would be something special.
The Monahan brothers dreamed of one day running a company with the ability to impact millions. Now the Monahans are on course to fundamentally change the way we access information and protect our personal records.
New World of Records
Murphysboro, Illinois (population: 9,000) was not known for turning out innovative technology companies, but it did inspire Matthew and Brian Monahan. Growing up in the rural Midwest provided these brothers with a firm foundation and sense of community that continues to play heavily in their lives today.
Even in their early teens, self-described math geeks Brian and Matthew knew they wanted to start a technology company together, and they wanted it to be big, capable of influencing the lives of millions. They read business books and dreamed up ambitious ideas instead of pouring over comic books or playing football. Entrepreneurship simply called them.
Matthew struck first, founding an e-book company while enrolled in the entrepreneurship program at USC. Three years behind his brother, Brian left Murphysboro for Harvard. Despite changes in geography and circumstances, the tight-knit duo continued to envision a day when they could work together on something that would make a substantial impact on the online world.
A defining moment came in 2006 when Matthew attended a Berkshire Hathaway annual event. He asked Warren Buffett a question in front of the audience about how to pick the right business opportunities. Buffett replied that one should focus on things that were “inefficient.” At the time, Brian was conducting research on web searches and noticed the huge demand for people search and business information. Up to 30% of web queries were reported to be about people, but public records systems were woefully inefficient and data sources highly fragmented. Creating a technology platform to responsibly democratize public records and information became their big idea.
“We saw a huge opportunity to not only bring data online, but to make records meaningful,” explains Brian. “We focused on building a platform that would service the wide range of use cases for people and business information. We also devised ways to safeguard privacy and maintain the integrity of data searched. This is no small task. Matthew and I knew that if we could pull it off, this would be something special.”
Matthew successfully sold his e-book company and then teamed up with Brian. They named their project Inflection, inspired by Andy Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive and the concept of accelerating technology. By December of 2006, Inflection launched its first site.
It wasn’t long before Matthew moved to Silicon Valley to scale Inflection. Early responses to its product were strong. Things continued to go so well that Brian decided to leave Harvard after his sophomore year to join Matthew in California.
Since its founding in 2006, Inflection has developed multiple data services that run on its STORM platform. One of the most popular is Archives.com, a site to make family history research simple and affordable. Through Archives, the brothers identified new ways to conduct genealogical searches and steadily built their customer base.
Another Inflection-owned web property is PeopleSmart.com, designed to make accessing contact information and public records easy and privacy-friendly. Professionals, consumers, and businesses alike use the service for a wide range of everyday needs.
Inflection was bootstrapped and profitable, but the Monahans ultimately wanted to achieve more. They sought out venture capital to ensure that they could grow at a faster rate and attract top-notch Silicon Valley talent. They met with Matrix’s Josh Hannah at the firm’s office in downtown Palo Alto, just down the street from Inflection’s initial headquarters.
“When I met Brian and Matthew, Inflection was already profitable but they wanted to accomplish some ambitious goals,” recalls Josh. “These are the kind of guys you want to invest in – visionary, driven, smart, with an ability to execute. Brian and Matthew are also high energy and excited about what they’re doing and the team they’ve built, even after several years. It’s contagious.”
Matrix led Inflection’s $30 million Series A in June of 2010.
In September of 2011, the company undertook its biggest project to-date. In partnership with FamilySearch and the National Archives & Records Administration, Archives.com brought the entire U.S. Federal Census collection online and added more than half a billion records to its already massive database. The 1940 census went live on April 12, 2012. Less than two weeks later, Ancestry.com agreed to purchase Archives.com from Inflection for $100 million in cash.
With a refreshingly honest and positive approach to business, and a fiercely loyal team, Brian and Matthew Monahan are accomplishing their mission of creating an innovative technology company while maintaining the values instilled upon them back in Murphysboro. The company currently employees hundreds, and it influences millions, but best of all, the brothers built it together.
Matthew and Brian Monahan
Co-Founder & CEO / Co-Founder & Chief Idea Guy
Inflection is a data and e-commerce company headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley. The company owns and operates Archives.com and PeopleSmart.com, emerging leaders in the family history and people search markets.
Matrix Partners Board Members