The origin of the site was at the Startup School on October 15 2005, where computer programmer Ethan Herdrick was exposed to Paul Graham, founder of venture capitalist firm Y Combinator. On March 1 2008, Herdrick and business partner Daniel Terhorst launched the Biographicon with a small amount of seed funding and advice from Y Combinator. Herdrick serves as the company's Chief Executive Officer, while Terhorst is Chief Technology Officer.
The Wired Campus has labelled the Biographicon "Wikipedia for non-notables in reference to the fact that unlike the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the Biographicon does not have a notability threshold for inclusion, operating under the tagline "all the people of the world". Writing for The Independent, Rhodri Marsden comments that on the Biographicon, "anyone can put up details about themselves without fear of being nominated for deletion", though he observes that as the site operates using wiki software, "there's always the chance that someone will log in and alter your entry to include the time you cried on a school trip because someone stole your sandwiches." Ars Technica describes it as "a potential "who's who" of world history. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch notes that at least for the time being, anyone can edit any page of the Biographicon, and that the directory will have to overcome the initial problem of making writing biographies for the site attractive enough to give it traction with a broad user base.