Nimble Goes After Salesforce, Wants To Be The “Pandora Of Contacts”

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Jon Ferrara thinks Salesforce is doing it wrong when it comes to social. The founder of Goldmine, a CRM company he sold for $100 million nearly a decade ago, is attacking the market a different way with his latest startup, Nimble. “We are effectively Salesforce but social,” he says, taking a jab at what is now the 800-pound gorilla.

Salesforce would counter that it has Chatter and Radian6, but punching up is always a good way to get noticed (just ask Marc Benioff, who became a billionaire tussling with Microsoft and Oracle).

“We have spent time interviewing their dev team,” says Ferrara. “A lot of the stuff they are talking about, they don’t have. Even if they were to build a product, their margins are razor-thin and they are getting hammered.”

Not only is Ferrara talking to Salesforce’s dev team, he just hired away the product director who made Chatter Mobile, Jason McDowall, who will now head up the team building Nimble’s mobile apps.

Nimble isn’t going up against Salesforce head-on. That would be stupid. Instead, it is trying to nail the social component of business communications. Nimble is an enterprise social platform built around contacts, calendars, and communications (both internal and external). It ties together email with social streams (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and puts it all into one interconnected database.

“CRM tools are not about communications,” says Ferrara. “It is a management tool, a way for managers to keep a hand around the neck of managers. CRM doesn’t tell you anything, you have to tell it everything.”

A better way to think of Nimble is as a social contact and communications database which ties into other enterprise and social services. Today, it pulls in messages from Gmail, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. With its next release, it will pull integrate with HubSpot (which turns website visitors into sales leads), Infochimps (datasets), and WuFoo (online forms).

The list of planned integrations includes Get Satisfaction, Yammer, Zendesk, Assistly, Quickbooks, and Freshbooks.

The more data Nimble can ingest about your customers, the more it can do with that data in the future. Ferrara’s goal is to make Nimble the “Pandora of contacts”—you put in two names, and it will spit put other contacts like those people. It will ingest your company’s social graph and tell you who you are close to, who is slipping away, and who you should be talking to that you are not.

For Ferrara, this goes way beyond CRM. “Hiring a social media person for the company won’t work,” he says. “The conversation is so vast everyone needs to be a part of it.”

Ferrara built Nimble with $2 million of his own money and 20 developers over two years. He just recently raised a $1 million seed round from Mark Cuban, Google Ventures, and others.

Nimble is still in beta and about to roll out a major upgrade in February which it will start charging for (first 500 people to register here will get 90 days free).