Jingle Networks, which runs a free 411 service called 1-800-Free411, has raised $26 million in a Series B financing. The round was led by existing investor Liberty Associated Partners. Also participating were existing investors First Round Capital and IDG Ventures Boston, as well as new investor Comcast Interactive Capital.
Our earlier profile of Free411 is here. The service is a free alternative to $1-$2 directory calls. The catch? You have to listen to a 12 second advertisement.
It works mostly like normal directory assistance. You dial their phone number and go through an automated system that asks for the location, type of listing and listing name. While you are waiting for the number, you must listen to a 12 second advertisement from a competitor to the service. If you choose to use the competitor instead, you simply dial “1″ to redirect your call.
Another difference is that if there is no local advertiser for the business type you have requested, the business receiving the call hears a short message at the beginning of the call telling them that the call is via Free-411. A tele-sales group follows up with the business to try to get them to advertise. Free-411 claims a 13% success rate in converting businesses to advertisers.
And they are seeing explosive growth. Free411 is now handling 7 million calls per month – out of a total of 500 million directory assistance calls per month in the U.S. That’s about 1.5% of the total market. Investor Josh Kopelman from First Round Capital has another way of looking at it: “1-800-FREE411 has the potential to shrink an $8 billion market.”