Clarity, the startup that connects experts with advice seekers for one-on-one calls, today announced a $1.6 million seed investment round. The round includes a lot of notable investors, all of whom are Clarity users themselves, according to founder Dan Martell, including Baseline Ventures, Freestyle Capital, Mark Cuban, Boris Wertz from Version One Ventures, Real Ventures, 500 Startups and more.
Like Martell, this investment round for his company has one foot planted firmly on either side of the Canadian/U.S. border. A Moncton, New Brunswick, native, Martell has also found success in Silicon Valley, having previously founded Flowtown, which was acquired by Demandforce in 2011. Clarity is his most recent venture, which launched in May to help entrepreneurs seeking advice and to help more experienced experts in startups, VC, and general business find a way to offer their assistance as easily as possible, via direct phone calls that are easy to schedule and manage in and around an already packed day. Experts can offer their time for free, or charge and either take in the profits themselves (with a cut going to Clarity) or redirect them in their entirety to a charity of their choosing.
Martell and his team have been focused on refining the product since launch. In October, Clarity did away with a feature that called participants directly at appointment times, instead providing conference lines for dial-in initiated by the entrepreneurs and experts themselves. This was something that Martell said has increased successful call-completion rates considerably.
“In the early days, we had this idea of a call list, so you could request a call of somebody, and if they were free it would call you back,” he said. “It was a cool and lightweight way to do that in the early days when there were a lot of free calls, but now that we’ve proven the demand is there, a lot of people are actually charging for advice. If you’re paying, you want to be sure that the advice is thoughtful, scheduled and timely. Before, our call-completion rate was only around 20 percent, and now it’s around 70 percent. It’s been a huge improvement. And with the conference call it really invites team members to participate in those conversations, so it’s not just a one-to-one thing.”
Alongside this funding announcement, Clarity is launching new products, including Clarity Needs, a match-making service that helps people looking for advice find recommended individuals from other Clarity users via requests for specific kinds of help. Clarity is also watching these human-powered recommendations improve its own categorization of experts on its network. This should help those looking for advice to find people on their own when community help isn’t available. Also new is a blog that draws from entrepreneurial community sources to provide relevant content to Clarity’s user base. It’s essentially a content marketing angle, but one that should also make Clarity feel like more of a community hub and less of a use-case-specific tool, like a WebEx or other virtual conferencing app.
As for Martell’s plans for the new round of funding, he says that much of it will continue to go to building out refinements on the backend. There is also some work to be done on getting the service out and available to more of the global entrepreneurial community.
“Things that have come up that we’re going to be addressing are localization — adding languages such as Spanish and French, and building the product and the search technology to be able to support those kind of filters so that people in Quebec or France can find other entrepreneurs that can speak French, and people in South America or parts of Europe can find folks who speak Spanish.”
Clarity’s call volume is growing, Martell says, but officially the tally is still somewhere north of 12,000, which is what he shared with Colleen Taylor in an interview for TCTV in October. The startup had 6,000 experts signed up to provide advice at the time, but that number has grown considerably since: Martell now says there are around 7,500 mentors on board, which is impressive growth on the supply side for under two months. This new injection of funding should help Clarity grow, as it looks to connect founders hungry for perspective with the knowledge they crave in a way that’s cheaper and more convenient and comes with fewer strings attached than doing something like joining an accelerator.