Is this person important? It can be tough to tell from just an email address, but it’s a critical question for businesses vetting sales leads. Figuring it out usually meant wasting time digging yourself, or working with shady data provider.
Clearbit wants to make learning who’s behind an email address or company domain name squeaky clean and super simple. With a $2 million seed round from prestigious names like SV Angel and First Round Capital, it’s off to a good start after launching last month. “Our goal is to take a tiny amount of data and extrapolate,” says Clearbit co-founder and CEO Alex MacCaw.
Why would a business want Clearbit? Imagine getting tons of inbound sales leads from an online form, or seeing people sign up for the free tier of your freemium product. With just people’s email addresses, how would you know how your sales team should prioritize contacting these leads?
Clearbit’s API can take that email address and return the person’s name, job title, company, and social media accounts. That could clue you in to whether they’re a company’s CIO with the buying power and you should contact them immediately, a low-level employee trying out your service that you might want to track down if you have time, or some random kid who’s obviously not going to pay for your enterprise software and you can ignore.
Clearbit can also do domain lookups to tell a business what kind of company a lead came from, including their employee count, market categories, and funding raised. This informs a business about whether this lead is from the size and type of company that normally pays for their products and they should follow up with, or a company too big, small, or with the wrong focus to be a likely customer.
The Clearbit API does this by cobbling together both freely available public information. This is basically what you’d get from a Google search, but done automatically by the API. MacCaw claims that means it respects privacy.
Clearbit is also collecting its own data, scraping About pages, SSL certificates, and more. What MacCaw says Clearbit doesn’t do is buy personal data from some shady third party that may have attained it from hackers or spammers. You also have to start with contact information. You can’t punch in a name and get someone’s email address.
Clearbit also has one last API, which lets businesses look up whether someone is on a government watch list, and therefore might not be a good hire or partner.
Customers for Clearbit’s APIs now include Stripe (MacCaw’s former employer), Intercom, Asana, MailChimp and ZenPayroll. They can just use Clearbit on the back-end, or bake it into their internal office systems, like a little Rapportive tool. The service has simple pricing tiers ranging from $99 a month for about 12,500 calls per API, up to $499 and up for 250,000 calls or more.
“Our aim is not to be a CRM (customer relationship management system). Our goal is to augment their data,” MacCaw tells me. “We want to be the data infrastructure…We won’t have a public face but we’ll be powering things like Stripe.” With over 100 paying customers and 30 percent month-over-month growth thanks to the $2 million it raised from SV Angel, First Round, Fuel Capital, Zetta, and Angels like Naval Ravikant, Clearbit expects to hit break-even soon.
Clearbit’s model is especially smart now considering the rise of bottom-up freemium distribution for enterprise software. Rather than wine-and-dining a CIO, companies like Dropbox and Asana are seducing employees with basic access to a free tier, and hoping that so many sign up that their bosses start paying. Clearbit can help software vendors figure out which users have the buying power.
Competitors like FullContact are also vying to enhance business intelligence data, but MacCaw insists, “None have envisioned this as a data backbone for other businesses.” The deciding factor will be the quality of the data, though. If Clearbit can’t reliably return results for email addresses or domains, customers will look elsewhere.
Next, Clearbit wants to add more APIs, possibly including geofencing, credit checks and background checks.
“Often programmers are called 10X people, “MacCaw concludes. “If you can enable them, they can do 100X. I deeply believe the next generation of innovation is going to come from basic infrastructure improvements.”