My friends at FullContact are having their 2nd annual FullContact Connect Conference. If you are interested, you can get a 50% discount on the ticket price by using the code “Foundry” on the registration page.
Connect ‘18 is bringing together thought leaders and experts – from across industries and verticals – who are experts in the world of data-driven customer intelligence and marketing. At a time when the data industry is under the magnifying glass, Connect ’18 will deliver a mixture of thought leadership and actionable sessions from a range of excellent speakers, to equip marketing leaders to create authentic and lasting relationships with their customers.
The conference schedule has four themes:
The Art and Science of Creating Authentic Connections – how to grow your business by combining the latest technology with the lessons of exceptional customer service
Human to Human Connections – how and why companies need to throw away the traditional B2B and B2C playbooks and focus on building authentic H2H relationships
The Rise of Augmented Humanity – the role artificial intelligence is capable of playing in creating deeper customer connections
The New Dimensions Of Privacy – how can companies thrive and continue to create compelling customer experiences in the new era of data privacy
Some of the speakers include:
The weather in Denver is amazing this time of year. So, as a bonus, you can enjoy a delightfully long evening at the Clyfford Still Museum and magnificent early mornings in the mountains.
Remember, if you are interested, you can get a 50% discount on the ticket price by using the code “Foundry” on the registration page. And, there are a few sponsorship opportunities remaining, so reach out to Scott Axcell if you want to be even more engaged.
FullContact is one of our silent killers. Unless you are a customer or partner, you don’t hear much about a silent killer until it’s suddenly everywhere, leading the market it is in, and functioning extremely well at scale. One of the hints of these silent killers is their inaugural user or partner conference. An example of this from our past was the 2013 Big Boulder Conference that Gnip (now part of Twitter) put on.
Connect ‘17 is FullContact’s inaugural conference exploring social and customer intelligence, to help companies reimagine the customer journey. The goal of the conference is to get together professionals in marketing, media, customer intelligence, and other roles which focus on knowing and serving their customers better.
While this is not a new idea, we are at another inflection point in the development of tools, technology, products, and processes around this. As an industry, we’ve learned a lot about this over the past decade since web 2.0 started to emerge. Today, the components are there to once again completely redefine the customer journey and the business of personalized marketing.
And yes, I’ll be there the morning of May 11th hanging out and participating on a panel.
The conference is from May 10th through 12th at the Curtis Hotel in Denver, Colorado. While they are close to selling out, I got them to give me some discount registration codes. If you want to join us, use the code HalfOff on the registration page.
I love silent killers.
When we invested in FullContact in 2012, they were a small team with a big vision to create One Address Book To Rule Them All. Over the past four years, they’ve systematically executed on their vision, building a contact management platform that touches all aspects of the problem. Along the way they built a sizable business.
I love using a targeted acquisition approach in conjunction with a business that has a clear strategy and strong organic growth. My first company (Feld Technologies) was acquired by a company doing a rollup (AmeriData – acquired 40 companies between 1992 and 1996 when it was then acquired by GE Capital.) I learned a lot from that experience and then proceeded to try to use the rollup strategy with several other companies, including Interliant, my biggest failure of all time.
By 2002 I realized that what was classically called a rollup strategy was not generally effective, at least not for me. But by reflecting on which particular acquisitions worked, why they worked, and when they worked, along with understanding the opposite (what failed, why, and when they failed) I started to develop a clear view around a targeted acquisition strategy.
Today, I’ve got a clear view of how this can work. I’ve learned a lot from my partner Seth and his own experiences around M&A. While a few acquisitions don’t work out, with the right strategy, approach, and clarity on what success is, it can be a very powerful approach.
At the essence of the approach is a focus on two things – acquiring people and product. The classically rollup strategy was much more focused on acquiring revenue. In my world, historical revenue is the least interesting thing to consider in an acquisition strategy. The goal is to acquire technology that is on your product roadmap or people that fit culturally within your organization and help you execute on your roadmap faster. The phrase acquihire emerged from this, but many acquihire’s, especially by large companies, are not particularly well thought out or integrated into an existing roadmap.
Ultimately, the goal is to use acquisitions to compress time on product development and get people on the team, especially in senior roles, who can help build out areas of the company they have experience in. Interestingly, many technology assets don’t need a lot of people. At the same time, many people are interested in working on things other than the technology they’ve been focused on.
In FullContact’s case, the team, led by Bart Lorang, has figured out their own strategy around this and is executing well on it. In the absence of any of the acquisitions they’ve done, FullContact has a strong business. But our acquisitions of Cobook, nGame, Brewster, and now Conspire and Profoundis has accelerated our business in powerful ways.
I’m a solo runner. While I regularly get asked to go on runs with other people, I almost always decline, as one of my great joys is to run alone.
There is one exception – I love to run with CEOs and founders of companies. There are some great stories about the outcomes from these, like my runs with TA McCann that resulted in our investment in Gist. I’ve run marathons with TA, Matt Blumberg (Return Path CEO), Matt Shobe (FeedBurner co-founder), Herb Morreale, and a bunch of people including my partners Jason and Ryan.
My favorites runs are the impromtu ones with CEOs like the one I did last night with Matthew Bellows (Yesware CEO). Earlier this week, Matthew sent me a note to see if I wanted to go for a run just before a dinner we were having together with Bart Lorang (FullContact CEO). My running goal this week is “three runs of any duration” and by Tuesday I knew the dates were going Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. So I said yes and we scheduled it at 5pm – after my last meeting, but just before dinner at 6pm.
We met at my office at 5pm. The sun has gone down in Boulder by then at this time of year, but Matthew looked ready to go in his red running jacket and sweatpants. We walked down the stairs to Walnut and were blasted with a gust of cold wind. We headed up the Boulder Creek Path leading up to Canyon and out of town, straight into the cold wind.
We talked non-stop. He had a few things on his mind and I gave him feedback. As the minutes unfolded, I noticed I was doing a lot more talking as I told a few stories to underline my points, but it could have been that he was enjoying just plodding along at my slow pace, enjoying the run.
At the turn around point where the Creek Path starts really heading up the canyon, we stopped for a moment and looked around. Matthew has spent a lot of time in Boulder, including a two year period earlier in his life, and he emits the glow of someone who was touched by living here and always loves to be back.
The trip downhill with the wind at our backs felt a lot faster and before we knew it, we were back at my office. Matthew was going to head back to the hotel, shower, and change but I reminded him we were in Boulder so instead we just walked over to Bramble & Hare and hard dinner with Bart, which was awesome at many levels.
Matthew – thanks for another great CEO run!
I live in Gmail. Gmail Contacts has been lame for a long time. Within an email, it’s even lamer on the right side bar, especially since it could be so amazingly useful.
I’ve been obsessed about the contact management problem for many years. In 2012 when we invested in FullContact, I wrote a post titled One Address Book To Rule Them All. FullContact has made great progress in the past two years on this problem while building a substantial enterprise API business. At the same time, we’ve been working extremely hard on a wide range of consumer products which are all just now rolling out into production (many have been in beta for the past year.)
I use all of them. FullContact for Gmail. FullContact for iOS. FullContact for MacOS. FullContact Web. All integrate with each Address Books on all my devices and computers. Everything syncs bidirectionally. Everything integrates with my contacts in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, AngelList, and Foursquare. FullContact deduplicates everything so I only have one integrated contact record for each person. It enriches each contact record automatically with new public data that is finding on a continual basis.
This is a really hard problem. We invested in a company called Gist in 2009 – it was acquired early in its life by RIM in a deal that was financially successful for everyone involved, but before Gist rolled out in a big way. At the time, Gist was competing with several other companies, including Rapportive, all which were ultimately acquired and then more or less abandoned.
While we hoped to blanket the world with FullContact in 2014, we knew that waiting until we got the underlying massively large data infrastructure right, at scale, in a way that wouldn’t fuck up any contacts, was price of admission for going big on the consumer side. So we focused on building out our enterprise API business which started the year at a substantial level and tripled in 2014. At the same time, we acquired a company called CoBook and went extremely heads down on getting to a place where we thought we were ready to fix everyone’s address books on Planet Earth.
We are there. FullContact for Gmail is the first product to be released. If you are a Gmail user, quit fooling around, download it, and make your life a lot better right now. And get ready for several more releases in the next few months.
The FullContact team works as hard as any team I know. I’m proud of you guys and glad to be on this ride with you to finally solve a problem that has vexed me my entire adult life.
Amy and I take a week off the grid every quarter. It is one of the things that has kept me sane and us together over the past 14 years.
This morning I saw a great short clip from the Today Show that got forwarded around on the US becoming a no vacation nation. They include an interview with Bart Lorang discussing FullContact’s Paid PAID vacation policy. It also shows an iconic picture of what stimulated this, which was Bart checking his email on his iPhone while riding on a camel with his then girlfriend / now wife in front of some pyramids.
Everyone in my universe works incredibly hard. But the really great ones know the value of disconnecting for periods of time to recharge their batteries and refresh their brains. If you want more on this, grab a copy of the book Amy and wrote called Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur.
I love playing offense.
FullContact is officially in this mode and today announced that they have acquired Cobook with Pot, Ski Passes and Dogecoin. Kaspars Dancis – the awesome CEO of Cobook – has a more seriously titled (and equally serious post) up at COBOOK + FULLCONTACT.
One of my basic strategies as an investor is to use targeted small acquisitions throughout the life of a company. In 2005 Fred Wilson called this approach the “venture rollup” and said nice words about me and it in his post when he said “My good friend Brad Feld is up to his old tricks. Brad is the master of the venture rollup.”
We’ve been investors in FullContact for about 18 months. They’ve got a real business at this point, are growing very fast, and working hard on their mission of creating One Address Book To Rule Them All. If you haven’t tried FullContact’s Address Book, you are missing out. The magic feature of “unified contacts” that they’ve been working on for over a year is up, running, and amazing.
Cobook is a perfect acquisition for us. The Cobook team has developed beautiful Mac and iOS address books. We’ve admired them for a while and decided a few months ago to join forces to have them accelerate our development on other platforms. The full team is moving from Latvia to Denver and is already hard at work integrating FullContact and Cobook.
If you’ve been watching what the companies I’m involved are up to, you saw this move in November when Yesware bought Attachments.me. And you’ll see it from companies I’m involved in again, and again, and again.
We just led an investment in Kato and I’ll be joining the board.
Like the contact management problem, the real-time communication problem is a total mess. In the last decade, there has been a proliferation of efforts to address real-time communications in the enterprise. New collaboration systems, such as Microsoft SharePoint and Lotus Connections emerged. This evolved into enterprise social computing systems, such as NewsGator (which I’m on the board of) and Jive. Lightweight approaches that tried to emulate Facebook, such as Yammer (now owned by Microsoft) became visible, chat got integrated in broader messaging systems like Skype and Google Hangouts, which in turn were subsumed by larger messaging systems at Microsoft and Google, and the result is that the default continues to be the soul-crushing and mind-numbing least common denominator known as email.
The problem has accelerated in the past two years. We now use multiple communication products across our portfolio of over 60 companies. Some use Jive. Some use Yammer. Some use HipChat. Some use Flowdock. Some use Campfire. Some try to use Google+. Some still use IRC. And some have simply given up and just use email.
When I try to get in the real-time communication streams, I have to use the specific system that each company uses. With many of them, I have to have a unique login for each company. I log in with one account (usually with an email address that company #1 gave me), check it and respond, log out, log in to the next account (with a different email address specific to company #2), check it and respond, and repeat. This is fun for about three minutes, at which time I just start getting the daily email notices of activity and periodically click on a link, login, and try to respond to something, assuming my login works correctly and I can remember the login / password for that particular company.
While the individual systems work – with different levels of happiness – they just suck across organizations. My world is a network, not a hierarchy, and I want to, and need to, communicate across many different organizations. Ultimately, I want ONE place to centralize all of this. Unfortunately, the only answer today is email. And that just sucks.
My email habits changed significantly when I started using Gmail. Search, across my entire email corpus, eliminated the need for me to use folders and store anything. I didn’t have to remember stuff. Conversations threaded everything.
Kato has similar powerful features that change the way I use real-time messaging. Each “room” (which can include people from Foundry Group, other organizations, or anyone I invite to that specific room) are searchable across the entire corpus. Search works everywhere – I don’t really have to remember anything other than a hint to I’m looking for. I can skim when I want, the same way I use Twitter. Or I can read every message in a room. I can integrate any third-party service I want into a room (currently 25 – adding about one a week). Soon I’ll be able to synchronize data with other real-time systems.
Oh – and there’s an API so you can do whatever you want with it. For example, during a hack day, the gang at FullContact did a bi-directional sync with Campfire. So now I can see everything but don’t have to deal with Campfire. And I get my Asana stream in a room – consolidated across the four different Asana organizations that I’m a part of.
Andrei and Peter have had Kato available for early adopters six weeks after they wrote the first line of code. They have a Support room for every customer that they participate in (in real-time) and drive their product based on real-time customer feedback. It’s amazing to watch and participate in.
While we are still very early in the process, I’m absolutely blown away by what these two guys did over the summer at Techstars. And I’m looking forward to working closely with them to attack a problem that has vexed me every day for the past 20 years.
Update: Cards@fullcontact.com is no longer available as FullContact has integrated this into all of their consumer applications. The simplest approach to doing this is now FullContact CardReader.
There are some things I wish would just go away forever. Business cards are one of those things. I stopped carrying them several years ago and simply give people my email address (email@example.com) as my primary contact data. But at the end of every day I have a handful of cards to deal with. Sometimes it is one or two; often it is a big pile.
Yesterday I was at the Xconomy Big Data Conference in Boston. I was the lead off keynote speaker so I decided to spend my 30 minutes doing a rant on Big Data that I started off with the line “Big Data is Bullshit.” It was fun for me and I hope useful for the 500 people in the audience.
I ended up with 20+ business cards from people who I talked to in between sessions. During the afternoon, I took a photo of each of them with my iPhone, emailed the photo to firstname.lastname@example.org, and then tossed the card in the trash. I now have a photo of my card on my iPhone and due to the magic of the FullContact CardShark API the data was automagically turned into a vCard and a Google contact. I got emails back with each card, clicked one button on the email, and voila the contact data was in my Gmail Contacts data.
My friends at FullContact talk about how they do this in their post If Only CardMunch Were An API… Oh Yes We Did!. When CardMunch first came out I was a happy user. I struggled some with quality, but put up with it because it was better than the alternative. I stopped using it about six months ago due to reliability and the overly tight integration with LinkedIn at the exclusion of other approaches.
We’ve been investing in our Glue theme and Protocol theme for a long time – well before we started Foundry Group. Many of our Glue investments and our Protocol investments are growing quickly and becoming integral parts of the Internet and web software infrastructure.
It made me smile to see a recent post from Promoboxx titled We’re Powered by TechStars Companies. It’s a great post about focusing on what matters for your product while leveraging great technology infrastructure from other companies. Several of the companies we are investors in are mentioned, including SendGrid and FullContact, each which are TechStars companies that we invested in after they finished the program.
For as long as I’ve been involved in writing and creating software there has always been a deep philosophy of creating building blocks that you can leverage. Something magical happened around this with the web and in the past five or so years there have been a number of amazing companies created that are easy to quickly integrate, either through a little bit of code or an API. It’s part of thing that has changed the dynamics of creating and launching a web software company, dramatically lowering the price of just getting something out there so you can start getting real feedback from users and customers.
When I reflect on this year’s Glue Conference, it feels like we’ve finally reached a tipping point where this concept is ubiquitous. I expect we’ll talk about it at Defrag and Eric Norlin’s post from yesterday titled The 20 Year Cycle hints to some of the deeper ideas about how this affects enterprise software and corporate IT, in addition to all the obvious consumer implications.
It’s a great time to be building software – the innovation curve is speeding up, not slowing down, and I expect when we look back 20 years from now we won’t recognize what we were doing in 2012.