Jigsaw - the Wikipedia for business cards

Meliza Solan Surdi · August 17, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/a01

Co-founder and CEO Jim Fowler on rebuilding the database for business information

In this segment, Bambi Francisco interviewed Jim Fowler, co-founder and CEO of Jigsaw, a leading provider of business card and company data services that leverages user-generated content contributed by its community of some one million members.

BF: Your company is a user-generated business directory and you're really trying to how improve business contacts are maintained. Please elaborate on that. Is that a fair assessment of your company?

JF: It's actually a company and contact data. If you really think about the foundation stones of everyday B2B base. It really starts with company core records and company business card records and these are the two records that every company that sells B2B has to use in order to drive growth of their business.

BF: You have said in articles that you want to do data what Salesforce did for software,what does that mean?

JF: The basic idea is that every company has to use data in order to grow. If you think about back in 1999, every company that needed CRM software, of course the SAAS model has been applied to many different applications, but i think Salesforce was the leader of this. Ten years ago, everyone who wanted a CRM application had to go out and procure and manage the software to run this application. Well today, every company that has to go out and manage the company data  such as buy lists. Their sales people have to go out and work within this data to manage within the CRM solution. So what we have is a community of almost a million people that builds and maintains this directory of company contact data. Then we sell not only the raw data but automatically take our database and update, manage and maintain their records on the back end. In essence, getting the companies out of the business and procuring the management of these data records and turn it into a service just like software has been turned into a service.

BF: Your innovation in a way is also the way content is created through an information exchange. 

JF: We have almost a million people that are registered to Jigsaw and in essence it is an information exchange. They'll come in and exchange information that they have for information that they need. So they can add a company or contact record. All of this is very important from a status perspective because people that sell, market, and recruiters need to know what companies are out there and what people are there so they can go about their business relationship.

BF: I read in an interview with you, it says that legally there are no issues with people uploading their entire contact base so for instance I can do that without having an issue. But has there been a backlash from people since their information is being uploaded to your site?

JF: Privacy is very important. What we've done to mitigate it, partly if anyone wants to be removed from the Jigsaw database, a business card can be removed automatically and it is easier now since we've made it that way over time. It is interesting that most people choose to not be removed. We only touch business information minus the mobile number or any business number of any kind. Some people get irritated because they want to be on the directory but they have a Gmail which we do not allow on Jigsaw since we cannot identify or connect it to a company that is doing business on the Web. 

BF: What percentage of the million users do those members pay a subscription fee?

JF: A huge percentage are free. Their job is to upload and manage and clean the data. It's a system of credits for every contact you have, you add a contact in return. For every contact you update, you get a contact in return. For every contact that you graveyard, you get a contact in return. By that way, the database gets build and maintained. We have over a thousand enterprise customers that sell access to the database as well and we also clean their databases.

BF: When you said a large percentage of a million, what percentage is that?

JF: 95%

BF: So like Wikipedia, how many people created the Jigsaw information?

JF: We've done a study on Wikipedia and it is called the 99-1 rule. About 90% of the people just get the data for free, nine percent will do a little of work and one percent do all the work. Our company records - 3 million company records - are free. It's only when people want the actual business cards, is when they have to have points to do that. 

BF: How accurate is this data? What if it's an old email?

JF: The number one problem with any kind of data is that it changes so rapidly especially in this kind of environment where people are changing so many jobs. We found a lot of incomplete data and wanted to solve that problem and that is how Jigsaw was founded. When I was a VP of sales at three other startups, I always ran into that kind of problem and I was always frustrated with how much time my co-workers would spend on getting that information. I wondered how you solve that problem since traditional companies solve this problem in a very proprietary way. So I wondered how I can get a bunch of people to complete a few puzzle pieces together cost effectively.

BF: So how do you interpret it exactly?

JF: Our members own this data as much as we do. It's illegal to copyright this data.

BF: So if someone uploads a bunch of content and another person graveyards it, you actually connect with that person. Jigsaw is a great place to get information just like LinedIn to find other people. But one should be more effective in trying to find certain people. How would you position yourself against LinkedIn? What are you good at?

JF: LinkedIn is known for connecting people but the problem is that when people know you are a sales person, they do not want to connect with them.

BF: So as a sales tool, Jigsaw is the way to go.

JF: Well, it is just hard to use LinkedIn for sales. What sales people do use it for is the background information. For instance on Jigsaw, every one of our business cards has your LinkedIn information on the bottom of that where people can just go and look it up.

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Jigsaw is the industry leader in Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) and business contact information, uniquely leveraging content from its global B2B community. Jigsaw provides salespeople, marketers, and recruiters access to millions of business contacts and company profiles. Every contact is complete with a phone number (70%+ direct dial), position, email, and mailing address. Founded in 2004, Jigsaw is located in San Mateo, Calif. and funded by Austin Ventures, El Dorado Ventures, and Norwest Venture Partners.

Update: Jigsaw was acquired by Salesforce in 2010 for $175 million.


Jim Fowler

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Founder/CEO of InfoArmy. Formerly Founder/CEO of Jigsaw (purchased by Salesforce for $175M).