April 23, 2013
Every time we hear about a new company harvesting big data to deliver valuable insights a kitten somewhere dies. Big data, and its related buzzwords, are apparent at every turn. But beyond the over-hyping, there is some real value that the concept of data-powered business applications can generate. Which is why its interesting to take a look at Infer, a company that is coming out of stealth today with some attention grabbing news – firstly a large $10M funding round but even more interestingly, the fact that it’s already profitable with some multi-year customer agreements in place.
So what is Infer all about? Essentially Infer’s solutions mine the historical customer won/lost records that sit in a sales organization’s sales and marketing databases. In addition to that inside data they pull in hundreds of signals from external web sources, and then build statistical models that identify the customers with the highest propensity to buy. So in one amalgam, Infer models customer data, along with company financials, social media presence, job listings, legal filings and other external information. As a result, they are able to deliver actionable revenue-driving insights that will (hopefully) lead to attention being given to the most likely prospects in an organization’s database and, hence, greater revenue opportunities.
The Infer team is something of a team of stars, CEO Vik Singh helped create the Yahoo! BOSS open search platform while co-founder Yang Zhang, is an ex-Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and MIT researcher, and Chung Wu was formerly the front-end tech lead of Google’s Public Data project. Their series A is also something of a who’s who – it was led by Redpoint Ventures but included participation from Andreessen Horowitz, Social+Capital Partnership, Sutter Hill Ventures along with a bevvy of high profile angels.
But the real test of a product like Infer is the use it gets from real world organizations – and if the experience that the sales team at Box has had is anything to go by, Infer is onto something here. According to Jim Herbold, EVP of Sales at Box, using Infer more than doubled the conversion rate from their highest volume lead sources. In an enterprise business where every conversion is potentially worth serious money, a doubling of conversion is a massive win. Alongside Box, Infer has signed multi-year agreements with “several Fortune 1000 companies” alongside tech stalwarts such as Jive, Tableau, Yammer and Zendesk. Staish Dharmaraj, a partner at Redpoint is understandably bullish about what Infer is doing but he raises a valid point when he says that:
While the sales and marketing automation markets have been strong over the last several years, automation is not enough. The much larger opportunity is to bring enterprises deep data science wrapped up in simple application services that anyone can use
Bringing together cold internal data and enriching it with external sources is a smart move in anyone’s book. The quality of the Infer team, the excellent early wins they’ve enjoyed and the excitement their initial customers show at the product indicates that this is one company to watch.