Gritty Entrepreneurs interview series, at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York we sat down with Jim Fowler, the Founder and CEO of Jigsaw, a business information and networking service that we noted in our recent review was a complement to LinkedIn rather than a competitor. As we sat sipping espresso in the Starbucks in the lobby, the CNN screen above us told of market mayhem. Ho hum, just another day in the life of a gritty entrepreneur. Let's find out how this particular web 2.0 company is competing in this climate...To kick off our new
In this post we assess Jigsaw's chances of meeting their mission to become the primary source of basic marketing contact data and compete against what Jim calls the "data dinosaurs" such as InfoUSA, D&B, Hoovers. We also congratulate him for meeting an old fashioned but now back in favor target - profitability.
Firstly, a reminder of what Jigsaw is. As we noted in our previous post: Jigsaw works on a "pay or play" principle. You can just pay to get access to the contact information, as with any list. Unlike traditional lists, you can buy just one name. So this works well for selling high value stuff to senior people, not good for mass market spamming. Play means earning points by contributing contact information back into the system. They seem to have evolved good systems for managing this to avoid gaming and bad data.
Marketing/sales can work on both pull and push. The big trend in Web 2.0, driven by search, was "pull". You pull in interest based on content and then convert that interest to revenue. In the old days, almost all marketing was push. You found people who might be prospects and contacted them. The ratio of push to pull is different today, but in the Web 2.0 world we might think it is 100% pull. Outside, in the real world, push marketing is alive and well. If you do any push marketing, you should consider Jigsaw. If you think push marketing is dead, this is not for you.
If you need to contact people that you don't already know, you need their contact details. That is where Jigsaw claims it can help.
What we like about Jigsaw
Here is what we like about Jigsaw:
1. Simple, clear, memorable, bold and differentiated mission. Jim was totally clear that Jigsaw only wants to offer the 11 fields that make up a basic contact record. They will partner with and link to any service that has greater richness and depth (such as ZoomInfo and LinkedIn). While that is a very narrow objective, Jigsaw doesn't lack for ambition. They want every basic contact record on the planet.
2. Jim Fowler. He started this business to solve a real problem that he had faced during many years running a sales team, he got VC funding when it was tough to get in late 2003 and 5 years later he is still running the business and in the latest quarter they have turned that corner to profitability. Jim's "yea, no more dilution", was spoken like a true gritty entrepreneur of the old school.
3. A solution that one can believe will succeed. Based both on parallels in other industries as well as initial success, Jigsaw has a shot at kicking the ball into the net. The traditional method of the data vendors is labor intensive, with fixed costs. The data vendor contacts the companies to get the right contact data. They are like traditional Encyclopedias. Jigsaw is like Wikipedia. That is a great sound bite and a great theory. Is it working in practice? When does the tipping point come when this new approach beats the old approach in practice? The fact that Jigsaw has hit profitability indicates to even the most cynical that maybe that tipping point is close.
OK, But Does Jigsaw Really Deliver?
Jim understands that the devil is in the details and that execution is everything. He clearly admires how LinkedIn beat Facebook in the business market when everybody in the Valley (including Jim) thought Facebook would eat their lunch.
In our first review of Jigsaw it came up short. The bottom line at the time - not quite compelling yet. But it looks worth another try. Wikipedia-like approaches do take time to mature. In Part 2 of our series on Jigsaw we delve into the details a bit to see what works and what doesn't work in Jigsaw.