Seeking to outmaneuver competing business contact providers and social networking firms, Spoke Software Inc. yesterday made its database of 30 million business people available free to the general public.
"We have reached critical mass, where we believe the best way to keep our information accurate is to turn it over to individual salespeople and marketers and allow them to have access to this data by validating where people work," said CEO Frank Vaculin.
The San Mateo, Calif.-based company, founded in 2002, provides social networking software that connects business professionals with one another and identifies the relationships among them. The software targets individual salespeople, marketers, recruiters and job seekers.
Yesterday's move to open up access to the database was part of the original business plan, Vaculin said. Once the company approached its current level of 30 million contacts in 650,000 companies, the database would become free. The database contains contact information that includes title, job history, email patterns, phone numbers and addresses taken from published corporate data, Web content and user-validated data.
Anyone wishing to access the database must validate his own address book with Spoke's. The software is also available at a charge of $50 per month for those who do not wish to validate.
"It's a great first step," said Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager at Boston-based Yankee Group, comparing the move to one by another online application provider, Salesforce.com, which offered the first five users for free in 1999 to get some market penetration. "It really did help them. A lot of these applications over the Internet are viral. Once you're in, you start realizing the other things you can do."
Spoke will continue to see revenue from fees charged to corporations that import the database into their CRM, campaign management and intra-company networking systems.
The move by Spoke is an effort to separate itself from business contact competitors such as OneSource Information Services Inc. and Hoover's Inc., as well as social networking companies such as LinkedIn Corp.
"OneSource, Hoover's, they have a minimal number of contacts at companies," Vaculin said. "These data sources do a great job of creating company information, but their below-C-level contacts are very limited."
The database is available at Spoke's website at www.spoke.com.