It was only a week or two ago that I wrote about contact manager FullContact and its impressive funding round. And the time I noted with interest that the company had flagged the prospect of it using some of that cash to fund strategic acquisitions.
I figured there had to be a reason for them to articulate that in their funding news and today we see why, with the announcement that FullContact is acquiring Conspire, a vendor in the business of analyzing relationships and their connection to contacts.
Conspire is an early stage company that came out of the well-regarded TechStars incubator. The focus of Conspire's product is to take existing networks and enhance them with the addition of new contacts -- essentially Conspire helps professionals tap their own networks to obtain meaningful (read: warm) introductions to other professionals. If that sounds a little bit spammy, it's because it is an area that always runs the risk of being more pyramid-scheme than professional development. We've all seen what has happened to LinkedIn which, once a curated network for trusted professional contacts, is now something of a catch-all location with little or no qualitative differentiation.
So the question is always going to be asked as to whether tools like Conspire help to create useful, curated and focused professional networks, or simply add to the arms-race approach of building the biggest number of connections possible. Of course, Conspire believes it is doing things differently:
“We started Conspire because we wanted to create a simpler way for professionals to tap into the power of their address books and initiate meaningful introductions to other professionals,” said Alex Devkar, co-founder of Conspire. “The addition of Conspire’s capabilities to FullContact’s product suite will be good for customers, and we have no doubt that our users’ professional networking needs will be well served by FullContact and their team.”
That doesn't really seem like an emphatic point of view and I wonder if the real rationale for this deal is that Conspire found it hard to balance that quality versus quantity tension. Anyway, in terms of what FullContact is going to do with Conspire, the company says that it will integrate Conspire’s technology to provide their own address book users with the ability to find key people outside their address books in order to focus on expanding their networks and the strength of their professional relationships. This would seem to be a move that is peripheral to FullContact's initial contact management focus, a fact alluded to by the company:
“FullContact built its reputation in the contact management arena by enabling customers to fully connect, master their contacts and be awesome with people via our free Web, Mac, iPhone and Android apps for professionals,” said Bart Lorang, co-founder and CEO at FullContact. “By incorporating Conspire’s unique analytics offerings into FullContact, we’re ushering in a new era of professional networking where personal contacts, in addition to social media sites, are the basis for creating meaningful connections with customers, prospects, and other professionals.”
One day someone will do a good job of delivering contextual information and third-party connectivity in the context of a contact management platform. Whether this acquisition helps FullContact do that, or simply becomes a source of yet more noise in an already noisy place remains to be seen.
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