FullContact recently raised $1.5 million in funding following their participation in the TechStars startup accelerator. The service offers an API which allows developers access to its database of more than 100 million contact records to provide users with up-to-date contact information. Today we have the CEO of FullContact, Bart Lorang, for an interview on The Startup Project.
Personally, what draws you to the world of startups? What makes the industry so enticing?
I’ve always loved building things. There’s something magical about taking an idea and just going out and doing it. Naysayers will say things like: but what if “giant corporation” decides to do that? In a startup, that’s the fun of it — we can just go execute it better than the big guys. And that gets me really, really excited.
Tell us the background story on FullContact – where did the idea come from? How did the project start?
We had built a product called Rainmaker, which basically completed your Google Contacts. This was a really neat idea, a pretty cool product, and got a lot of press. We started building an API around this capability early in 2011. At the beginning of TechStars, David Cohen urged us to focus on the API. As he put it “You do something really simple that’s really, really hard – you turn partial contacts into full contacts.” From there, that phrase “FullContact” just stuck, and we managed to get the domain name. We’re going to have some fun with the name from a marketing perspective.
FullContact has a great UI and design – what advice would you offer to fellow startups in that regard?
Thanks. A great user experience is something we strive for. Even though we’re an API, we want to give developers a beautiful, magical experience. We’ve got a full time creative director on staff that oversees all of this. As for my advice to other startups, it would be this: your entire customer experiences is in the design and UX of your site. There is no brick and mortar retail space — the experience online is all your customers ever see. As a result, no detail is too small to be overlooked. Pay attention to details – they really do matter.
What plans do you have for expansion and growth in the future?
Currently, our focus is on scale: both technically and with developer outreach. We’re building an open ecosystem of software developers that bake our capability inside their apps. We think that’s a pretty cool concept, and we have over 750 developers using our API to date.
What advice can you offer to other entrepreneurs considering taking ‘the plunge’ into the startup world?
Before you take the plunge, make sure are incredibly passionate about the idea. Take that idea and start executing it at nights and weekends before you just quit your job. An idea is easy; actually executing is incredibly difficult. It is something that should consume you 24×7. In short, make sure you understand how difficult it is before you take the plunge.