Bart Lorang is Founder and CEO of FullContact in Denver, CO. I got a chance to talk to him about customers, attracting talent, Techstars, and company culture.

Bart founded FullContact as a way to solve his own contact information pain, but with his wife’s stellar contact organization standard (ie, her contacts were a lot more organized than his). With 1.3 billion unique contacts, or 20% of the people in the world, FullContact is on its way to being the world’s largest contact management platform.

Highlights

  • Why did you start FullContact 00:20
  • What is FullContact 1:52
  • Before FullContact 2:36
  • Who are your customers? 2:56
  • Techstars 2011 3:37
  • SendGrid for contacts 5:27
  • Current team and culture 6:13
  • TechStars funding 7:55
  • Daily Practices 8:24
  • Cold Calling 9:35
  • SAAS & Social Trends 11:02
  • “Don’t be a technical dummy” 11:43
  • What is next for FullContact 12:29

You can find more information about Bart Lorang and FullContact by visiting their blog, and following them on Facebook and Twitter.

Video Transcript

Brent Weaver: I’m Brent Weaver, and you’re watching uGurus, the most watched web series to become a more profitable, and in demand web professional. Today I’m in downtown Denver, Colorado hanging out at Full Contact with their founder, and CEO, Bart Lorang, welcome to the program.

Bart Lorang: Hey, glad to be here.

Brent Weaver: So, why did you start Full Contact?

 Bart Lorang: So, it’s actually a funny story, I started Full Contact because around four and a half years ago, or so, I had exited my last company, and I was changing platforms from Windows to Mac, right? And migrating all my contacts over, and around that time I started dating a girl who’s now my wife, and essentially I looked at her contacts and they were immaculate, they were beautiful, they were gorgeous, she had about 150 perfect contacts. Of course, I had about 6000 totally crappy contacts, right? Out of date, incomplete, right, just a mess, right? And I said I want her contacts, sort of her methodology applied to my contacts. I want her contacts basically, right? And so we just started the company to fix my own address book problem. It turns out a lot of people have a contact information problem.

Brent Weaver: I was going to say, I think my contact list probably resembles more like your contact list. It’s in like three different places. It’s not even in one place.

Bart Lorang: That’s right, and then with the advent of social networking it’s actually getting worse, right? When you friend somebody, or connect with somebody, on every new social network is a pain to deal with. So, fixing that, and then you know as an entrepreneur, fixing my companies contacts, because the companies contacts is actually dispersed to between different business systems, whether they’re CRM’s, accounting systems, mailing applications, marketing applications, and then the people within the business, right? So, I sort of said like, “Well, we can solve both of these problems with a common technology platform.”

Brent Weaver: So, the elevator pitch for Full Contact?

Bart Lorang: Yeah, Full Contact, we want to be the world’s contact manager platform. We do that by getting all your contacts in one place, and keep them automatically up-to-date.

Brent Weaver: So, now do you guys do like CRM or are you literally just taking about the contact record?

Bart Lorang: No, we are not CRM; we actually just make contact data great in whatever application, or platform, we touch. So, we make CRM’s better.

Brent Weaver: So, are you integrated into a bunch of mainstream CRM’s already?
Bart Lorang: Yeah, so we have a few integration’s with like Salesforce, Highrise, things like that, but we’ve actually focused more on the individual use case first, so sort of the Gmail, and the sort of iPhones, and iPad, all those sort of consumer contact services and aggregating those.

Brent Weaver: Have you always been a product guy?

Bart Lorang: You know it’s interesting. I mean, I guess I’ve been an engineer, a product guy, sales guy, right? As an entrepreneur, you have to wear multiple hats, so I can shift gears pretty easily.

Brent Weaver: What were you doing before Full Contact?
Bart Lorang: So, I was running a sort of enterprise software as a service company. We focused in sort of the enterprise, mastered in management space actually.

Brent Weaver: All right, so you mentioned that Full Contact works for consumers, or regular people, and it works for businesses.

Bart Lorang: That’s right.

Brent Weaver: Who’s your customer within that space, anybody and everybody that has contacts?
Bart Lorang: Yeah, so I mean the individuals we find that, the individuals actually a subset of sort of, what I call the entrepreneur, the hustler. All right, the person that builds their business or builds their life, on their network, right. We find that there’re a lot of sea level people, entrepreneurs, co-founders, right? Corp Dev., Biz Dev., sort of in an individual segment, and then in sort of the business segment, we find that very small enterprises, right, the people that sort of just have a small set of teams that want to share contacts that’s our customer.

Brent Weaver: So, you guys went through Tech Stars 2011?

Bart Lorang: 2011 in Boulder, yeah.

Brent Weaver: What was your driver for going through a start-up accelerator versus just doing it yourself?

Bart Lorang: I mean, you know, the Tech Stars folks approached us and asked us to apply, and we did, and it made a lot of sense, because it got us access to a big network. It built our network very quickly, built our contact list, right? But essentially you know it gave us quick access to capital in terms of introduction to investors, and also at the same time really refine our pitch, what we were doing, and made sure that we were crystal clear about that.
Brent Weaver: Now, everybody always talks about these pivots, right? You go to these accelerators, and it’s all about the team, and who knows if you’re going to come out doing what you did when you came in, where you guys pretty consistent on that, or did you actually end up doing pretty big pivots during that?
Bart Lorang: Yeah, I mean we pivoted, our companies name was called Rain Maker, then we launched that, then we had a product called Who Sent It?, and really on the first day of Tech Stars David Cohen pulled us aside, and said, “I need to see you in my office,” right, and that was a scary moment, but that wow we’re kicked out of the program already, but he pulled us aside, and he just said, “You know, you guys really need to focus on the API part of the business first, sort of the data part first, because that’s the really hard bit, and then build up from there,” and then we said, “That’s really, really hard though,” and he said, “That’s exactly why you should do it, and so we did some customer validation with that, turns out that he was right on the hypothesis. So, we took it from there, we rebranded the company as Full Contact.

Brent Weaver: So, now the API layer, you guys out of the box made that accessible to developers.

Bart Lorang: Yes.

Brent Weaver: Was that a big part of your go to market strategy?

Bart Lorang: Yeah absolutely, right, because we feel that this data should be open, and portable, and available in every application, so then what better way to do that than to find API software developers to plug in their own apps, to consume Full Contact information.
Brent Weaver: It feels like SendGrid-ish for contacts, right?

Bart Lorang: Yeah.

Brent Weaver: I mean they’re doing email, hardcore API. You guys are doing contacts.

Bart Lorang: Yeah.

Brent Weaver: How many contacts are you guys currently managing?

Bart Lorang: We have about 1.3 billion unique contacts under management.
Brent Weaver: So that’s like a good portion?

Bart Lorang: Twenty percent of the planet.

Brent Weaver: That’s pretty cool, that’s pretty cool. How does that work between, let’s say I have a contact, right? Like you’re in my address book, are you guys cross referencing that to somebody else’s address book?
Bart Lorang: So, the information that you send to Full Contact remains and always remains private. We do use the information to improve our deduplication algorithm to understand who’s who, but we make sure never to release any of that private information to other folks, right, and cross pollinate.
Brent Weaver: So that billion unique contacts that’s unique people?

Bart Lorang: Unique people.

Brent Weaver: Wow, very cool. So, what’s the make-up of your team right now?

Bart Lorang: So, we’ve got about 40 people, little over 40 people, we’re about two thirds engineering, and then some products, and then a few finance, and admin, folks, and then we’ve got about six folks on the sales team, and a few people on the marketing team.

Brent Weaver: What’s been the culture like for you guys?

Bart Lorang: So, it’s been interesting, right? With Full Contact I think you know we had a really large media splash a couple of years ago with our paid, paid vacation policy.

Brent Weaver: I saw a picture of you that I recognized from like Tech Crunch, or something, and it’s like you own the camel right, it’s like sitting right over there.

Bart Lorang: Yeah. I don’t know if you want to go off that bunny trail we can talk about that, but yeah I mean basically it was like this blog post I wrote where I just felt compelled to make sure that we give what’s called a paid, paid vacation policy, is because this profession sometimes we don’t get off the grid enough, and we don’t disconnect, and there’s that picture of me on the camel in front of the pyramids in Egypt, and I’m literally checking my iPhone email, right? Just terrible, and that camera’s sort of famous, and my fiancé wasn’t too happy with me, but you know I decided it’s really important for people to disconnect from devices in modern society, and lets incentivize people to do that by providing them a $7,500.00 stipend to go on vacation wherever they want they just have to disconnect, right?

Brent Weaver: Is that every year?

Bart Lorang: Yeah, every year every employee gets that benefit once a year.

Brent Weaver: And the rest of the U.S. continued to..?

Bart Lorang: Yeah, and so that culture along with we got Powder Day policies, and things like that, where we have a lot of trust in the employees, but our culture is really built around, I think, freedom and responsibility. Right, so that’s what it’s all about.

Brent Weaver: In terms of investments, you guys went to Tech Stars, did you guys take on funding, I’m assuming?

Bart Lorang: Yeah, we raised about 1.8 million dollars coming out of Tech Stars, from high country vendors, and a bunch of angels around town.

Brent Weaver: And have you gone, have you had to go back and raise more money, or are you guy’s pretty well customer funded now?

Bart Lorang: So, we actually raised another 7 million a year later from Founder Group and Brad Delp at our next funding round, yeah.

Brent Weaver: Very cool, so it seems like pretty rapid ramp up.

Bart Lorang: Yeah, things are going well.

Brent Weaver: Very nice, on a personal level Bart, like what kind of habits have you kept up with over the years, like any, daily, weekly, or monthly practices that you try to keep on top of that have helped you get to where you are?

Bart Lorang: Yeah, I mean from a personal productivity standpoint, you know I actually try to ride public transportation. I live in Boulder and our headquarters are in Denver, and I ride the bus every day, which gives me an extra hour and a half to two hours of time where I’m not driving, and so I get me time. I always make sure to carve out some me time for myself every day, right, regardless of what that is.

Brent Weaver: So give me some examples of what you fill Bart time with.

Bart Lorang: So, I write a blog post. I might just consume, and you know read, like a lot of different posts, blog posts. I’ll read the news. Sometimes I’ll catch up with email, right? I’m not as good about it as I want to be sometimes I’ll get a workout in, right.
Brent Weaver: Like, on the bus?

Bart Lorang: Not on the bus, sometimes before, and then comes the bus.

Brent Weaver: I can just see some guy with like dumbbells in there.

Bart Lorang: I mean, sometimes I’ll actually read like fiction, right?

Brent Weaver: Got you.

Bart Lorang: Like Game of Thrones or something, so.

Brent Weaver: For sure, when it comes to sales and marketing what’s something that has worked really well for you guys.

Bart Lorang: Yeah, so our sales leaders Ben Data, and he sort of ex-marine recruiter so he basically knows how to run very strict sales process. We’ve actually found that inside-out sales methodology has worked well for us; in terms of actually just cold calling has actually been a great approach for us. It’s unusual, but we have such a target market that’s so specific it’s worked well. In addition we’ve done some inbound marketing that’s worked fantastically. We write a lot of content and put it on our blog. We have a weekly playbook that has like sort of the best of the web, it’s not salesy thing but it’s a great really, really curated content thing, and all of that has worked very well, in terms of growing our follow up from a sales funnel, and a marketing funnel.

Brent Weaver: You mentioned cold calling, right?

Bart Lorang: Yeah.

Brent Weaver: So, in a really tight calling market can you expand a little bit, because it seems like you guys have this broad target market?

Bart Lorang: Yeah, but the thing is for it, and that’s really around our API platform business where we’ve got you know software applications in general that should want to consume our API we go to build awareness about that, and the way we do that is actually calling on product managers, right, that manage different software applications, right, and showing them this cool feature they can actually have now, right, and so that’s building awareness, and you know sales process there too.

Brent Weaver: Got you, so looking for the product managers, the software dev’s, to plug in their apps to your app.

Bart Lorang: That’s right, that’s right, that’s right.

Brent Weaver: Got you, what kind of trends are you guys following right now?

Bart Lorang: We look at the overall SaaS market in general, right, and the overall social network in general. So, we basically like look at it’s expanding tremendously, and we’re seeing a fracturing of data, and more fracturing of specific niche apps. So, those are the trends that we like to look at.

Brent Weaver: So, do you guys see yourself kind of fitting into all of those different spaces?

Bart Lorang: Yeah, the more sort of “best of breed” apps there are the better for us, because most of them require contact data, and the more silo’s there are the more contact data we can bring in all together, and be this sort of hub of all those folks.

Brent Weaver: Got you, the more chaos in my life the more money you guys make?

Bart Lorang: That’s right, that’s right.

Brent Weaver: So, what’s one thing that you would tell a start-up entrepreneur, web professional, that you wish you knew, say ten years ago, when you were starting out, or 15 years ago?

Bart Lorang: You know as far as, I would say just learn how to code, right? That’s the one thing, like don’t be, don’t be a technical dummy, right? Basically, make sure you invest in those skills constantly, because it pays off whether you’re in a technical role or not, as an entrepreneur it certainly helps to have a technical background as I do, right? And I see a lot of people don’t go down that path, but anybody can teach themselves something new every week.

Brent Weaver: Are you still developing?

Bart Lorang: I don’t have time unfortunately, but you know I can hold my own.

Brent Weaver: So, keep developing until you don’t have time to anymore?

Bart Lorang: That’s right.

Brent Weaver: Very cool, so what’s next for Full Contact?

Bart Lorang: You know next is I mean basically we’re going to be rolling out some big releases soon with our iPhone, iPad, Mac apps, right which is going to be huge, and fantastic, and we’ll probably double our team size over the next year from 40 to 80 people, and we’re going to move office spaces actually, somewhere else than downtown Denver, but those are the big things I’ve got on my plate.

Brent Weaver: So, doubling your team size, I mean in terms of…

Bart Lorang: Yeah.

Brent Weaver: That’s a lot of people to hire. So, are you guys looking at these like vacation policies, and things like that, as a way to attract engineers, or how are you guys actually going out and finding them?

Bart Lorang: Yeah, it’s a general sort of recruiting methodology, but really I always find the best people are just people who refer other folks that they know and trust into the organization, that’s the best source of candidates.

Brent Weaver: Got you, so developers and hiring their friends, and their friends, and their friends?

Bart Lorang: Yeah, hiring their friends. They’re great people they know great people, right, simple?

Brent Weaver: Well, very cool I really appreciate you joining us on the program.

Bart Lorang: Okay.

Brent Weaver: I wish you guys the best of luck at Full Contact, and hope to have you back, maybe once you get your new offices, and we can tour those digs as well.
Bart Lorang: Yeah absolutely, thanks.
Brent Weaver: Well, that’s it. Stay tuned for more great content from uGurus.com.