BetaKit covered San Francisco and Moncton, NB-based Clarity, which lets anyone get access to entrepreneurial advice over the phone, when it hit 10,000 calls after launching in May 2012. Today the company announced that it has closed a $1.6 million round of funding from Baseline Ventures, Freestyle Capital, 500 Startups, and Mark Cuban among others to be the “lifeline for entrepreneurs.” To date the platform has connected entrepreneurs from 47 countries to Clarity experts, and has processed over 12,000 calls.
CEO and founder Dan Martell spoke with BetaKit about the high-profile investors he brought on, and what he plans to do with the funding. “It was very deliberate, when we went out to fundraise we were over committed by almost double…what I wanted to do was hand pick a list of investors who were not only the best in the Valley but the best across Canada,” said Martell in an interview. “Our belief is that the product has to be amazing and deliver a great experience and that’ll help with marketing…we feel that if we can keep investing in the user experience, we revamped our call connection flows and our billing system and phone system, we just keep investing in engineering and we feel that pays dividends.”
The company makes money by taking a transaction fee from each call processed, and experts can set their own rates for calls, though they don’t have to charge a fee. Today the company also announced the launch of its latest feature called Clarity Needs to streamline the way entrepreneurs identify the right person with whom to schedule a call. “We realized that many people know what their problems are but they don’t know who the right person to talk to is. So they can post their needs to Clarity and then our community will respond with recommendations based on the their descriptions of their challenges,” Martell added.
In line with Clarity Needs, the company’s product development team has been focused on helping those seeking advice with the discovery aspect, allowing experts to build more comprehensive profiles in which they can now add videos, reviews, and response times. Martell said the videos really help those looking for advice get a sense of how the person they’re looking to connect with communicates. The platform has also added better search functionality through filters such as price, number of calls, Klout score, and location. Experts still choose their own rates on the platform with the option to donate 100 percent of their earnings to a charity of their choice if they go for the paid option. For the remaining paid calls, Clarity takes a 15 percent cut.
The company’s focus on exclusively serving entrepreneurs worldwide could help it develop a niche in a space that comes with many alternatives. Services like LivePerson and ExpertInsight feature experts in several industries, while others can also turn to platforms like Quora and LinkedIn for their answers, not to mention the resources provided by incubators and accelerators. However, Clarity’s value proposition is the ability to provide help with a wide range of areas that budding entrepreneurs and small business owners may have trouble with, from well-known entrepreneurs like Eric Ries and 500 Startups founder Dave McClure.
Clarity has also made changes to its call flow with scheduling and conference calls, which Martell said has helped the average call go from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. Up next for the company, Clarity will be looking to develop for additional mobile platforms, while also keeping in mind that localization will be key in helping global entrepreneurs connect with people who best understand their needs. With the latest round of funding secured and the company looking to add to its engineering talent, Clarity will have to continue making finding an expert an effortless process and prove to users why paying for a phone call trumps the wide array of free content and online resources that are available. The company has added only 2,000 calls since August, despite adding 10,000 in its first three months, so it will have to find a way to keep the call momentum going.