“Pandora for marketers.” That is how the people at Englue Inc. bill their business-to-business offering.
Pandora Media Inc. is the online business that plays music. It suggests new tunes based on the songs or musical groups that its users request.
Englue’s LeadCrunch product, by contrast, asks for examples of a company’s best customers to generate business leads.The software scrutinizes those ideal customers, scours databases and the deep Web to figure out what’s similar about them, and then finds other businesses that fit that pattern, using artificial intelligence.
CEO Olin Hyde is an engineer who works with artificial intelligence. He’s capable of scrawling inscrutable equations describing the functions of neural networks on a white board. But here he talks the blunt and simple language of capitalism.
The result, he says, is better sales leads, better use of a sales associate’s time … and better sales.
Following ‘Digital Dust’
Englue was founded in 2013 and recently emerged from the University of California, San Diego’s StartR Accelerator. It is now in residence at the EvoNexus pro-bono incubator downtown.
The business targets medium-sized and small-business clients, with revenue between $20 million and $2 billion. Englue can work for a firm with as few as 10 employees, Hyde said. The young company has roughly 300 beta customers and 18 paying users so far.
Hyde said Englue does not share information between customers. Two companies competing in the same vertical market — insurance, for example — submit unique sets of good customers and get unique artificial intelligence models to determine the best leads.
Since there are 300 beta customers, there are 300 models in the company’s servers.
Hyde declined to say which databases his algorithms search — he doesn’t want to show his hand to competitors — but he said that it’s publicly available information. Algorithms look up to 10 links deep. Hyde describes the process as “sniffing digital dust.”
Another company in the same space, San Francisco-based based Radius Intelligence Inc., prefers enterprise customers with revenue exceeding $2 billion. Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) and the Google unit of Alphabet Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) have similar products for business-to-consumer marketing. Facebook’s is called Lookalike Audiences while Google’s is called Customer Match.
Previously, Englue housed its data at the San Diego Supercomputer Center on the UC San Diego campus. Hyde said that Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) granted Englue $100,000 worth of Web hosting services. It’s an incentive for Englue to stick with Amazon, and it gives the big tech company an insider’s view of Englue’s operations.
Finding a Market
Englue is Hyde’s third artificial intelligence startup. He previously worked for a business called ai-one Inc. Englue is his eighth startup overall.
In its early days, Hyde said the company tried to put the artificial intelligence to work reading medical research, and got some interesting results (it dug up a link between type 1 diabetes and the herpes virus, for example). However, he found it hard to raise money.
Englue worked in defense contracting before deciding to go heavy on B2B marketing, selling to Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) and the U.S. Navy. Last year, it split its defense and marketing work 50-50. Today, more than 90 percent of its work is B2B lead generation.
Hyde, 50, and co-founder Sanjit Singh are heavily invested in Englue and have had to go outside San Diego — to New York and the San Francisco Bay Area — to find “super angel” investors. It hopes to raise money among institutional investors next.
Do startups get any easier by the eighth attempt?
“It gets different,” Hyde said.
Some things get easier, he said. With age, the engineer said he feels he understands people better. He’s focused and he’s more able to say no to distractions.
Hyde’s definition of success has changed, too. These days, he said, he’s interested in making a bigger impact with his work. There are parts of the startup life that he relishes, such as the opportunity to learn new things. The good news is that’s a constant, whether on startup No. 1 or startup No. 8.