Need sales leads? NetProspex says its service finds data in the rough

Netprospex in Boston Business Journal

Boston Business Journal by Kyle Alspach, VC Editor

Date: Friday, December 30, 2011, 10:12am EST

For most startups, it probably wouldn’t be relevant for its CEO to have a background working as a diamond prospector in Africa. Not so at Waltham’s NetProspex.

“We’re looking for diamonds out of dirt,” said company CEO Gary Halliwell. “That’s what we do.”

Halliwell is referring to his company’s service for providing contacts to sales and marketing professionals — using a combination of crowdsourcing (users trade in contacts), technology that “cleans” the contacts and aggressive verification (including phone calls).

The end result is verified email addresses and phone numbers for customer leads, the company says. Halliwell contends that the service could ultimately be a billion-dollar opportunity. (Full disclosure: The American City Business Journals, parent company of the Boston Business Journal, is an investor in NetProspex.)

After steady growth in recent years, NetProspex says it had a breakout year in 2011, passing the milestone of having 25 million verified contacts on file and doubling its revenue (the firm doesn’t disclose specific revenue figures, but says it’s ahead of the plan it set a year ago).

Halliwell, an Oxford-educated geologist who spent five years exploring for diamonds out of a tent in the Kalahari Desert for De Beers, co-founded NetProspex in 2005 after serving as president of Zoom Information, a B2B contacts site.

The inspiration for the company was simple: Sales and marketing people need accurate contacts to do their jobs, but most options out there are notorious for having low accuracy rates.

“If the data is wrong, it’s useless,” he said.

The contacts are sent in by marketing professionals, and can be traded on a one-to-one basis (one contact for one contact). Users can also buy contacts, which is a main source of the company’s revenue.

Tech industry professionals make up a large part of the company’s customer base; professionals at EMC, Nuance, NetSuite and SAP are among the users of the service.

In the first quarter of next year, NetProspex also plans to commercially launch a service that will “clean” contacts for enterprise customers that feel their own contact lists are falling short.

NetProspex employs 48, and has raised $7.5 million in outside financing to date, from backers including Edison Venture Fund of New Jersey and American City Business Journals.