Five years into its existence, Eliyon Technologies has taken on a new identity—Zoom Information, Inc. (http://www.zoominfo.com)—with a new consumer-focused packaging of its 25 million summaries of people information. ZoomInfo uses a Web “summarization” search engine system and natural language processing algorithms to automate the scanning and extracting of biographical information from the open Web, which it condenses into biographic reference summaries. In the new ZoomInfo package, registered users will be able to update, supplement, and correct entries. The free searches allow searching by individual name with or without a company affiliation. Users can also search for lists of all summaries for employees of a specific company, alumni of a specific school, or all the people mentioned on a specific Web site. Under the old Eliyon brand, the extensive searching was only available to paid subscribers. For the first time, the new ZoomInfo will offer an “on-demand” search product for users who only want to access the power searching products occasionally.
ZoomInfo creates 500,000 new summaries and updates 3 million existing profiles each month, tapping into millions of corporate Web sites, press releases, electronic news services, SEC filings, and other online sources. It also produces 1.5 million summaries for both public and private companies.
Russell Glass, director of consumer products, explained the need for the name change. With the move to a consumer-oriented, open Web product strategy, they wanted a name that had some consumer appeal—not to mention one that users could spell and that didn’t have employees fending off questions about a small Cuban ex-immigrant. “Content,” according to Glass, “will remain largely the same. All services have the same content, but each has different search capabilities. The public product we are now releasing has a subset of capabilities from the ‘professional’ searcher subscriber version. It now allows searching by company, university, and Web site as well as name. This is a first time for that level of searching for us. Under Eliyon, the public database only allowed a name search.”
In announcing the new product approach, Jonathan Stern, founder and CEO of Zoom Information, pointed to the value of allowing individuals to correct and improve their profiles. “What the Web says about us impacts the decisions people make about us more than we might realize,” said Stern, “and now ZoomInfo allows people to take control of their online presence and manage it so that it is accurate and up-to-date.” People cannot remove links to outside information on themselves, but they can present themselves as they wish, e.g., by adding resume data. According to Glass, Zoom Information is “trying to strike a balance between third-party information and allowing complete control” by the named party. Nor is there any limit on the length of what registered users can contribute.
In addressing the problem of making sure that the people adding or deleting material from profiles are really the people named, Glass said, “We thought long and hard. The easiest and fastest way to do identity verification is a credit card. We require a one-time, no-charge authentication to assure summary information.” The information is not used for any other purpose or even retained, according to Glass. “We just pass it off to our provider, Verisign, in an encrypted transactional. We don’t store it.”
Distribution channels for ZoomInfo include Business.com, Find.com, HighBeam Research, Lycos, and The Wall Street Journal's CareerJournal.com. Glass indicated that they would soon be announcing new partners. Glass described a threefold distribution channel: 1) A-list partners who can drive traffic to ZoomInfo’s site, 2) strong search engine placement strategies, and 3) a new affiliate strategy. Under the affiliate approach, said Glass, Zoom Information would “start to allow free basic search boxes for use by partners.” Affiliates must not require passwords nor charge. If they do want to charge, according to Glass, payment mechanisms can be worked out.
ZoomInfo will continue to offer “professional” level, people-search products through subscriptions. These products allow people to use the full power of the database through multi-criteria searching, e.g., generating lists of people by job title and geography. The ZoomInfo OnDemand package allows users to search for summaries of people who match from one to 18 criteria, including specific job titles, credentials, or affiliations combined with specific employers and locations, for $9.99 per summary.
In January, CareerJournal.com launched a specialized version of Eliyon’s (now ZoomInfo’s) product called Executive Locator that finds potential contacts by company name, location, and a range of key criteria. The Executive Locator service costs $1 per contact with a minimum purchase of 30 contacts, in contrast to ZoomInfo OnDemand’s $9.99. However, the contact information from Executive Locator only includes name, job title, company address, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. On the other hand, once you have the name, you could go back to the free ZoomInfo for the full profile. You would still have to pay the $30 minimum to CareerJournal.com, but the flip-flop searching approach would start to save a user money over ZoomInfo OnDemand after the third profile.
Frankly, even the basic free information in a ZoomInfo list of individuals with a company includes title and company name, enough to do your own Web searches. Diligent delving into ZoomInfo record structures and distribution channel offerings might offer several ways to get data a little cheaper than Zoom Information would prefer. We asked Glass about possible cannibalization by sophisticated searchers. He thought that people would find their offerings sufficiently timesaving.
In announcing the new focus on free consumer products, Glass affirmed that ZoomInfo would continue to offer subscription service driving their current positive cash flow performance. New business models were under development for the consumer product, including ad revenue. In the fourth quarter of 2004, revenues at Eliyon nearly doubled compared to the fourth quarter of 2003. They also had new financing from Venrock and Vulcan, Paul Allen’s fund. Zoom Information plans to move to better quarters in Waltham, Mass., within several months.
People information is only the beginning. Stern said, “We can apply the same principles and technology that summarization search makes finding information about people on the Web easier and faster, to many other types of information. ZoomInfo plans to roll out several new summarization products in the coming months.” Glass indicated that one of the new products under discussion might concern job openings and postings.