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Clay debuts a new tool to help people better manage their business and personal relationships – TechCrunch


A new startup called Clay, backed by $8 million in seed funding, has built a system designed to help you be more thoughtful with the people in your life, which operates somewhat like a personal CRM. With Clay, you make a collection of the people you meet by connecting your email and calendar with social apps, including Twitter and LinkedIn. Clay then populates each person’s entry with all the relevant information you would need to recall for any future meeting — ranging from their work history to the latest tweets to the details on how you met and when you last communicated, among other things.

The app also supports a command bar, keyboard shortcuts, and home screen widgets. You also can add notes of your own to each entry, click to activate reminders to follow up with certain people and organize entries into groups. They result is not exactly an address book but not necessarily pipeline-focused as a CRM system. Clay’s founders instead refer to their app as a “home for your people,” as it’s attempting to carve out a new space in the market for a more personal system of tracking who you know and how.

The idea for the startup comes from entrepreneurs Matthew Achariam and Zachary Hamed, Clay’s co-founders, and co-CEOs, who met back in their early days of working with startups. Before starting Clay, Achariam helped lead products at Y Combinator-backed analytics company, Custora, and Hamed led the product management team for Goldman Sachs’ web platform, Marquee.

“We think that people and relationships have played an important role in our career trajectories. And we wanted to dive into that,” Hamed explains when speaking about what prompted their interest in building Clay.

To get started with Clay — available as a web, desktop, and mobile app — you’ll first connect your accounts. After setup, Clay will automatically track your meetings and personal connections and augment people’s entries with further details from the web, like their background and work experience listed on LinkedIn and the latest tweets.


Clay supports Microsoft Outlook/Office 365, Google Calendar, Gmail/Google Mail, and Twitter. You also can add other services via Zapier integrations. People’s entries will also detail how they met the person — something people tend to forget over time. For example, they may be noted as a connection you made on LinkedIn, someone you met in person, or an online meeting.

Through Clay’s desktop app, you can optionally connect Clay with iMessage, which allows it to augment its people entries with phone numbers and details about when you last communicated. However, this feature should be met with some caution. While Clay doesn’t import the content of your messages, the company says it has to work around the lack of an official API or SDK to perform this integration. That means the feature requires full disk access to function. That’s elevated security permission some will not feel comfortable using.

The founders, however, say they’ve built Clay to respect people’s privacy and security. The company’s privacy policy is human-readable, and each integration is explained in terms of what data is pulled, what’s not removed, and how the information is used. Currently, data is encrypted on Clay’s servers and in transit, but the goal — and part of the funding round is going toward — is to make Clay work entirely locally on users’ devices.

“We want it to work fully on your machine. We don’t want to be storing any data at all,” says Hamed. “To do that is a very technically complex task, so it was prohibitively out of reach for Matt and me as we initially built Clay. But now that we have resources, that is our eventual goal.”

Still, Clay may face difficulty convincing users that it’s safe due to how often people have been burned over “smart” address books that abuse users’ private data. Only last year, a new startup in this space, Sunshine Contacts, was found to be distributing people’s home addresses, even though these people hadn’t signed up for the app. Many other prior efforts failed because they overstepped user privacy concerns to generate revenue.

Aquarium believes the problem with these earlier products was often the business model they adopted. “That was one of the things we were thinking about when we started going into the space — because we, ourselves, wanted something like this — and every product that we saw kind of rubbed us the wrong way or exploded because of those reasons,” notes Achariam, of the intelligent address market’s history. “Many of these things started with making the user the product. And then you weren’t paying for it. There was no sustainable business model, and at some point, they had to balance those trade-offs,” he says.

Clay is doing things differently. It starts from day one with a pricing plan that will allow it to self-sustain. (It’s also offering cheaper access to specific groups, like students and nonprofits, if a request is emailed.) right now, that’s a fairly steep $20 per month, but the goal is to bring that down over time and introduce a free plan.

Clay was adopted by several users during testing, including teachers who wanted to remember students and their parents, a congressional candidate who wanted to track their constituents, and a veterinarian who wanted to retain customers and their pets.

“We intentionally made it cross-industry, cross-disciplinary. We didn’t think this was a tech problem or an investor problem. We went broader,” notes Hamed. The startup has raised $8 million in seed funding from 2019 through 2020. The grant was led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from General Catalyst.

Angel investors include Shannon Brayton, former CMO at LinkedIn; Kevin Hartz, former CEO of Eventbrite; Kelvin Beachum, an NFL player, philanthropist, and investor; Lindsay Kaplan, co-founder of Chief and former VP of Communications and Brand at Casper; Zoelle Egner, former marketing lead at Airtable; Adam Evans, former CTO of RelateIQ; Charlie Songhurst, former head of corporate strategy at Microsoft; Sam Lessin, former VP of product management at Facebook; Jonah Goodhart, former CEO of Moat and SVP at Oracle; Jeff Morris Jr., Chapter One Ventures and others.

“Emerging from COVID, people recognize what had already become true. Relationships are increasingly digital, formed through online interaction and honed through messaging apps. “The problem is that existing social products don’t serve you as the end-user. So, how can we be continuously connected, yet increasingly lonely at the same time?” stated Forerunner GP Brian O’Malley about his firm’s investment.

You are just a pawn for another customer, like a recruiter or some unknown advertiser. Clay is the first relationship software company built to understand all the signals that drive your connections, helping you form better ones with a broader set of people. Clay understands that your network is yours, so you should be empowered to own it,” he added. Clay is currently open to sign-ups through its website.


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