"I have 6,000 contacts. Which ones should I be talking to?" asks Andy Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Pasadena, California-based startup Rexter. "It used to be answered by intuition, but intuition doesn't scale." Rexter's answer is to plug into users' social media profiles, Microsoft Exchange servers, and phone conversations and start listening. There, running silently, it reads emails, logs chats, and keeps tabs on calendars. Once you program Rexter with stated objectives--find new hires; raise more funding--algorithms that analyze the quality and frequency of your communications hunt for patterns buried in your exchanges with connections and suggest whom you should contact. Who's relevant to your latest deal--and when were you last in touch? Who on your team has an in with a potentially valuable target?
Rexter--which costs $30 for individuals and $50 per interlinked user in group settings--also gathers formidable intel on your operations. "This gives you a deep dive into what [employees] actually do," says Ted Simpson, a Los Angeles-based managing director of real-estate firm Avison Young. "Are they spending too much time cold-calling instead of relationship-building?" He describes Rexter as "the missing link between Salesforce.com, Outlook, and your Rolodex."
That's the newest sweet spot in the $20 billion-plus customer relationship management market, in which Salesforce tracks pending transactions, LinkedIn traces whom you know and how, and group-chat programs such as Asana and Slack seek to replace email as the best way to follow tasks and conversations. If those are partial maps of how work gets done and by whom, Rexter aspires to be Waze, and offer turn-by-turn directions to accomplish specific tasks.
Wilson was inspired to start Rexter after struggling to manage relationships as he helped launch more than a dozen startups as a founder and director of Momentum Venture Management, a Los Angeles tech accelerator. No tool could handle the pace and scale of tackling his many tasks, he recalls: "There was simply no good way to manage your social network for the benefit of a team." In 2010 he set out to invent one, and he's since raised $2.3 million from such angel investors as the former CEOs of Ticketmaster and paid search pioneer Overture. Today, Rexter's competitors include RelateIQ--which was bought by Salesforce last year for $390 million--and Humin, a new app that adds context to your contacts list.
One seductive possibility for entire businesses using Rexter: comparing outcomes (deals closed, products launched) with the flurries of messages preceding them, revealing successful strategies that can be copied. That's what Mark Madigan hopes. He's the national sales director of the privately held insurance firm Risk Strategies. "We have very high hit rates when we get in front of clients or prospects," he says. "But our struggle is getting enough meetings. How do we get more?" Rexter, he believes, will help.
Wilson readily admits that, within groups, the intelligence his software collects could be abused, but stresses there are protections in place to prevent managers and teammates from, say, reading others' email. He's hopeful customers will choose enlightened self-interest over undermining internal competitors. "In organizations where you eat what you kill," he says, "we can help you kill more."