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Interview with Jigsaw CEO Jim Fowler

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Jigsaw is a fast-growing, controversial online marketplace that lets people trade their business contacts for more contacts or cash. 

Jim Fowler Co-founded by veteran sales executive Jim Fowler, Jigsaw aims to become the world’s largest Rolodex.  Before Jigsaw, Fowler spent more 12 years selling marketing and collaboration software.

1. What is Jigsaw? Give us the elevator speech.

Jigsaw is the world’s largest online directory of business cards and company information. The directory has over five million business cards and is built and maintained by over two hundred thousand members. Jigsaw helps salespeople, recruiters, marketers, job seekers, and anyone else who wants to reach the right person(s) at a particular company do so without having to call and crawl all over that organization.

2. How does it differ from other business networking sites like Linked In or Open BC?

Jigsaw doesn’t compete with LinkedIn or OpenBC.  In fact, they are complimentary. LinkedIn and OpenBC are for networking. They allow business people to maintain and grow their business networks or find links between themselves and other business people. Jigsaw is a data company that uses a wiki (community) to build and maintain the database. Jigsaw competes directly with data dinosaurs such as Hoovers and InfoUSA, who build and maintain their own databases rather than empower a community to do so.

The Jigsaw directory focuses on business cards, all complete with email and phone number (in addition to name, title, address and company). In exchange for adding or updating contacts Jigsaw members earn points that are used to purchase other contact information from the database. This model of rewarding users for participation encourages members to continually grow and clean the database.

 3. Sounds a little anti-social, more like plain old you show me yours and I’ll show you mine. Does it work?

We have over two hundred thousand members and the database is growing by twelve thousand new business cards every day. Members don’t trade with each other; they trade with the system. Members can add business cards that have no value to them in exchange for business cards that have extreme value. The great thing about self-organization is that one person’s trash is another’s treasure. The system is also self-correcting. If a member adds a bad contact they will get a point penalty when another member updates it with the correct status or information. The updater gets points and the person who added the bad contact gets a spanking.

This basic reward structure has worked remarkably well and created a database unlike any other in existence, and venture capitalists agree; we’ve raised $18M to date.

4. What’s your revenue model and when do you expect to be profitable?

Our basic offering is a “Pay or Play” model. Members may either pay $25 per month for 25 contacts, or play by adding 25 new contacts every month. Think of it as paying with money OR data. The cost, compared to other data offerings, is extremely low.

In addition to individual businesspersons, Jigsaw also has over four hundred corporate accounts that purchase subscriptions and data in bulk. Finally, we make a great deal of revenue cleaning CRM databases. Because every contact in the Jigsaw database is complete, our ability to identify dead records allows us to offer one-of­a­kind cleaning and append services. We will be profitable by the end of this year (2007).

5. Most people agree that with so many social networking sites out there, there is bound to be a shakeout. Tell me why you expect Jigsaw to be a survivor.

As mentioned previously, Jigsaw is not a social network. Unlike the social networks, we own the database created by the membership, and can sell this data in a very traditional way,­ without the traditional overhead of having to build and maintain the database ourselves. In essence, Jigsaw is doing to the data dinosaurs what Wikipedia is doing to Encyclopedia Brittanica. We have many other sources of revenue we haven’t even rolled out yet, such as advertising and affiliate programs. Our focus isn’t on survival, it is on how badly we can disrupt the data dinosaurs.

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