TC50: Yext transcribes, searches phone calls for local businesses

yextYext is trying to make online local advertising more effective by focusing on phone calls instead of clicks. The company debuted its system today at the TechCrunch50 trade show in San Francisco.

When a customer calls a local business, Yext transcribes the calls and generates an automatic e-mail for the owner. It tags the call with different actions or categories. For example, if you’re an auto repair shop, Yext can sort out whether it’s an order or a complaint. You can also search all of your old calls.

Yext’s business model is what’s known in the ad business as pay-per-action. Local businesses list the kind of phone calls that they want — they could be ones about car repair orders or candidates interested in jobs. When a customer completes an action the company says it wants, Yext charges for that.

Yext can filter out the spam phone calls, like ones from telemarketers. The company says it’s making $20 million a year in revenue and that’s up 60 percent from four months ago.

Some selected experts at the conference provided some feedback about the company:

Roelof Botha, partner at Sequoia Capital: Pay-per-call has been around for awhile, but all previous startups have had problems with signing up companies. There’s a sales and marketing problem with explaining the value proposition.

Paul Graham, founder of YCombinator: Seems like large, national businesses would be interested in this as well.

Marissa Mayer of Google: Why sell it as pay-per-action? Company could consider selling it as an IT product to local businesses.