Facebook’s first intern leads small-business revolution

Whether they mean to or not, all small businesses from tech startups in the center of Silicon Valley to quaint cupcake shops in South Carolina create digital ripples.

Radius has raised $12.4 million to measure these ripples and turn them into actionable sales insights.

Radius crawls the Internet for information about small businesses. The engine collects data in real time from over 22 million businesses and indexes it into a goldmine for sales teams. The information is highly searchable and, when combined with lead generation tools and CRM integrations, makes it much easier for companies to identify potential customers and partners.

The brain behind the company is Darian Shirazi, Facebook’s first intern, who forsook college to pursue life as an entrepreneur. Forbes recently named Shirazi one of its 30 Under 30 tech pioneers. Shirazi swung by the VentureBeat offices to chat about his startup, the funding, and the future of small businesses in America.

“There are big challenges today for business trying to sell to or work with small businesses because there is no good deep information about small mom and pop businesses,” he said. “We are trying to add as much data as we possibly can from all over the web to track the small business economy, which represents 70% of the American economy and is responsible for eight times as many jobs.”

Amassing data of this kind is difficult — many of these companies have a weak (or no) online presence, and their churn rate is extremely high. Shirazi said that 10% of small businesses either move, die, or come into being every month, making it a monumental task to keep up with the rapidly changing index. Furthermore, Radius faces challenges like variations in labels (such as “and” vs. “&”) and distinguishing between multiple stores with the same name. Shirazi and his team, however, are passionate and up for the task.

“My family has started businesses for hundreds of years,” he said. “I care about the small-business economy and I care about data. There isn’t really a way to do this halfway. We have spent the past three years working on this database. This funding will help us build a sales team for ourselves, add engineers, add new data sources, and build up a data science team to build the best data product out there for small businesses.”

Using Radius, sales and marketing teams targeting small businesses can apply specific filters like ratings, increasing/decreasing traffic, minority-owned etc., to pull up lists of businesses that fit their criteria. Based on the results, they can build informed and actionable lead lists. Target customers include daily deals and e-commerce sites, business insurance agencies, web hosting companies, and payment platforms.

The financial sector represents a major market for Radius’ technology, which is why American Express significantly contributed to this round. While Shirazi did not comment on whether this was a strategic partnership, he did say there was “alignment” and “overlap” between his product and American Express’ goals.

Radius’ data is valuable for a huge range of applications. As small business owners become more tech-savvy, this is just the first toe dip into the pool.

Existing investor Blue Run Ventures also participated, after throwing in for Radius’ first $6 million round along with Comcast. Radius is based in San Francisco and has 20 employees.

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