(Updated below with comments from chief executive George Garrick)
This area has become popular because people find this an easy way to avoid the $1 to $3 they get charged using regular DA service.
Jingle, which markets itself as 1-800-Free-411, supports the free service by injecting advertising snippets in it responses. If you call them at 1-800-Free-411 looking for a particular local pizza company, for example, you may be offered a voice ad from a competing pizza company.
Competitors (see our early stories here and here), include San Diego’s 800ideas.com, which provides different 800 numbers depending on the city you are in, and Palo Alto’s 1-800-411-Save. (Update: InFreeDA, a San Francisco start-up that went live earlier this year with 1-800-411-METRO, has effectively closed shop. Thought he company told us in August it hadn’t closed down — and was just doing a major restructuring — we just tried using it, and got an “all circuits are busy” message, twice.)
The venture round is significant because it brings the company’s total funding up to about $30M over the past year (it got $26 million in April, and $5 million in December, three months after launching).
This latest third round was led by Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Hearst Corporation. Previous investors Comcast Interactive Capital, First Round Capital, IDG Ventures Boston and Liberty Associated Partners also participated.
Jingle says it now enjoys three percent of DA calls in the U.S., accounting for more than 13 million inquiries from more than four million consumers each month.
Among its advertising customers are CBS, which promoted its fall lineup with audio spots in the DA responses, and 1-800-flowers.com and 1-800-Mattress.
Chief executive George Garrick told VentureWire in a story (sub required) this morning that the company’s post-money valuation was “about $150 million.”
[Update: We just got off the phone with George Garrick, who confirmed the valuation was “slightly higher” than $150M. The large amount of cash is needed, he said, to build out the service. Advertisers come later, because they don’t take a company seriously unless it can show five to ten million calls a month, he said. And he says Jingle has hit the tipping point, with about 450,000 calls daily. He expects revenue of between $1 and $5 million this year — he wouldn’t specify further — and “ten times” that next year, he said. He said Jingle is the clear leader in free DA service, in part because of its more recognizable number. InFreeda has shut down, in part because of its less memorable name, he added. Palo Alto’s 1-800-411-Save, meanwhile, is only placing between 5,000 and 10,000 calls a day, he said. We’ve reached out 1-800-411-Save for comment. No one else has raised close to this $30M, he pointed out. His
real fear (he corrects; he did not say he feared them) assumption is that the carriers will unveil an ad-supported free DA service, he said.]