Relationships are a tricky thing — and particularly fraught in the enterprise world, where the right connection or second-degree contact can make the difference in a high-stakes deal. That’s why almost five years ago, Stanford grads Ray Zhou and Shubham Goel cofounded Affinity, a San Francisco startup developing what they describe as a “relationship intelligence” platform. Unlike some relationship management products on the market, Affinity is entirely automatic — it dispenses with manual data entry in favor of an AI-driven, automated approach. Toward that end, Goel and Zhou say it’s helped to identify over three million “warm introductions” in networks and auto-populated over 300 million data fields with relevant contact information. And it’s just getting started.
Affinity today announced that it has raised $26.5 million in a series B funding round led by Advance Venture Partners and Sway Ventures, with participation from MassMutual Ventures, Pear Ventures, and angel investors including SuccessFactors founder and former CEO Lars Dalgaard. David T. IbnAle, managing partner at Advance Venture Partners, will join Affinity’s board of directors as part of the round, which brings Affinity’s total raised to $40.5 million.
“Affinity is changing the relationship management industry by leveraging data in ways no one thought possible,” Zhou said. “Our goal is to create a world in which anyone can tap into the full power of their network to start a company, land a dream job, close a huge deal or otherwise find great opportunities for business success. We’re building the technology infrastructure that will make that possible for everyone.”
Affinity’s software-as-a-service offering analyzes data points from a number of sources — including email, contacts, calendars, and third-party services like Crunchbase, Clearbit, and Zapier — to derive insights enterprises (and individual users) can leverage to cultivate and expand valuable relationships. Its machine learning and natural language processing systems structure that data and autonomously prioritize the “most valuable” connections within networks in a unified dashboard, while additionally surfacing opportunities that might otherwise have flown under the radar.
Affinity essentially builds a digital Rolodex of contacts — sortable by filters like location, job title, last funding date, and more — complete with a history of interactions going back 10 years, and layers intelligence on top of it. Its web-based and mobile apps (and Chrome extension) pack in task automation tools that let users set up activity-triggered reminders and detect emails and messages in need of attention, as well as a nifty feature — Affinity Alliances — that enables them to connect with others outside of their team or network who might be able to “provide the most valuable introductions.”
Affinity competes with plenty of well-funded startups in the relationship management space, like Womply and Nimble — not to mention behemoths such as Microsoft and Salesforce. But it’s gained a fair bit of traction in the four years since its founding; Affinity currently helps to manage relationships across 20 million people and 5 million organizations, Zhou says, including Bain Capital Ventures, Kairos, Redpoint, American Family Insurance, AngelList, and others.
“Data is extremely valuable when it comes to building and nurturing professional relationships, but collecting, recording and accessing this data has traditionally been a time-consuming, manual process,” IbnAle said. “Affinity has found a way to harness the incredible amount of relationship data buried in our day-to-day communications and make it useful in a way that both simplifies relationship management and amplifies the value of our professional networks.”