Yext: Revamping the Future of Accurate Information
Ask Google a random question on any particular business - and you’ll get your answer on the spot.
Acquiring proper online intel might sound like a breeze, yet a decade ago, it was anything but. Way back when, Google searches used document-based keywords to redirect you to a page of links, where an answer was made available.
Nowadays, however, Google magically processes human language to instantly provide users with a specific answer to just about any question.
But, as I, you, and everyone else already knows, finding an answer to a question doesn’t always make the information valid, causing countless businesses worldwide to suffer largely at the hands of less-than-true information providers.
When Howard Lerman first faced the problem, he instantly put his efforts into enhancing online data accuracy and bringing truthful information to users through one platform- Yext!
Nevertheless, Howard’s journey in creating a universal information provider such as Yext was less of a smooth-sale initiative and more of a rollercoaster ride.
Read on to learn more about Yext here:
Falling in Love With Technology
Howard Lerman was born in 1980, in Vienna, Austria.
Unlike other children, he didn't spend his teenage days playing flashlight tag, dodge ball or any run-of-the-mill game. Instead, being led by his own vast curiosity in technology, the youngster had totally different ideas of having fun.
Equipped with a dial-up modem, the fourteen-year-old youngster initiated his own bulletin board system- the electronic version of your typical bulletin messaging board.
His natural talent soon bought him a ticket to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet establishment for every geek’s wildest dreams.
Upon finishing high-school, Howard noted his eagerness for studying slowly faded. Instead of taking his predestined path, Howard took a shortcut and enrolled at Duke University, to study history. Just before he graduated, in 2002, Howard had developed his first idea on paper- to launch a website allowing users to email anonymous message tips to their friends.
Post-contemplation, Howards created the website, called JustATip.com, where students would message their best friends on their poor fashion choices, dating mistakes, and everything in between.
The best part of this website’s ways of interaction? No one found it offensive!
The major turning point for JustATip came after The Daily show advertised it on their platform, thus skyrocketing its clientele to over million tippers per month.
Howard took great pride in what he had accomplished, but knew still, the road to business glory was long and full of obstacles. After facing a revenue issue, where the company’s earnings barely covered the bills, Howard sold the company and reshifted his focus onto something even more bounteous.
Selling the company was not as easy as Howard had hoped, and neither was finding a willing-to-pay-the-big-bucks client. Eventually, however, the company was snapped up by Traffix, and Howard left the business ready for new challenges- and $150,000 heavier.
Taking a Shortcut
Once the sale wrapped up, Howard moved on to launch his next venture - a consulting firm specializing in a Microsoft.NET programming language, called Intwine.
In less than two years, Intwine expanded to 25 consultants and made an annual $5 million in sales.
As soon as the company was on its feet, the young Austrian sold it to Datran Media for a ravishing $7 million, because, well- playing safe is risky.
Despite the fact he was a young millionaire before the age of thirty, Howard felt his identity would soon be lost without a decent project to commit to. Although the right idea was still stuck on the road of construction, Howard was not the one to let his dream go.
It wasn’t until he entered a gym to cleanse his mind, that the long-anticipated light bulb went on, and Howard knew exactly where to head next. This time around, he would create a platform to help Internet users find gyms near their location.
Sign up, type in the address, and acquire a list of health clubs and gyms within their perimeter- it was as simple as that.
In 2006, GymTicket.com was finally launched.
Despite his high hopes, however, Howard’s business was anything but thriving. Unfortunately, many people took his platform as a way to promote a certain health business, which never was Howard’s intention. Since the company’s revenue came from charging gyms with membership fees, there was not much Howard could do but come up with a whole new concept to retrieve his wasted earnings.
Thinking that Brian Distelburger- a visionary leader at Consumer Digital at the time- might have the solution, Howard reached out and presented him with an idea- to use GymTicket’s concept and transform it into a more promising venture.
One thing led to another, and soon, two became three after the duo contacted yet another genius in his craft, Brent Metz.
The ‘It’ Product
With Brent on board, a bright future presented itself to the entrepreneurs.
The trio immediately started brainstorming ideas on the specifics of their start-up.
Following a long debate on what works and doesn’t for their projects, the trio decided to put their customers’ needs first and grow on from there.
In the early days, there was a growing number of dissatisfied clients, especially in the way local information travelled from one person to the next. What the trio now needed was to transform the information ecosystem from its core and offer something of value to its interested parties. After all, moguls such as Yahoo, Google and even Facebook Places already had their own databases of parish-pump information, including phone numbers, business addresses and client names- and now Howard, Brent and Brian had to follow along.
This was a time when databases were utterly detached and heavily impacted businesses upon changing even one slight information detail.
Diving deeper into the problem, the trio realized that this could solve an enormous local information problem, affecting over 20 million business locations, in the US only.
With great confidence in the product they were bringing to the business table, the trio launched Yext in 2006.
For three years straight, their business philosophy revolved around the following idea. Each time local businesses received a customers' order from a Yext advertisement, the business returned the favour by offering a certain percentage to the platform.
While a tit-for-tat solution was less than ideal, it seemed to have worked marvellously for the eager team of three - and for the time being.
Yext’s co-founders self-funded the seed round with an amount of $250 000, in 2006.
A year later, a mysterious Series A funding poured in dazzling $1.8 million to the platform. By 2008, Grape Arbor VC, Shutter Hill Ventures invested $3.5 million and in 2009, Yext raised $25 million in Series C funding from IVP.
Another $10 million Series D funding followed suit two years later, led by Michael Walrath, immediately supported by an additional $27 million in Series E funding.
Last but not least, in 2014, Insight Partners invested $50.3 million in Yext, thus ensuring its longevity on the global market.
Yext, Then and Now
Although the company had raised over $30 million total, its growth was somewhat halted due to poor advertisement. Back in 2009, a very few had heard of Yext or what it did to help communities worldwide.
When Yext hit $20 million in sales, its co-founders realized that receiving enormous funding had been a miscalculation on their part.
While a portion of their clients left as a result of improper management, there was still a silver lining for clients who left anything to chance. Instead of watching their company fall into a business rut, the trio decided to reshift the concept to create something even more functional - yet again.
So, in 2012, Howard sold shares of the company for over $30 million to IAC's CityGrid Media. Ever since, Yext enables clients to fill out gaps with information, thus automatically auditing active business directory listings.
What the new and improved Yext did differently was to enable an account manager to clients- available 24/7 and in regards to any mishap clients might be facing.
In this day and age, Yext has transpired into an industry-leading software tool, designed to manage location-associated business information by using a large number of directory websites online - or 84, to be exact.
With its headquarters in downtown New York City, Yext continues to impress with functionality and usability and proves that if you can make it big in NYC - you can surely make it big worldwide!