Six months from now, ZoomInfo users can expect to see data that is “deeper, broader and fresher,” Zales told us in an interview today, a week after assuming his new job. More than just more, the data will be better parsed, compiled, and structured, he pledges, so that a recruiter finds Sam Zales the CEO, “not Sam Zales who worked at GM.”
“Our core product is data,” Zales declares, detailing his first task as “How to increase (its) breadth, depth, and freshness.”
Reengineering the data collection system will fall to William Wechtenhiser, who was recently appointed to the new position of vice president of engineering. Jonathan Stern, ZoomInfo founder and CEO, will retain the chief scientist title, but Zales said the company believes it is important to have “somebody on the ground, here, in the U.S.” (Stern is based in Israel.)
The accuracy of the ZoomInfo data has been one of its most nettlesome problems. Where competitors like Hoover’s use human editors to vet the accuracy of the data, ZoomInfo relies on computers to do the sifting and sorting. While Hoover’s is hardly flawless, ZoomInfo has such bloopers as listing the CEO of Merrill Lynch as Junji Okabayashi. (John Thain is Merill Lynch CEO. Okabayashi is CEO of a Japanese joint venture of the company’s.)
Fixing those kinds of problems will not be easy. Google has some of the best brains in the industry at work to improve search intelligence and develop what is generally referred to as the semantic web. But, as Google founder Larry Page has said, “We’re a long way, long ways from that.”
However, improving the currency of the data will be a step forward.
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Zales says his selection as president and the hiring of a VP-level engineer “is a message of investment in this business.” ZoomInfo will invest in faster equipment, programming enhancements, and the like to realize his “broader, deeper, fresher” pledge. “We will be making an investment in our technology.”
Zales’ background in the lead generation business is a natural fit with ZoomInfo. Though basic search is free to all comers, the company makes its money selling access to its powerful search tools. It has three primary customers: recruiters, sales, and marketers. Each can use the tools to develop leads lists, then access other sites — LinkedIn is a favorite with recruiters — to help make connections.
Zales had an eight-year run — a virtual lifetime — as CEO of B2B lead generator Buyer Zone. Before that, he was a marketing vice president with American Express, making him, he jokes, a “B2B service maven.” “My legacy,” he says, “is helping customers appreciate your products.”
It probably also didn’t hurt that Zales knows how to grow a business. Here’s what was said in his winning nomination for an American Business Award as Best Turnaround Executive:
“Zales helped BuyerZone create a unique and effective customer acquisition channel for suppliers while providing a revolutionary cost and time-saving purchasing process for small and mid-sized business buyers.”