MarTech Interview with Ray Zhou, co-founder and co-CEO at Affinity

Ray Zhou, co-founder and co-CEO at Affinity catches up with MarTechSeries to chat about the growth and evolution of Affinity:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Ray, tell us more about the Affinity platform and how its evolved since its inception?

We see the Affinity platform as a representation of our company’s mission. Affinity has always been a relationship-first organization. We saw a fundamental problem for professionals in relationship-driven industries: their business models relied on building and maintaining a strong network of connections, but everyone we spoke to was struggling to do those things as well as they wanted to. Our company focuses on helping dealmakers find, manage, and close deals faster, and we support that through our relationship intelligence platform.

Affinity automatically captures data exhaust—contact and activity information stored in emails, calendar invites, and meetings that is often overlooked and forgotten. It then enriches that data and surfaces insights—what we call relationship intelligence—to help teams make more data-driven decisions.

The platform has continued to evolve and expand to better meet our mission. These expansions include our own proprietary dataset, Affinity Data, and extensions like Affinity Meetings that gives teams access to their CRM data directly from their Zoom calls. Providing teams with more data and easier access to their data helps them meet their goals and helps us meet our mission.

We’d love to hear more Affinity Data’s newest features and how it enhances workflows for dealmakers?

Affinity Data expands the breadth of the Affinity offering with up-to-date insights on over 10 million founders, executives, and experts, including data points like industry, job function, seniority, education, job titles, and years of experience.

 Data informs more of the venture capital investment process today than it ever has. However, accessing—and effectively using—this data is often time-consuming and requires dealmakers to update and cross-reference multiple platforms. With Affinity Data, teams can consolidate the research, updating, and outreaching processes into the Affinity relationship intelligence platform. Now, investors can evaluate people in their network to screen deals or identify potential investments, find experts to support due diligence or portfolio companies, and make decisions faster, all in one place.

 Additionally, we recently released a new extension, Affinity Meetings for Zoom, which allows for investors to have more impactful meetings when it comes to face time with those involved in a deal.

 With minimal time to prepare for each Zoom call, Affinity’s research indicates that almost 50% of general partners, associates, and managing directors do their meeting prep only moments before their meetings begin. With Affinity Meetings, business leaders have access to a virtual briefing at the top of each call that includes all of the relationship insights from their CRM. The extension also gives them he ability to capture notes directly in Affinity’s CRM, live access to meeting agendas, and the context of their relationship with others on the call, including previous emails and meeting notes. As a result, dealmakers can drive more effective meetings, keep their team aligned, and continue to save time they can instead spend closing deals.

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How can relationship intelligence platforms impact the B2B market: a few ways in which you’ve been seeing it drive growth/investments?

Relationship intelligence platforms are saving dealmakers hundreds of hours of data entry per investor per year by automating data capture—from creating contact records to logging interactions and keeping deals up-to-date. Affinity surveyed its clients and found that our platform saves an average of 226 hours of data entry allowing more time to be spent on closing deal pipeline.

These platforms are also helping dealmakers understand how to leverage their relationships to unlock and close more deals. Insights gathered from more comprehensive and more accurate data helps teams do everything from identifying opportunities and potential warm introductions to knowing which of their current most valuable relationships are needing more attention.

In B2B investing, relationship intelligence is already widely adopted and a crucial part of the venture capital and private equity tech stack. It will likely become the standard for B2B sales in other relationship-driven industries in the years to come.

Can you talk about the future of these platforms and what type of features here will start becoming more prominent for VCs / Investors?

As these platforms continue to evolve and are able to integrate more data and insights from the products dealmakers use everyday, they will automate more and more of the data management process.

As a result, human capital will be allocated more effectively; people will be able to focus even more on tasks that drive bottom-line business outcomes such as building and maintaining key professional relationships. Data and insights will be drawn from more sources including video calls and transcripts, texts, and instant messages. Datasets about people and companies, markets and transactions, demographics and firmographics, and more will also continue to expand to provide even greater detail

Lastly, relationship intelligence insights and data will become increasingly embedded into our daily tools and platforms. Rather than forcing users to switch contexts by opening a dedicated relationship intelligence app or website, they’ll have access to their data where they work—browsers, Zoom, email clients, LinkedIn, Salesforce and more.

When it comes to understanding how relationship intelligence platforms work, how would you break it down for the uninitiated?

Relationship intelligence is a category of relationship insights powered by the data a firm already owns but may not utilize effectively.

By harnessing the billions of data points and interactions already in a firm’s network— from emails to calendars to data on people, companies, and markets—these platforms deliver insights that change the game for dealmakers.

Relationship intelligence has two promises: automating away hundreds of hours of onerous manual data entry while delivering insights that make dealmakers smarter about how they spend their time on their relationships.

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affinity logo

Affinity’s patented technology structures and analyzes millions of data points across emails, calendars, and third-party sources to offer users the tools they need to automatically manage their most valuable relationships, prioritize important connections, and discover untapped opportunities.

Ray Zhou is Co-Founder, Co-CEO at Affinity.

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