In a basic and visceral way, technology saved Dan Martell’s life
As a teenager, growing up in Riverview, N.B., this Monctonbased entrepreneur was on the fast track to perdition. By 17, he had been to jail twice on drug-related charges. “Yeah,” he says now, “I got into a lot of trouble as a kid. I ended up getting put into group homes and foster homes. I went into rehab when I was 18, and that’s where I learned to program.”
In fact, he plundered the local Chapters store, buying every book on computers he could find. With moral support from the institution’s staff – all of whom were ex-drug addicts – he climbed out of his hole, emerging clean, sober and happily preoccupied with the twin notions of selfdetermination and giving back to the community. It should come as no surprise, then, that both principles figure prominently in the operating philosophy of his most recent venture, a company he launched in May of last year. He calls it, with unintended irony, Clarity.
The enterprise, which employs six, is a web-based platform that puts experts in various fields of business (marketing, fundraising, leadership and management, among others), together with those looking for advice.
Since the launch, business has been booming. “Initially, we recruited the first 1,000 experts,” Martell says. “But because it is predominantly a mobile app and also a website, anybody can apply to become an expert and once they are approved they are in our directory, available to search. We’ve now grown the directory to 14,000 experts in the last 12 months. We’ve actually done 30,000 calls across 55 countries. We’ve been generating revenues since day one. We’ve been growing 30 per cent monthover- month over the past 14 months.”
Indeed, Clarity – which collects 15 per cent from each paid call (experts, who can also be customers, set their own fees) – boasts an impressively happy membership. “If you’re as crazy busy as I am, you will love that Clarity handles everything – scheduling, billing, setup of the conference call, and even when I want to donate the proceeds of the call to charity,” testifies Jonathan Feldman, contributing editor of Informationweek.com.
The secret to the service’s popularity is not only its accessibility and comprehensiveness. It also addresses a problem common to nearly every business owner. Martel explains he came up with the idea in 2011 after he sold his social marketing application company, Flowtown, based in San Francisco, where he was living at the time. “When that got acquired, my inbox just exploded with people who wanted to pick my brain and have coffee,” he says. “I think it’s the Canadian in me. I felt like I had to respond. I just couldn’t read all the emails. So I built the first version of Clarity to solve my own problem… But as soon as I made the public link to other people on Twitter who followed me, they started asking me if they could use it. That’s when it hit me.”
With a successful seed investment round of $1.6 million, completed last December, Clarity’s growth curve seems secure – which is not bad at all for a hustling, self-taught tech entrepreneur who likes to refer to his troubled, unlikely background as unorthodox, even “interesting”.
By Alec Bruce