ThinkingPhones Buys Contactive to Bring Better Caller ID to Business

It seems like decades since Caller ID—that humble but useful improvement to old-school landline telephones—felt high-tech and cutting-edge. But ThinkingPhones, a Cambridge, MA-based communications software company, thinks Caller ID has a future, and that new technology can give it new life. That’s why the company just bought Contactive, a New York City-based big data startup, for an undisclosed price. The companies announced the deal Wednesday.

ThinkingPhones makes software that manages phone calls, video conferences, text messages, and collaboration apps through a cloud-based platform that’s optimized for mobile phones. It also has other capabilities, like linking to business apps and tracking how fast employees return calls and how much time they spend talking with customers.

Co-founder and CEO Steve Kokinos said his company wants to be the one enterprises turn to when they replace aging communications systems that are based around phones on employees’ desks with new systems that incorporate employees’ smartphones and mobile devices. He believes Contactive will give ThinkingPhones an edge.

Contactive has created two apps it calls “Caller ID on steroids”: Contactive’s namesake consumer app for Android users, which the company says has more than 1 million users, and Klink, the more powerful enterprise version of that app.

Contactive says its apps can identify more than 600 million callers by automatically doing searches for phone numbers and names on Google, in public directories, and in social networks. After scouring the Internet, it compiles the information and provides it to users before they answer calls.

The key to Contactive isn’t just identifying callers, Kokinos said, but that it quickly provides important information about callers, like their LinkedIn profiles, recent tweets, links to past e-mail exchanges, or records from Salesforce. Klink can go a few steps farther by bringing up current sales date, updating contact records, and logging calls.

So the new capabilities go far beyond saying who is on the line.

“It’s really about bringing context to communications, and the idea that when somebody calls you, it’s not just about the phone number and if it’s in your contacts or not, it’s about being able to pull from all sorts of data sources across the cloud ecosystem,” Kokinos said. “It will enhance the experience of end users by helping them understand what’s going on around them.”

In December, ThinkingPhones said it raised a $56 million Series D round. Kokinos said that money will be used to pay for expansion efforts as the company adds to sales and marketing and research and development efforts.

Acquiring Klink was an opportunistic move that wasn’t related to the round, Kokinos said.

“We see this as really complementary to our vision, an enhancement to the work we’ve already been doing,” Kokinos said. “I think their approach is definitely unique and something we thought was compelling.”

All told, ThinkingPhones has raised $89 million since its founding in 2006. It employs about 250 people and wants to double by the end of the year.

The market for unified communications products and services could be tens of billions per year, and it’s a field Kokinos thinks is ready for the taking. He points out only 5 percent of companies larger than 250 employees have shifted to cloud-based communications systems. The largest players in the sector are incumbents like Cisco and Avaya, which Kokinos believes are wedded to hardware-based systems that are falling behind what the cloud can offer.

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