May 10, 2011

Reaching 1 Billion Monthly Users, Clearspring Adds On $20M

Alongside the boom in social media consumption, the world of social sharing, delivering content from a siloed source to a social destination has exploded in the last few years, as casual and professional media alike are scrapping for ways to bring their content to the fast-flowing streams of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. A chief benefactor of this trend has been Clearspring, the company behind the practically ubiquitous AddThis buttons, which you see adorning Web sites of all types. The company, recognizing more than a billion unique users across the nine million sites where its buttons are installed, announced this morning the raise of $20 million to help harness the data being gathered and providing the next generation of analytics.

A few months ago, during the company's semi-regular swings to Silicon Valley, I met with Hooman Radfar, co-founder and CEO of Clearspring for dinner here in Sunnyvale, and was struck by the reach of Clearspring's properties, which has to be one of the few Internet names to touch ten digits worth of people. With Facebook counting user numbers well into the 600 million and beyond, for Clearspring to talk up a _billion_ users is quite an accomplishment. Of course, a widget on a Web site is not the same as a fully immersive experience, but in a world focused on data, and the extraction of meaning from that data, he with the biggest numbers wins.

Unsurprisingly, this morning's announcement focuses on how the gathered data will "accelerate Clearspring’s next-generation publisher products and continued growth of its advertising offerings, as well as to help fuel strategic acquisitions." There's no telling if $20 million will be enough to drive a big acquisition of any kind, but in a phone conversation yesterday, Radfar told me the company already had a good amount of money in the bank prior to the raise, while the new round brought "additional powder" for engaging in M&A, giving the company more flexibility for future expansion.

The AddThis platform, thanks to its universal visibility, has already become an interesting stopping point for statistics on which of the many social networks out there are gaining traction month by month, as I had highlighted back in late 2009 with the launch of their service directory. Interestingly, as captured in that post from 18 months or so ago, Facebook at the time accounted for 28 percent of all social sharing. Today, that number has increased 50 percent to 43 percent of all sharing throughout the AddThis network. In the same period, Twitter expanded from 8 percent to nearly 10 percent, and Myspace fell from having just over 8 percent to just over 2 percent, a 75 percent decrease.

AddThis' big numbers make it one of the top ten largest audiences online today, according to their press release, claiming also that revenue is on pace to triple from the previous year, and staffing is expanding at the rate of one new hire per week, on pace to double staff. Math suggests the doubling brings the team from just over 50 to more than 100 to exit 2011, and for AddThis, the future looks to be all about numbers.

“We’ve always held the view that big data would be one of the most valuable assets to come out of the social web,” said Ted Leonsis, Clearspring’s Chairman in today's release. “It is no surprise to anyone close to the company that we have parlayed our expertise in social sharing to achieve a reach surpassing Yahoo!."

AddThis supports more than 300 disparate social networks, so if you're like me and want to bring attention to the edge cases, you can find their orange squared buttons with the white plus symbol and share anywhere you like. Having $20 million more available makes it more likely you'll find these buttons in more places.

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