Mobile based directory service Truecaller has raised $18.8M in fund raising from Sequoia Capital, Open Ocean, Truecaller Chairman Stefan Lennhammer, and an unnamed private investor. The Stockholm based venture with a significant user base in India has company has 45 million users who currently utilize the service to identify unknown phone numbers. Shailesh Lakhani from Sequoia Capital has joined the company’s board. The fund raising confirms a story from NextBigWhat which had initially been denied by Truecaller’s Kim Fai Kok, after which, understandably enough, that denial had been retracted. Prior to this, the Sweden-based global phone directory service had raised an investment of $1.3 million from the Open Ocean in September 2012. It claims to have 40 million users globally, of which 22 million users are in India.
What’s interesting is that the announcement press release tries to re-position Truecaller as a service which helps users identify spam callers:
“The Truecaller community is committed to protecting the integrity of the service by giving users access to advanced discovery features such as the ability to search for names, use reverse phone number lookup, share information, and access crowdsourced data to build the world’s largest list of top phone spammers, which has already helped block more than 1 billion unwanted calls in less than a year.”…”you can quickly look to see who the caller is, and if it has been marked as spam by other users. Any user can report a caller as spam to enhance the community, and after successive reports within a defined period, that number will be permanently blocked by the community. When you download the app, you also have the option to automatically block all numbers on Truecaller’s top spammers list built by the Truecaller community.”
Quite frankly, spam is just one of Truecaller’s use cases: there are significant privacy issues around Truecaller, because users who have your number are essentially giving away your contact details for anyone to look up from this online directory. The service also launching a social feature which allows you to update your contacts with “people you may know”, on the basis of your phone book, and perhaps trying to figure out common contacts.
There are legitimate use cases as well: Truecaller has also announced an integration of the Yelp API as part of its new product launch on android and iOS, which allows users to identify reviewed businesses globally, and review their ratings globally. Last month, Truecaller had partnered with Twitter to allow users of its Android app in the country view whether a mobile number is connected to a Twitter account and follow them directly or send them a tweet right from the Truecaller app. It had also introduced web profiles through which landline and non-smartphone users could create their respective profiles with requisite information like physical address, Facebook and Twitter accounts and others. In July 2013, Truecaller had also partnered with Innoz to allow users look up for mobile and landline numbers via SMS. Users were charged Rs 1 per query and offered information like person’s name, their service provider, region and service type (GSM or CDMA).
Mobile app Phone Warrior that recently raised $550,000 seed investment from Lightspeed Venture Partners is also planning to launch a similar directory app shortly and claims to have one million users at present.