Personal CRM app Clay adds an AI helper to help you navigate your relationships

Clay, a startup that's something of a personal CRM, as it's designed to help people manage their own relationships -- including those with friends, family, colleagues, industry peers and more -- is now turning to AI to help you derive more insights from your network of contacts. If you ever wanted to ask an AI who among your connections has ever been to a specific place, works at a particular company or is knowledgeable about a particular topic, Clay's new AI navigator, which it's dubbed Nexus, could help.

While many people today are using AI to summarize information from the web or answer questions about general topics, Nexus is putting AI to use for a more practical and personal purpose, while still respecting user privacy.

Launched in 2021, Clay's first iteration offered a service that pulled in information from your address book and other social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to build something that's more powerful than an address book but also not as sales-and-pipeline focused as a traditional CRM system. Instead, the company described its product as a "home for your people," carving out a niche for a sort of personal relationship-focused database and contacts system.

With Clay, you could also keep up with your colleagues and friends' latest achievements, recent posts and birthdays as well as jot down notes you wanted to remember -- like how you met, when you last hung out or what you talked about -- and could organize contacts into groups. Combined, the features allowed you to be more thoughtful and conscientious about your relationships, which could aid with anything from growing your network to just being better friends.

Now, the new AI-powered Nexus feature will allow you to query against your personal database to learn even more about your network and aid you with maintaining your relationships.

Image Credits: Clay

"With the current wave of AI tools, I think a lot of what we're seeing is technology and search for solution," says Clay co-founder Matthew Achariam. Prior to Clay, Achariam led product at Y Combinator-backed analytics company Castora. He's joined on Clay by co-founder Zachary Hamed, who previously led product management for Goldman Sachs' Marquee.

"When we first started Clay, one of the first things that we really wanted to get right was actually people search...we said, it's fundamentally broken because all your data is everywhere, and there's just too much of it," Achariam explains. "So, we were jumping for joy when we first heard about the advancements in AI because now you can essentially have your network be this living, portable thing that you need some help navigating."

Image Credits: Clay

The company spent the last year working to develop their AI functionality in order to build a tool that's designed specifically for this purpose, using a combination of technologies from OpenAI, Anthropic and self-trained models from Hugging Face and other open source technologies to create a hybrid model for its own purposes.

The result is Nexus, which allows you to query your own network for insights. For example, you could ask Nexus who to invite to a dinner party in New York next week or who knows a lot about chip manufacturing among your connections. Or, as Achariam describes it, it's like talking to your network as if it's a person, then having it generate a list for you, based on its understanding of that data.

The AI helper can also assist with relationship-building, as it can help you to do things like compose an email to a contact to suggest you catch up soon, for instance. Or it could suggest gift ideas when it's someone's birthday.

Image Credits: Clay

Given the sensitivity of the information in your network, Clay has always been upfront with how it respects user privacy and security, offering a human-readable privacy policy where it tends to default to the most restrictive policy possible for all its integrations. For instance, it doesn't pull email bodies, only metadata like the subject line and recipients. And it's explicit about what it does and does not collect, forgoing working with third-party providers that use data for training purposes, and ensuring everything is opt-in, not opt out. (Plus, if you later opt out, the information is deleted.)

"Being the processing layer for this data and you being able to trust us means that we're not giving, for example, all of the data to OpenAI or any of these other companies. We can be very specific about the data that we use, how we use it, and what is the question it's answering," notes Hamed.

We should note that, like other companies, Clay's access to Twitter via APIs has deteriorated since Elon Musk's policy changes. The company says, however, if existing users had connected with Twitter in the past, that data should still be available.

Image Credits: Clay

Clay doesn't share how many users are now using its app, which is now available across Mac, Windows, Web and iOS, and soon, Android. However, the founders did tell us that it's approaching over 100 million relationships managed, in terms of its network size. (That's not an equivalent to users, as each user could have thousands of people in their own network. But you can sort of back your way into a user estimate here, using averages.)

The app itself is popular among a number of industries, ranging from MBA students early in their career where they're meeting a lot of people, to those who have expansive networks, like VCs. Some smaller business customers are also using Clay to develop better relationships with their best customers, but not for sales pipeline types of concerns.

The startup also now offers tiered pricing, beginning with a free, personal plan with a more limited search history, and a Pro Plan ($20/mo) with unlimited search history. It says the new AI features will roll out to both plans at no additional charge, as the team believes this will now become a big selling point for its app.

"We wanted to get it in people's hands. We really believe that this is a unique use case for AI and we're the first people to do it in this -- sort of, CRM, networking, contacts anything -- space. So we wanted to give people a preview of what's to come," says Hamed.

As the feature is currently in a technical preview, users will only be able to "refresh" their network's data for the AI use case once per month, but that will improve over time.

Clay, still a small team of 14, is backed by a little over $8 million in seed funding from Forerunner Ventures, General Catalyst, and others. The company has seen inbound interest over its AI plans but hasn't committed to raising an additional round at this time.