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Community and Transparency Power Research Sites

Magazine article Online Searcher

Community and Transparency Power Research Sites

Article excerpt

It's interesting to watch serial innovators. The man behind the failed InfoArmy project, Jim Fowler, had quite a success with Jigsaw, which he sold in 2010 to Salesforce for $142 million, where it's now known as Data.com. InfoArmy, an attempt to crowdsource company information, had too many inaccuracies and too long a lag time in getting data online. It closed soon after it launched in 2013. His latest venture is Owler (owler.com), a variation on the InfoArmy concept. Again, no subscription required.

Headquartered in San Mateo, Calif., Owler is a free mobile and online platform for company information and interactive business news. Owler keeps users up-to-date by providing hand-curated, real-time updates about companies and competitors along with company insights provided by the Owler community. This venture is a bit more realistic about how much the average Joe knows, so there is more care in reaching out to individuals to verify information and support company coverage with news items.

The proof of concept demonstrated that community judgments (with regard to company success) can be more accurate than analysts. Under development for about a year before the beta launch in January 2013, Owler's soft launch in March 2014 began with a free iPhone app. Today, there are more than 1 million companies in the system, at different stages of "completeness." Of those that have been tagged by type of corporate structure--and most as yet have not--54,700 are private companies and nearly 12,000 are public. Companies included largely occupy the high-tech/biotech space, which is reasonable considering who's likely to contribute to a community of this nature; there also has been growth in manufacturing/ industry and energy (oil).

The firm's staff--a little more than 100 employees--is working on enhancing the information available on approximately 17,000 companies which users (the Owler community) have indicated are a priority. Companies are drawn from news (startups and venture capital investments), mentions in top business publications worldwide (English-only), and primary corporate documents, such as SEC and state filings.

OWLER DASHBOARD

First impressions mean a lot, and Owler's dashboard presentation will be familiar to anyone who grew up with tablets and apps. There is always a (different) poll on the left, generated by the community, while the center of an individual's startpage contains (news) updates on companies one is tracking (My Followed Companies). The right-hand navigation bar allows users to "discover" the most recent news concerning these areas:

* Funding, with a quick recap by company, amount received, and investor(s)

* Acquisitions, "Who bought Who" (yes, that's how it reads!) plus amount

* Leadership changes ("Who's Moving Around")

* Using the basic search box, you can search by company name, URL, or ticker symbol. The advanced search page offers additional options: type of ownership (public/private), location (country, state), or "tag." A rating scale slider bar permits you to limit the search by number of employees (anywhere from 0 to 10,000-plus), estimated revenue ($300K-$1B-plus), total funding (0-$100M-plus), company age (0-10-plus years). Tag is a free-form space for individuals to add keywords to limit their search. This may be an attempt to crowdsource a taxonomy, beginning with areas of most interest to the greatest number of individuals, but Owler needs a more sophisticated taxonomy to aid search by sector and is working furiously to develop it.

Options in the top navigation bar include "Discover" and "Poll Builder." Discover provides detailed access to the following:

* Funding events dashboard, with details by company name, date, amount, investors, round, post money valuation estimate, and polls/insights

* Acquisitions dashboard (details by date, acquirer, target, amount, approval rating, and polls/insights)

* Leadership changes (company, date, CEO, LinkedIn/ Twitter feed links, approval rating, and polls/insights)

Poll Builder is where you can create your own polls to learn more about followed companies. …

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