There can never be too many resources for finding information about companies, especially privately held firms and startups, IMHO. So I welcomed the news recently of several new efforts to provide web-available company databases. The professional networking site LinkedIn has added a company directory, and a new company still in beta, TradeVibes, is working to build a user-generated database of company information.
Link Me Up
LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) claims to be the world’s largest professional network, with some 20 million profiles. Its new Company Profile feature, still in beta, is the result of a partnership with BusinessWeek.com and Capital IQ, a unit of Standard & Poors, which are providing the company data. (BusinessWeek and Standard & Poors are McGraw-Hill companies.)
LinkedIn members can now see more than 160,000 profiles of companies on LinkedIn, ranging from Fortune 500 companies (such as eBay) to philanthropic organizations (such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Company Profiles on LinkedIn provide a concise overview of a company’s industry data (size, location, revenues, etc.) in combination with data culled from LinkedIn along certain key metrics, such as common job titles, median age, and median tenure. Users are also shown a list of LinkedIn users in their networks (up to 3 degrees away) who work at a company, plus a list of new hires, recent promotions and changes, and jobs posted on LinkedIn.
According to the explanation on the LinkedIn blog, "The easiest way to access any company profile is stumbling upon it through individual profiles themselves. As you’re browsing any profile, look out for a logo right next to company titles, in any individual’s work history. Clicking through the highlighted company links will take you to the Company Profile directly." If you don’t know an employee, I found you can use the advanced people search feature and just fill in the company name to find one and then link to a company. Once you get to a company profile, there’s a search box to search for companies. (The company says it will be adding easier ways to access the information.)
LinkedIn also says that soon companies will be able to customize their company profiles:
• Post targeted jobs, recruitment videos, and other promotional material for recruitment
• Post information about products and services
• Upload company images
Greg Sterling at SearchEngineLand says, "This is an interesting and potentially valuable re-packaging of LinkedIn’s information. I would imagine that recruiters (already heavy LinkedIn users), startups, salespeople, and the unemployed will gain the greatest benefit from the new company directory."
From the LinkedIn Company Profile page, there are also links that open a new browser window to the Company Insight Center at BusinessWeek.com with much more detailed information on a company, such as financial statements, market data, SEC filings, and news.
So this looks to be a good move for all. It should surface the value of BusinessWeek content and build its customer base. LinkedIn should benefit from the connection to the BusinessWeek brand and for providing compelling content to its users.
In case you’re interested, LinkedIn is based in Mountain View, Calif., was founded in 2003, is privately held, and its median employee age is 32. It also has 52 jobs posted.
Follow the Vibes
TradeVibes (www.tradevibes.com) was founded in 2007 by four early employees of PayPal who say they share "a passion for entrepreneurship and cool new startups." It claims to be the first structured wiki for company information. The startup says it recently raised $900,000 in seed funding. The alpha version of the site (invitation only) launched in November 2007; it recently launched a public beta version. The site specializes in up-to-date information about private companies and serves as a tool for finding and sharing news and opinions about companies.
According to information posted on the site, "Our long term mission is to democratize business information. Ultimately, we want to facilitate innovation and encourage entrepreneurship globally." Current company information often includes company founders, funding, rivals, etc. Visitors may add comments, ratings, news, and blogs about a company.
The analysts at the InfoCommerce Group (www.infocommercegroup.com/blog) recently commented: "It may very well be a glimpse of the future. There’s a lot of fresh thinking going on at TradeVibes, and a lot to commend its content model. If TradeVibes can get critical market traction, it could herald the next big thing in the data world: high-value, user-generated company information."
Anthony Ha, writing at VentureBeat (http://venturebeat.com), says that "the ‘competitors’ page is one of TradeVibes’ best features. Not only can you see a list of competing and related companies, you can also draw up a chart comparing those companies’ web traffic. Other features include a ‘start-up discovery’ function that identifies start-ups in the TradeVibes database that might match your interests, as well as a customizable company information widget." But he cautions that "like any wiki, TradeVibes’ real value won’t become clear unless and until it attracts users."
More Goodies Out There
And don’t forget about some of the other good sources of company information—we need many potential resources in our arsenal, especially for private companies. Besides the company information available in subscription services such as Factiva and LexisNexis, some of the free and fee-based web options include Hoover’s, Yahoo! Finance, Vault.com, CrunchBase (from TechCrunch), and even Wikipedia.