The FirstRain web research engine finds, analyzes, and categorizes the latest information on companies, their markets, and business trends. The third generation of this subscription-based service just announced July 11, 2011, is designed to unlock the “Business Web” with new simplicity and relevancy. The enhancements focus on role-based workflow improvements and mobile app availability. The target market is general business researchers—sales, marketing, finance, and C-level executives—not information professionals.
According to Ryan Warren, FirstRain’s VP of marketing, the latest changes were in response to customer feedback and with the help of user interface consultants. The previous version offered a wizard interface with numerous options to set up the search monitors. He says the average knowledge worker found it confusing with too many choices to be made and the results weren’t as good as when custom monitors were set up for them by FirstRain engineers. So, FirstRain pre-programmed in the options for several role-based scenarios. The clean new dashboard interface lists three ways to start—My Portfolio or Stock Watch List, My Competitors and Key Market Influences, or My Customers or Target Account List—plus an option to create a Custom Business Monitor. After picking a company, industry, or topic, users are shown recommended filters, which can be easily tweaked or removed, and then can set their delivery preferences for daily event briefs.
FirstRain daily event monitors can also be delivered via RSS or into social media solutions such as Twitter, Chatter, Yammer, or Jive. FirstRain can also easily integrate into existing portals or CRMs, like Salesforce.com and SharePoint. It also offers enterprise integration widgets.
There are some other helpful and unique features, such as industry market maps, and lists of management turnover, corporate governance issues, analyst comments and ratings, financial transactions, and major stock price events. FirstRain’s patented technology crawls and extracts a wide variety of high-value business events (from news, blog posts, press releases, company and people information, government filings, commentary, and more) and delivers it with surprising precision into the workflow of business professionals who need information to power their business decisions. Warren stresses that FirstRain is dynamically creating taxonomies all the time—it doesn’t use a pre-set hierarchical list but is graph based—the company’s trademarked “Business Web Graph.”
You can also use the search bar at the top of the FirstRain page to create advanced Boolean search expressions. Most business results can be generated from the wizard but sometimes power-users want to create highly refined searches to narrow in specific market characteristics.
“Our new and improved Web App is now even more closely aligned with the real-life information needs of users in their daily workflow: things like tracking your competitors, establishing customer or prospect-based sales triggers, staying current on an industry, or monitoring a portfolio of companies or tickers,” said FirstRain CEO, Penny Herscher. “This release makes it possible for users to activate their business monitors in just a few clicks, based on their role, while automatically incorporating the depth of our experience creating custom Business Web monitoring for our users. As a result, these workflow-based processes now produce even more accurate, easily personalized results allowing each user to find more relevant content in less time, or enabling a whole team to more efficiently stay current on their business.”
As mentioned, this latest round of FirstRain enhancements represents the “3rd major leap forward” in FirstRain solution development. “In its first iteration in 2006, the FirstRain application was primarily focused on the development and application of our unique Business Web Graph and patented semantic categorization technologies for the extraction of high-value business-related content from the consumer internet,” explained FirstRain COO, YY Lee. “In our second version in 2009, we built on this foundational technology and created a powerful web application that truly unlocked the Business Web for thousands of global finance and marketing professionals. But with this latest release, FirstRain allows any business professional in an enterprise, such as sales, marketing, finance and C-level executives, to configure and use the industry’s most comprehensive and effective Business Web monitoring with just a few mouse clicks, and then access that information in an elegant, native mobile app format.”
Back in 2008, Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote on ReadWriteWeb that FirstRain offered “qualitative analysis of search results through more intelligent filtering than is available in any other tool I know of.” He also wrote that at that time the service cost “$10K per year per user.” Potential customers should be pleased to learn that the current pricing starts at $5,000 per year for five users.
Warren says the service falls in between Google search at the low end (free and probably the biggest competitor to FirstRain) and high-end news aggregators such as Factiva, LexisNexis, and NewsEdge. He says there are at least three things that differentiate the service from its competitors:
- Quality—The dynamic nature of the FirstRain taxonomy provides a better level of specificity and it’s more up to date (it keeps just a 6-month archive of content)
- User interface—It’s simple, clean, and fast with good graphics
- Price—It’s a very affordable option
Partners include leading research platforms such as Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor’s; reciprocal sharing of content), FactSet Research Systems, Fidelity.com (Hot Topics on the Web), Mergent, Seeking Alpha (free Snapshot app plus free trial to full FirstRain research engine), and SalesForce.com. Recently the company announced that visitors to the SellingPower.com home page will find a list of sales intelligence industry “Hot Topics” powered by FirstRain. These partnerships are a smart move by FirstRain to expand its reach and introduce a wide range of business users to its full research service.
FirstRain also announced new iPhone and Android apps, now available in the iTunes App Store and Android Marketplace for download by FirstRain customers. Tablet users can take advantage of the web app now and coming soon will be a full-featured, dedicated iPad app. With the new role-based improvements and the mobile app availability, FirstRain is hoping to deliver a seamless intelligence integration into the daily workflow of business professionals.
FirstRain is a privately held company headquartered in San Mateo, Calif., with additional offices in New York, and Gurgaon, India. The company was founded in July 2000 and initially focused on vertical search for the institutional investment community. The last several years it has focused on the corporate market.
As for its choice of name, here’s the description from Lee. “When our company was founded back in 2000, it was in the early days of people trying to harvest the web for valuable intelligence. As a metaphor for the value of our technology, the 'first rain' of the season is the key to a bountiful harvest.”