The army tells recruits to “be all that you can be.” While in the military context, this statement relates to physical prowess and leadership skills, InfoArmy applies the same principal to business intelligence.
InfoArmy is a marketplace where researchers, analysts, or anyone with the requisite skill set can make extra money by writing competitive intelligence reports. The startup has raised $17.3 million in its second round of funding to “recruit a global army of researchers to build the largest and most comprehensive database of business intelligence reports in existence.”
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These fightin’ words come from chief executive Jim Fowler, a veteran of the BI industry who is using his training, experience, and expertise to strike fear into the heart of the enemy. I mean incumbents.
As it stands, business intelligence reports come from large companies like Reuters, Forrester, Gartner, and Dun & Bradstreet. They take operational data, considering factors like company size, traction, revenue, expenditures, and turn it into actionable information.
This information can be used for a number of purposes. Venture capitalists may refer to these reports when investigating potential investments, and marketing teams use this kind of data to make strategic decisions. The legacy providers, however, are expensive and can be slow to update their offerings. Fowler saw an opportunity to make an impact.
“If you look at the business intelligence industry, there has been very little innovation and we are employing the effort and wisdom of the crowd to disrupt it,” he said. “If I am 90 years old and there are tens of thousands of people in developing countries making a living off this platform, who were given a chance to go and use their brains instead of their backs, that will be incredibly satisfying.”
In the few short months since launching, InfoArmy has amassed 3,500 registered researchers on six continents. These people are tasked with specific company assignments and reference multiple credible sources when filling out the research fields. Before a report is published, it must be approved by a senior researcher or “officer” to ensure quality. Each one costs $100 and researchers keep half the proceeds from each sale. Reports will be updated each quarter so they stay current.
There are 2,000 reports available on InfoArmy and this hefty funding will be used to grow as quickly as possible.
“We have three steps on our road to global domination,” Fowler said. “10,000 [reports] is the next step, where can sell unlimited use subscriptions to VC firms, sales teams etc. After that, we want to reach 100,000. We believe that is critical mass when we terrify incumbents. If we get to 1 million, we will be international juggernaut in data business.”
Fowler was previously the founder of Jigsaw, a data-as-a-service platform that crowd sourced contact information for business professionals and companies. It sold to Salesforce for $142 million in 2010, but Fowler said just couldn’t resign himself to a life of leisure and doing daily yoga classes with his wife. Instead, he self-funded InfoArmy into existence.
“I made all the money that I’m going to need for my life with Jigsaw,” he said. “This is not about money, this is about wanting to create something really big and meaningful. Getting people to work at these information-style jobs is going to make the world a better place over time. We also value transparency of information, which is a always good for society. What this company will do is inject a layer of transparency on private companies that heretofore has been a domain of public companies. It will force a great level of accountability.”
Right now, InfoArmy concentrates on private, venture-backed technology companies, but it is starting to expand into other verticals, as well as global markets. It focuses on companies with high growth potential and their competitors. The $17.3 million Series B funding round came from Norwest Venture Partners and Trinity Ventures, and adds to Fowler’s initial $2 million Series A.
“There was no way I could have raised a round of funding like this at this point in Jigsaw’s life,” he said. “Raising money is a lot easier the second time around, as is hiring, but there is a lot more pressure. Now, I am not a first time entrepreneurs and supposed to know what I am doing.”
Whether he is addressing widespread unemployment, keeping private companies honest, or avoiding daily yoga sessions with his wife, Fowler is leading a squadron of information professionals into a future he sees as better. Read more on VentureBeat.