Quid Inc., a San Francisco startup spawned by the entrepreneur website YouNoodle Inc., aims to shed light on the insular world of technology innovators and investors while making money itself.
With financing from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Quid is taking data it has compiled on thousands of private companies -- and the venture capitalists behind them -- and selling it to clients, including Microsoft Corp. and the British government.
The idea is to pinpoint where innovation is happening, what trends are emerging and who is funding them, said Bob Goodson, one of Quid’s founders. While public companies disclose financial results and research plans quarterly, private-company information is less transparent. That’s where Quid comes in, using its relationships and research to fill in the gaps. The challenge will be getting enough customers to pay for the data.
“It’s in private companies where so much of the world’s technology is being developed,” said Goodson, 30, who was one of the first employees at business review site Yelp Inc. before co-founding YouNoodle. “To date, no one has delved into what these companies are doing. That’s the data we care most about.”
To succeed, the startup will have to go beyond the kind of data that more-established competitors have collected. Hoover’s, a unit of Dun & Bradstreet Corp., has information on 65 million companies, both public and private. It sells the data via subscriptions. CrunchBase, a website owned by TechCrunch, is a free database of technology startups and venture capitalists, set up as a Wikipedia-style page that can be edited by anyone.
Quid’s team has spent the past two years building a database of private companies and creating software to help clients analyze the information. The company isn’t disclosing how much it charges because it’s still figuring out pricing, Goodson said.
Quid has kept its plans private until now and is only opening its website to the public today. The company also is hiring: It quadrupled its staff to 40 in the past five months, and has at least eight more openings.
Goodson started Quid with Sean Gourley, 31, one of the first employees at YouNoodle. Eight employees will remain with that company, which runs a website for entrepreneurs and works with Intel Corp.’s foundation and Amazon.com Inc. to promote innovation.
Goodson and Gourley studied at Oxford University in England and later met in San Francisco through a mutual friend from school. Goodson was a medieval literature and philosophy student, and Gourley completed his doctorate in physics, focusing his research on the mathematics of war.
Thiel, one of the founders of PayPal Inc. and the first outside investor in Facebook Inc., is backing Goodson for a second time. Thiel’s San Francisco-based venture firm, Founders Fund, first invested in YouNoodle in 2007. It provided financing for Quid late last year, bringing its total outlay to more than $2 million, he said.
Quid aims to use technology to make entrepreneurship easier by helping information flow more freely, he said.
“Venture capital and a lot of those things that are involved around developing new technologies are themselves quite low-tech,” Thiel, 42, said in an interview. “One of the things that would be quite revolutionary about Quid is an attempt to bring high tech to the industry that tries to develop technology itself.”
Sources of Data
Quid collects information on legal filings, number of employees, office locations, funding rounds and news. It also tracks job openings and discussions of a company’s products on Twitter Inc.’s social-networking service.
Quid’s other investors include Max Levchin, another PayPal co-founder, and Allen Morgan, an early-stage investor and a venture partner at Mayfield Fund. Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, and Charles Lho, chief executive officer of Amicus Group, also are backing Quid.
The startup’s likeliest customers are companies that need to track technology trends, as well as government groups involved with economic development and security, Goodson said.
Three of the world’s biggest technology companies are already using Quid’s products, he said. The only one he would name was Microsoft, the largest software company. Quid’s data can help Microsoft track developments in growing businesses, such as social games, Goodson said.
“We use Quid data and analytics to keep 2,000 managers aware of the latest trends and facts from the world of emerging business,” Cliff Reeves, director of the emerging-business team at the Redmond, Washington-based company, said in an e-mail.
In the government sector, Quid sells its data to U.K. Trade and Investment, the agency that helps promote British business overseas, Goodson said.
While Goodson sees an untapped market and growing demand for Quid’s expertise, he’ll have to persuade customers to open their wallets. Companies are used to paying for research reports on industry trends and have to be shown that Quid’s software will save them time and money, and provide better results, he said.
“We’re taking the manual effort out of researching technology trends,” Goodson said. “Educating people around these new concepts is not easy and it’s not immediately clear how we do it.”
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