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Competitive intelligence via the crowd

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Competitive intelligence via the crowd

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Last week some friends and I were having a chat about business.  One of them had been approached by a rival company with the news that they were up for sale, and he wasn’t sure what to think about it.  On the surface, they seemed like a good company, but after we’d done a bit of digging around, the prognosis didn’t appear quite so rosy (iffy looking balance sheet).

Such informal crowdsourcing of competitive intelligence is probably quite commonplace, but Owler want to take it one step further.  Owler has evolved out of the Jigsaw service that was sold to Salesforce back in 2010.  Jigsaw was a crowdsourcing service that would provide contact data for businesses.

Owler works on a similar premise, and aims to crowdsource the collation of information about companies.  The service is a straightforward one.  Users select the company they’d like to monitor, and then the crowd delivers regular news updates on that company, either via email or through their mobile app.  Users can also receive breaking news alerts direct to their phones.

The service also allows users to test the waters on a particular company.  Through the polls function, users can post up a question about a particular company that is visible whenever someone views that companies profile.  It’s a nice and easy way to gauge the mood on a particular company or topic.

The service is free to use, but that also means that there is little tangible incentive for people to contribute their thoughts and opinions on the companies themselves.  Approximately 4,000 users took part in the private beta for the site, but I sense that they will need something more to encourage a community to form.  The latest crowdsourcing research suggests that people tend to join crowdsourcing projects because they are enjoyable and because they work on a cause that matters to them.  I’m not sure quite what that cause would be for Owler.

There is a clear benefit for the end user here, but for the app to really take off, I think they will need to firm up their proposition to those actually supplying the information itself.  Certainly one to watch out for though.

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