We live in an era where Clouds and Crowds dominate pretty much everything… as long as those crowds and clouds are accessible from an iPad. But even with these devices made to make the content consumption experience more “exciting and new” (only people of a certain age will get that…) much of the traditional business information on companies and contacts still comes in very traditional formats….translation – boring formats.
Enter Jim Fowler, or should I say re-enter Jim Fowler with InfoArmy. Jim was the force behind Jigsaw.com, the crowd-sourced account and contact database in the cloud (before we called it that) bought by Salesforce.com in 2010 for a cool $175M. It lives on as the foundation of SFDC’s Data.com.
According to Mr. Fowler, InfoArmy is the first and only business information provider to harness crowdsourced competitive intelligence about companies and make it available in comprehensive and affordable Competitive Intelligence Reports(CIRs), which are viewable on the iPad.
Jim gave me a sneak peek to the InfoArmy iPad app and I have to say it’s pretty cool to see this kind of company information delivered taking advantage of the iOS user interface. I took a look at the report on one of my favorite companies – BatchBlue – and I did learn some things about the company that I didn’t know before - very quickly. The CIRs include information on products, people, press, customers, financials, statistics, and a look at the competitive landscape. The information looks pretty good, but I wouldn’t have Oracle in there as a competitor to BatchBlue. And I’ll have to corroborate the info with BB’s CEO Pamela O’Hara just to make sure it’s accurate, but I did like the way the app made it easy to select and view these CIRs.
So I like what they’re doing breathing life (and attractiveness) into business information, but it has to be more than pretty to become the Wikipedia of business information – or should I say the iPad app version of the Wikipedia of business information. It needs lots of good, solid, trustworthy business information added on a continuous basis. But Fowler is using a crowdsourcing model similar to the one he developed and used at Jigsaw. And InfoArmy will split the revenue from the sales of reports 50/50 with the researchers who create them. Each report costs $99, which includes three quarterly updates, including trend analyses. So if the information is full and accurate, this would be a inexpensive way to gain some potentially valuable company insights.
I really like what Jim is looking to do with InfoArmy. Utilizing the iPad’s interface to deliver important competitive intel in an attractive way is an idea way past its time. And with his track record of attracting and harnessing “crowd power” I think Fowler is onto something. Business information doesn’t have to look stodgy to be good. And Fowler is putting a million of his own dollars (and has raised an additional $3M) to do again what he did with Jigsaw. But content curation for these CIRs will be critical to the success of InfoArmy, which adds a layer of complexity into the mix. But I like what I’ve seen at this early stage.