If you wanted to start a company based on the financial markets, Austin might not be your first choice. Technically, for 9WSearch CEO Susan Strausberg, it wasn’t. “My husband and I picked Austin to start a green-oriented business, but it took a little longer than expected,” said Strausberg. “So we went back to our roots and started 9WSearch.”
Those roots run the deepest in financial services, and with Strausberg’s track record in the industry, it probably doesn’t matter much where she sets up shop.
“We’re creating a new paradigm for the presentation and consumption of financial information,” said Strausberg. In the mid 1990’s, she had similar aspirations as the co-founder of Edgar Online, whose model accelerated as the SEC mandated that information had to move online. This time, it’s another ruling that’s proving to be a catalyst.
In 2009, the SEC ruled that companies would have to provide operating data in an easy to use format, opting to push forward with the eXtensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL. That opened the floodgates for 9WSearch and others. Now companies had a standard to work with, making the development and delivery of specific apps and services much easier. Strausberg says the XBRL mandate, coupled with the fact that between eighty and ninety per cent of companies have a basic commercial or industrial classification, 9WSearch can create a curated view of company data and financials.
“We can create a custom template that gives our clients a tailored view of a company’s core information,” explained Strausberg. Her team has already accomplished much of the heavy lifting, so templatizing a business sector or company profile is a snap says Strausberg. They’ve essentially cleaned up some of the finance-speak and distilled the data down to simple and understandable terms, something 9W likes to describe as “actionable intelligence.”
Co-founder and CIO, Marc Strausberg, says there are more than 18000 tags that were approved under the XBRL mandate. So while the delivery is standardized, there’s still a big challenge fitting all the terminology into a standard taxonomy.
“The reality is many of the descriptions don’t add a lot of value, and what 9W does is surface the items that have value to an end user,” said Mr.Strausberg. He gave the example of an energy company that might be reporting on the success of its exploration efforts. “If we have 200 oil and gas companies and can whittle things down to “dry holes,” we’re saving people a significant amount of time,” he added.
Its filtering and curation expertise is really where the company is banking on separation from its competitors. Although finance is one of the largest silos on the web, mobile access to this information is severely lacking. Both founders also say they plan to involve their early freemium customers in the process of determining what the marketplace will want. In addition, 9W currently has basic social media capabilities, with the ability to share across most social networks.
On the customer front, 9W says it doesn’t have one ideal segment, but there are some obvious ones. Knowledge workers inside corporations should be easy pickings as 9W launches, especially as the company adds vertical product sectors. It also wouldn’t be a stretch to see LinkedIn, Salesforce or other B2B software providers take a serious look at its portfolio. Salespeople, HR managers and certainly the C-Suite are used to buying and integrating content for the business. The difference in 2012 is the modularity of those content assets. You don’t need to buy the whole package from a media company, just the niche you need.
“There’s a gigantic shift in the way people will use information and most of us aren’t educated in the fine points of finance,” said Strausberg.
Neither are most businesses.