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FreePint BlogInfoArmy and Mancx - allies or threats?

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A couple of new crowdsourced business ventures have recently been launched which, depending on your point of view, could either be seen as a threat or an opportunity for business researchers.


A couple of new crowdsourced business ventures have recently been launched which, depending on your point of view, could either be seen as a threat or an opportunity for business researchers.

First up is InfoArmy, established this month by Jim Fowler of Jigsaw fame. Whereas Jigsaw was aimed at those requiring contact details for sales and marketing purposes, Fowler’s latest venture uses a similar business model to compile competitive intelligence reports using an army of freelance researchers.

All reports will be on private companies, for which data is generally harder to find and will be sold to iPad users only for $99 each. Crucially, that price includes access to regular updates, which makes company monitoring easier and sets Info Army apart from some of its competitors like Dun & Bradstreet. The currency of the reports also counters accusations of another Wikipedia type product cloaked as a business information tool.

The idea of InfoArmy is that businesspeople about to go into meetings will have comprehensive intelligence reports at their fingertips, which will include information on companies’ products, decision makers, competitors and financial data. The reports will consist of a mix of publicly available information and extrapolation or analysis of data.

And what’s in it for researchers? InfoArmy uses two researchers to work on each report, one doing primary research and the other, more senior to check for accuracy. Companies can comment on any inaccuracies they see and fellow researchers will also be able to highlight mistakes.

The $99 fee will be split 50/50 between the researchers and InfoArmy, so one would have to compile a large number of reports before earning a decent crust. Professional researchers will also be sceptical as to how accurate financial data on private companies can possibly be, when little of it is disclosed. Fowler, who according to Techcrunch has seed funding of $2 million for the venture is hoping that a critical mass of reports will make sector and financial analysis easier.

Venturebeat writes that Fowler has already signed up more than 100 researchers – students, consultants, lecturers and analysts - and is looking for many more, especially those with language skills.

The other new start-up is a Q&A service with a difference. Launched by Swedish backers, Mancx is aiming to cojole people to part with hard-to-find information, by offering them a cash incentive. The Mancx founders believe that even the better Q&A tools like Stack Exchange have a vast number of unanswered questions on their sites – around 600,000 – and that there is a potential to make money here.

Mancx is intended to operate as an auction site, where users can post questions and set a price they are willing to pay for answers. Full refunds are offered for unsatisfactory replies and those deemed to be posting good answers can build up a reputation as a go-to researcher.

Opportunity or threat? Professional researchers should probably be encouraged that adding value to information is seen as something worth paying for. It is up to us to up our game and differentiate our services from those offered by the crowd.


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