Topix deepens search in Silicon Valley with LinkSV
More on our earlier note about Topix...
Topix.net, the Palo Alto Web service that provides local news, has launched a new service designed for the Silicon Valley start-up community.
It's just the latest offering from this intriguing company of eight employees that has leveraged a mindshare many times larger than the company's size would imply. Call it the Craigslist.org of news. At www.topix.net/startups, its latest offering, Topix pulls in news on about 2,500 area start-ups, a great reference for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, accountants and others. It finds the news by crawling the Web and searching for info about the start-ups from its 10,000 news and other information sources.
The list of start-ups it searches for is actually maintained by another company, LinkSV, which is worth a deeper look itself. LinkSV, also free, keeps a database of those start-ups which allows you search profiles of each of the 2,500 start-ups. The profiles include information like name and bio details of key executives, a business focus summary, a listing of board members, venture capital backing, company contact info and names of customers. In addition, Topix is offering a related channel that tracks press releases from any of the same 2,500 startups, at www.topix.net/startups/pr. Finally, it has released a general venture capital industry news channel, at www.topix.net/vc. Of course, Topix has RSS feeds for the above -- all free.
We're in the news business, and write about start-ups and venture capital, so we plan to tinker with all this a bit more. But the start-up industry might find the -- relatively unheard of -- LinkSV.com service more of an immediate breakthrough. Alternative database services like VentureOne and Venture Economics charge users a lot of money, largely because they deliver exclusive data about financing rounds, based on laborious work sending out questionnaires to start-ups and then subsequent fact-checking. While LinkSV says it too will charge for premium services, its free version is offers quite a bit. One cool feature allows you to search your LinkedIn contacts by clicking on highlighted executive names or companies listed on LinkSV.
Like sales contact start-up Jigsaw, though, there's the potential for spam creation. In this case, LinkSV doesn't even carry direct contact details -- precisely to avoid spam. It only carries the phone numbers of companies, and so provides less direct info than Jigsaw. "I'd be run out of town,'' says Bob Karr, CEO of LinkSV, explaining why he doesn't provide personal contact info.
But we talked with several users who stumbled upon LinkSV and found they liked it -- enough to start calling upon executives to try to sell their products. David Stokes, who works for Agility Capital, a company that offers bridge loans to start-ups, says he searched the database for potential customers, and left a message for the CEOs or CFOs at about 50 companies he found through LinkSV. He got six responses by the following day, and is moving forward "on about two or three" of those, he said. "I was surprised by how quickly it gave me a quality list of companies," Stokes said. "It worked out real well." VentureSource and Venture Economics cost money, he said. "This was easy, it was there, it was free. The results were solid. No skin off my nose."
He was surprised to find it by chance. "It's one of the most powerful tools Iāve seen out there, to group companies by industry, by executives, and where they've been..." Al Powell, director of sales at Palo Alto's AppStream, heard about the service from a consultant, and has been using it for less than a month, but says he too has already got customer leads. "I just hope my competition doesn't find out,'' he said.
To be sure, it's not all about spam. Another user, Les Durman, at Compass Design, a product design company based in Pleasanton, said he uses the service to do background checks on people or companies he's considering doing business with. LinkSV is compelling, he said, because it provides hard-to-get private company info that other services don't have. It's more locally targeted than say, Hoovers, and it's free, compared to high-priced competitors VentureSource and Venture Economics. While it may not have as detailed funding data, it appears to have more information about a start-ups' business focus than its competitors, Durman said. Until now, he's been using Google to do searches on people he's considering doing business with, but LinkSV beats the search engine, he says. "To use Google is wonderful. But on LinkSV, there's going to be information that's not on Google yet. It's very, very focused."