Crunchbase raises $18M, debuts Enterprise business intelligence, plans ‘Marketplace’ for 3rd party data

Crunchbase — the database spun out from TechCrunch that charts startups, other tech companies, the people who work for them, and those who fund them — has secured some new funding of its own — $18 million — and with it, a new plan.

The company is announcing a new service called Crunchbase Enterprise for business intelligence. And in addition to this, it’s in the planning stages for another new product currently operating under the working title of “Marketplace,” which will see Crunchbase turn into a platform, where visitors can search and analyse not just Crunchbase data, but information from third-party sources that will complement and enhance it.

Crunchbase Enterprise lets users perform typical business intelligence and analytics queries, such as setting up and following investment trends, identifying and tracking growth industries, and identifying companies that are close to their own for partnerships (or to watch for competitive purposes). In a way, Enterprise is the large-company version of the Pro product that Crunchbase launched last year.

So far there are about 5,000 companies using the Enterprise product, including Affinity, Datafox, Datanyze, Deloitte, Engagio, Everstring, Infer, Microsoft, Nestle, Samsung, Slack, Target, Volkswagen, and IBM Watson.

Meanwhile, the plan for Marketplace will be to launch later this year, CEO Jager McConnell told me in an interview. Crunchbase is not announcing which companies and what data will be a part of the Marketplace product, but McConnell said that around 10 companies have already signed deals to provide their data — mainly by way of an API — and the aim is to have 15 secured by the end of April. People will be able to choose to add to their searches by way of an “app store” model, bringing to mind services like Slack and the many apps that users can select to integrate into its platform.

Both Enterprise and Marketplace are part of a bigger strategy at Crunchbase to turn the service into “the master record of companies on the internet,” in the words of McConnell, the ex-VP of product at Salesforce who took the helm at Crunchbase as part of its 2015 spinoff from TechCrunch and owner Aol/Verizon.

“Can we be the equivalent of LinkedIn for resumes, or Facebook for friends? We think that with Crunchbase Enterprise, we are taking a novel approach to achieve that goal.”

That bigger vision was also, he added, what helped the company secure its latest Series B, which is led by new investor Mayfield with participation also from previous backers Emergence and AOL. (As with the previous round, Crunchbase and its investors are not disclosing the company’s valuation.)

“Looking at our own data, a Series B is one of the harder ones to raise,” McConnell noted. “We were looking for a rough ride, but it was easy and fast for us.” He said that fundraising started at the end of January and closed a month and a half later. “We had a lot of interest and folks competing.”

“The early success of Crunchbase Pro and its usability have given us a view into the ambitious vision and roadmap of increasing the breadth, depth, and accessibility of the high-quality data platform Crunchbase is creating,” Rajeev Batra, Partner at Mayfield, said in a statement. “Crunchbase not only has a globally dominant position and brand, it has the potential to be a true platform company in becoming the actionable master record for company data.”

Since the spinout of Crunchbase in September 2015, the company has seen 27 million visitors per year for its free service — a relatively large number in comparison to other business data services such as Hoover’s. Crunchbase is not breaking out monthly active users, but McConnell told me that there are around 10 million sessions per month.

It’s also not breaking out any numbers yet for Pro, the $29/month tier that Crunchbase launched in September 2016 for power users with features like advanced search, trend analytics, and lists for tracking industries, people, companies, and investors.

If the idea behind Crunchbase Enterprise is to offer some interesting insights on top of what Crunchbase already has within its walled garden, the concept behind Marketplace will be to bring in a lot more data to fuel usage of the product, and to help drive more Pro and Enterprise subscriptions.

It comes in part from a basic predicament and paradox that any database business or information platform, faces today.

If the drive of big data is to be able to ingest as much information into your system as possible to be able to reach the most accurate and informed conclusions, with that drive comes the fundamental fact that no single company can own all that data. So you have to come up with innovative and effective ways to aggregate it.

“You don’t have all the data, but also, who cares who invested in, say, Bayer in the 1800s,” McConnell explained. “So how do we get different slices of data that people do care about?”

In the case of Crunchbase itself, the need for more data — and more accurate data — is an especially interesting issue. The company started essentially as a crowdsourced, community-driven wiki, where anyone could dip in to add or update data, and they did.

But over time, as Crunchbase has gone through several redesigns (and commercial motivations), much of that easy-to-edit function has disappeared.

Now, while there is now a larger staff on board (40 today) to help populate the platform, and Crunchbase itself is working on machine learning tools to automate some of this, it’s undeniable that some of the data is dated and therefore less reliable. So, bringing in more data from more sources is definitely one way to help repair that.

(To note: McConnell tells me that there is an update coming soon that will “absolutely” make it easier again for people to update profiles).

There are still several particulars of how Marketplace will work that have yet to be spelled out. For example, if a company like Glassdoor provides some of its company feedback data, how can Glassdoor be sure that this is not cannibalising its own freemium business? And what parts of Crunchbase Enterprise will be available as free services, and which will be part of Crunchbase’s Pro tier? Some of these answers are gradually getting resolved: McConnell says that there may be cases where some data providers enter commercial deals so that if the data is used for the Pro tier, there is either a revenue share or other arrangement made to settle the costs.

Crunchbase is also planning to use the funds to make more enhancements to its own platform, particularly to extend out its own analytics muscle. One area McConnell highlighted was data visualizations. “Now that we have ways to build searches and queries, the next step is to provide the charts and graphs to be able to present the data,” he said. “This is a core feature that Crunchbase should have.”

To that end, it’s also hiring, particularly in engineering and specifically data science, with the plan to double staff to 80 people by the end of this year.