Let me tell you a story.
Ok. Back to the story.
When we started the company, I always wished we had money for steak dinners.
Or money for box seats to The Yankees.
We didn’t have either.
In fact, we didn’t have shit.
And to us dumb founders at the time, it was dumb obvious that steak dinners or box tickets to the Yankees would be the key to sales. Having worked at a big company before, this is the way deals happened, right?
How the heck were we going to sell a subscription to big corporations without schmoozing them and plying them with wine and food? To make it worse, we were competing with big 100+ year old companies, storied brands who we thought could take you to steak dinners and Yankees game. And this is while we were bootstrapping (translation: unknown & broke).
At this point, we’d started a company and created a product without a clue on how to actually let people know about it.
Enter Nate Silver
Nate Silver is a statistician and writer who is known for his blog, FiveThirtyEight.
He is most famous for successfully calling the outcomes in 49 of the 50 states in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
While 49 of 50 is certainly laudable, it was his method of getting these right that made people pay attention.
He preferred analytics to instincts. He was a geek per the popular media.
He took an industry – politics – which is opaque and full of pundits and talking heads and used data to derive interesting and evidence-based insights about it.
Could we do the same?
Can we take an industry – tech and VC – which is opaque and full of pundits and talking heads and use data to derive interesting and evidence-based insights about it?
Being a group of geeks ourselves, could we apply the Nate Silver playbook to our world?
CB Insights’ free research is born
And so we started a little newsletter which featured a couple of graphs about what was happening in the VC/startup ecosystem to test this thesis.
It wasn’t pretty, but nobody else was doing it.
We started like this:
And then started placing graphs right into the newsletters like the below.
And people liked it.
(Looking back at the graphic above, those newsletters were actually very terrible).
In a highly pundit-driven space where people spoke with great conviction with no supporting evidence, we began to carve out a space for our data-driven research.
Over time, we came up with more ways of presenting the data, added new data like patents and upped our visual storytelling game. In fact, a graphical visual storytelling layer to make the complex simple has become something we’ve become known for.
There are market maps.
And periodic tables.
And our unbundling graphics
We also started doing online briefings and reports that would get thousands of attendees and tens of thousands of downloads.
Our fusion of data with visual storytelling was working.
Our newsletter went from nothing to 290,000+ and now goes out 6x per week.
And the newsletter and our statistics on tech and visuals on emerging industries started to garner a lot of media attention.
All was good.
But we knew it could be so much better.
Giving clients an unfair advantage
If there is one primary reason for research going behind the paywall, i.e. Expert Intelligence, it is that our research should give clients an unfair advantage.
CB Insights research helps you understand technology trends, emerging market landscapes, competitor strategy and/or helps identify insurgent startups with momentum.
And it gets you in front of those ideas early and does so in a data-driven, non-pundit way.
In a nutshell, it is valuable.
But by giving it away to everyone, we were not taking care of those who take care of us, i.e. our paying clients. And so one of our primary goal with this move is to remedy that.
Note: While some bad actors from the management consulting space repurposed our visuals and data without credit to sell engagements, the shift to Expert Intelligence is really centered on how we give clients an unfair advantage.
Bloomberg says it well on some of their news items when they write “Before it’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg Terminal.”
Also, by “productizing” our Research, we’ll be able to grow our team aggressively, thereby providing clients with even more Expert Intelligence. Today, with the migration of our research into the CB Insights platform, clients will immediately have access to thousands of research briefs, reports, infographics and analyst briefings.
By growing our team, we’ll add even more research further widening the gap between the haves (our clients) and the have nots (everyone else). We expect to grow our research team to be 75-100 analysts within the next 24 months. We are hiring Principal Tech Industry Analysts to develop the research and Graphic Editors to help make the complex simple using design.
Here’s a bit more about what the unfair advantage looks like:
Deeper, more predictive coverage
When we viewed research as a marketing vehicle exclusively, certain types of research didn’t happen. With the move to Expert Intelligence, we will out of the gate deliver 20+ client-only research briefs, long-form reports and analyst-driven briefings per month.
Some of the research coming in the next month includes:
- Goldman Sachs strategy teardown
- Analysis of the sectors/industries the Chinese are investing in within the USA
- Latin America fintech market map
- Analyzing the growth of direct-to-consumer models in CPG
- Retail tech market map
- Unbundling Kroger – the brands & technologies unbundling the supermarket giant
- A deep dive into Middle East private investment activity
Deeper integration with the CB Insights product
There is a natural pairing of the CB Insights product with our research, but with our research being free, these types of integrations weren’t always possible or didn’t make sense.
With this launch of Expert Intelligence, we will invest more engineering and product efforts around integrating research directly with the CB Insights expert automation platform.
The first such integration you’ll notice is that market maps and emerging industry landscapes created by our research analysts are now tied to Collections directly in research.
There is a whole host of direct analytics and visualization integrations we’re expecting to build within research that will make seamless movement between our data and research easier.
More Insider research
With a newsletter of almost 300,000 and a rapidly increasing number of companies proactively giving us their data, we get a lot of data and information that is non-public or early. We want to give this to clients first via research only they see.
Who is impacted?
Our Research Portal will be integrated into the the CB Insights platform and all paying clients will have access to it. There will be a tier of Expert Intelligence that will generally only be available to clients who are part of our higher-end subscription plans (and who don’t have non-standard contracts).
Non-paying clients may still get some free research from time-to-time but beyond buying a subscription, there will be no way to get to all of it.
If you are a client, we look forward to hearing your ideas on the areas you’d like to see us explore in Expert Intelligence.