Today, all companies rely on data to thrive. From the smallest entrepreneurs to the biggest corporations on earth, everyone needs something.
Alec Barrett-Wilsdon founded SourceStack as a data brokerage to help all types of organizations find and better use the data they need, especially when it comes to hiring data and e-commerce data. To learn more about SourceStack and the Company Data as a Service that it provides, Cognitive Business News Executive Editor sat down to have a chat with Barrett-Wilsdon.
Watch the video here or read the Q&A version below.
Cognitive Business News: Lately, if you look at business media — or even Linkedin — you see all the buzz about AI. But you can’t do anything without data, right? Can you share more about the business model for SourceStack
Alec Barrett-Wilsdon: We’re a data brokerage. We find data and we help people get the kind of data that they’re looking for. These days, we have a few different data products that play somewhat nicely with each other.
This includes hiring data, which is purging about five million currently active job posts for folks who are looking to find companies that are hiring for a certain type of role. We can be helpful because we have all this currently active data. As you imagine, it becomes useless pretty quickly when those jobs start to close.
But our original product was a company’s data set, especially for people who wanted to find companies using Salesforce — and that’s where the name SourceStack comes from. To source the technology stack of a given company. Now, since we have different products, the name doesn’t make quite as much sense, but it’s still fun to say it in person.
Our company’s data set covers about 16 million companies now, and we’re looking at things like what kind of company are they, what tech products they use, or how many employees they have. Things like this that tend to be helpful for companies and agencies that, for example, are trying to find more clients to do Facebook ads, copywriting, or design.
Two and a half years ago we launched an e-commerce catalog product, which is useful for stores who want to find out answers to question like, “Hey, I have x, y, and z products currently and I’m looking at a couple more: What’s currently successful? What do my competitors sell?”
For companies with an e-commerce business, or who have clients who work in e-commerce, we see these agencies quite a bit as well. We can be quite helpful there too. A lot of businesses need a pretty substantial amount of data to operate, and there are things you can’t generate easily internally. So that’s where we try to be helpful.
Cognitive Business News: You also have a very innovative kind of pricing model that can work for very small businesses — even individuals or researchers. A lot of companies want everyone to sign a big contract, but your service and the output is very affordable for businesses of all sizes, right?
Alec Barrett-Wilsdon: Pricing was a big part of my frustration with competitors. You see people who do all kinds of strange structures to try to get value out of these different contracts.
One of the ones you see most commonly is people just sharing passwords, where somebody might buy an account for unlimited data and then ten of their friends pitch in at a tenth of the cost. They all take down what they need, and then they cancel before the next month. No one’s really happy in that arrangement. The providers aren’t, the people downloading the data aren’t. And six months from now they have to do the whole thing again, because all the data they have is now outdated.
We try to think about it from the way that people would want to use the data. We charge based on usage. If you’re using a lot of data, you pay accordingly. If you’re not, you have all the time in the world to do so. We don’t think there should be arbitrary constraints trying to push people for the sake of a few extra dollars here and there.
The pricing model has not changed. We’ve raised prices, but beyond that it’s exactly the same as when we started. I’m happy about that, and I expect that to continue.
Cognitive Business News: What are some use cases that you’ve seen where you’ve been able to help people looking for information maybe that wouldn’t traditionally go to a traditional data broker or aggregator?
Alec Barrett-Wilsdon: We like to give people the tools to be as useful as they can be. But, ultimately, all of our most interesting use cases are things that our customers have done. I just find out about it afterwards and say, “Hey, I never would have thought you could do that — but I’m happy to see it!”
What immediately comes to mind is that we work with a number of folks around the e-commerce industry. When we first started, the idea was to help stores expand their own catalogs by seeing what products were doing well in the market. But what we learned was that the agencies that provide services to stores really need to understand what they are selling to be helpful, and one of the data points we can gather with catalog data is the relative sales ranking of different products.
An agency can see what a prospect’s top-selling product is, for example, and which things are making them the most money. Then, if you’re running an agency, you can say, “Hey, we can take your really high-selling products to the next level with TikTok ads.” Or you can say, “Hey, I’ve noticed that this product right here is not selling very well, here are some thoughts on how we can help it take off.” That type of conversation is very different than just saying, “Hey, I bought a list and it had your name on it! You want our services?”
That’s something that I’ve seen increasingly frequently.
Cognitive Business News: You know it’s a really cool platform, I’ll tell you one of the dangers — not for you, but for users: You get in there and it’s like Legos, or Tinker Toys. You think about all the cool things you can do and then you start doing them and you’re just playing around with it and you forget — then you say, “wait a minute, it’s pay-as-you-go.” Which is a good thing! But it’s almost fun, and you can fool around all day looking at things like that and forget about that.
It’s really easy to use. I’m not a technical person, but it’s very straightforward, and the support has been responsive even though I know it’s still a small company in terms of manpower, but the response has always been superior. So that’s great. There’s not a lot to it, there’s not a lot of moving parts, it’s not something that you have to go and take a course to learn, even if you’re not a programmer. If you can use Excel, then you are more than qualified I would say. So that’s one of the cool things about it.
Let me ask you this, is there anything that you wanted to mention about the platform, or any use cases, or anything that I neglected to ask you or mention, that you wanted to be sure that we touched on?
Alec Barrett-Wilsdon: I would say something that comes up somewhat frequently is people who are looking for usage of categories on tech products. So, if somebody is saying, “Hey, I built a new CRM system for salespeople, and I know that I want to talk to customers of CRMs.”
Something that we’ve come to be quite useful for is saying ,”Hey, let’s find every CRM product and all of their usage,” rather than, “Hey, I want people who use Salesforce.” This allows you to get a pretty broad region to test. Maybe the most competitive match-up is not against the one you thought. It’s against some CRM that has been around for a long time but still has a pretty big user base.
But, like I said before, I think the most interesting use cases are the ones that the customers tell me about. I can sit here all day and think about them, but I would certainly not have the most interesting ones. But if folks have an interest in data broadly for their business, and they’re not quite sure what that looks like, I’m happy to have a conversation with them and say, “Hey, maybe we could be helpful and here’s what that could look like.”
The worst thing that I can say is, you know, “I don’t think that we can support those, but perhaps here’s another vendor that might be useful for that.” I somewhat frequently recommend our competitors, which perhaps I should not, but it’s a small industry, and ultimately there are certain types of data that other people are better for. You need to be respectful of that.
Cognitive Business News: Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing: to be helpful. When people know you are honest, and when you say, “Hey, you know what, I don’t have what you need but try this over here,” then that just builds trust. Then people know to come back to you when they need what you have, and also to send people your way.
The website is SourceStack.co. If somebody wants to try it out, or if somebody wants to really get their head around it, I imagine they could contact you or your team? Or what would be the next step for somebody who maybe isn’t even sure that this can work for them but wants to look into it and see if it can work for them?
Alec Barrett-Wilsdon: The standard way is we have an input in the homepage where you can put in your email and someone on staff will get back to you shortly.
I would say for folks who are listening to this in particular, feel free to just send me an email directly, it’s Alec [email protected]. Just say, “Hey, I heard about you, I liked the interview.” Or maybe say “Hey, I didn’t like the interview, but I still want to buy some new data.” Feel free to do so, and I’m happy to craft something that’s specific to your use case.
Ultimately this is a product that has a lot of different ways it can be configured, so we try to be helpful upfront and think about what that can look like, so, if you think, “Hey, we have a need for some type of data around companies, maybe they can help,” Just send me an email. We’ll see if we can.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
(Photo: Scott Graham on Unsplash)