There are plenty of companies and services devoted to helping people manage the ocean of information that flows through the web, whether it’s Google Reader or the customized home pages at Yahoo and MSN. However, there aren’t that many focusing on trying to help businesses manage the information flow in their specific industries. That’s the market Eqentia is going after; the two-year-old, seed-funded startup uses its aggregation and filtering technology to create a customized information portal for businesses, like an industry-specific Google News.
Founder William Mougayar is a former Hewlett-Packard executive who became an outsourcing consultant and author. He says he realized several that businesses like the ones he used to advise were woefully unprepared for the information explosion that the web created, so he started Eqentia to try to help them. In most cases, he says, companies have a tiny amount of information that comes in about their business, through a select series of periodicals that get handed around, or possibly through an email newsletter. The world of RSS feeds, Twitter accounts and even specialized blogs or news portals is typically unfamiliar territory to them.
Eqentia works with its clients to set up a customized newsroom that pulls in hundreds of sources from different places, both traditional news and social information, and creates a taxonomy specifically for that business, which allows users within the company to filter the information in any way they wish and drill down into topics that are important to them. Unlike some automated filtering systems, Mougayar says Eqentia’s sources are all curated by human beings, and the company also helps educate users on how to tweak the filters themselves so they get a better result.
Why couldn’t a company simply use a Google search for a keyword like “outsourcing” and then pull in a feed of the results? Because it’s just too broad, Mougayar says, and the sources Google pulls from are too general. Eqentia spends the time to find specialized sources that are specific to an industry, whether they’re blogs, Twitter accounts or periodicals, and generates hundreds of news items a day for some of its corporate clients, each one focused on the client’s industry or tracking the behavior of its competitors. The company also has proprietary semantic technology that helps it filter the mass of data that flows into the system, says the Eqentia founder.
Although Eqentia is primarily targeting business customers rather than the consumer market, the company does have a joint venture currently underway with Steve Outing, an online journalism pioneer who is running a digital media lab in Boulder, Colo. called the Digital Media Test Kitchen, affiliated with the University of Colorado. Eqentia is powering a hyper-local portal for Boulder that has been set up to pull in hundreds of different feeds from local bloggers to government sources.
Still a relatively young startup — it only has five employees, and recently got a seed round of financing from some Toronto-based angel investors — Mougayar says that Eqentia is looking to expand rapidly, and sees the company pursuing a “freemium” type of model, where corporate clients use the free version, then pay to upgrade and get additional customization features. The company is currently doing trials with a number of large corporate customers, including ScoreGolf.com and the Canadian Venture Capital Association. Embedded below is a short video interview I did with Mougayar in Toronto.
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