Duedil powers ahead with extra data for journalists

Duedil screenshotIf you’re dealing with a business, where do you go to find out more about them? Do you ask friends and colleagues? Turn to reviews services like Yelp? Do you go to the credit agencies to find out how well they’re doing, or check in on their files with local government?

There’s actually a vast amount of data on businesses that’s already out there — but most of it is poorly organized, unevenly distributed and often mired in horrific bureaucracy. That’s why British startup Duedil is taking a different approach by providing fast, accurate and highly-connected business information (here’s what Stacey already wrote about them).

Duedil – that’s “due diligence” – started as a layer on top of LinkedIn, but is rapidly developing into something much more interesting — a fully featured, incredibly slick search engine for information about businesses and the people who run them. It’s got ambition.

“Our main aim to be the number one place where people go for business intelligence,” says founder Damian Kimmelman, a native New Yorker who has lived in the U.K. since arriving at Scotland’s venerable University of St Andrews a decade ago. “We want to build trust among businesses — because trust makes business fast.”

To achieve that goal, the service went into beta a couple of months ago, offering users rapid, smooth and highly intuitive access to vast tracts of information about companies (and the people who run them) around Britain.

Punch in a company name today, and you can pull up all kinds of information: contact data; information on the business structure; files on people associated with it, including the other businesses they are linked to; financials; investments; even how long it takes them to pay their contractors. It’s an amalgam of a wide range of data sources into one neat package, and the company is expanding the amount of information that’s available all the time.

Things have been going fairly well through beta, with the service now counting just under 10,000 registered users. Kimmelman, meanwhile, seems more pleased that the site is proving incredibly sticky: The average visitor conducts 75 actions in each session on Duedil, he says.

That’s all positive, and the service has clear plans to score investment and expand — but the next concrete step is to open a slightly new direction. Kimmelman says there is sensitive information available that it has access to but does not want to go on general release, at least for now — things like people’s home addresses, criminal activity, involvement in court actions and so on. This information is all in the public domain, but its use is regulated or obfuscated because it needs to be used carefully.

So instead of simply opening up these more delicate data sets to everyone, he’s come up with a different approach.

“We’re just about to open up access for journalists, especially data journalists, with content we don’t show to public users,” he says. The idea is that anyone who conducts investigations into business activity will benefit, and that those users can provide useful feedback by pointing Duedil to other data sets — or even providing them.

In Kimmelman’s words, it’s “a call for journalists to tell us what data they want to put onto the site”.

It’s smart, because Duedil is already a very powerful tool for investigation. It certainly allows me to rapidly make connections and check facts that usually require many steps or signficant amount of time. Sometimes this is just because information’s broadly spread (requiring a lot of Googling) (s goog) or because access is antiquated (For example, the search function for Britain’s central business records office, Companies House, actually goes offline between midnight and 7 a.m.)

What Duedil is putting together is a useful package for anyone who’s interested in businesses and the people who run them.

Of course, right now, it just covers one country. And while there are nearly 8 million registered businesses in Britain, it’s much easier to provide services like this in a relatively unified country like Britain (which already has very clear, centralized stores of data), rather than across a fragmented territory subject to a wide range of legal jurisdictions, like America. But even though expansion will be tricky, it looks like it’s doing something right so far.