OpenGazettes opens up government gazettes
- Age of business: OpenGazettes is less than a year old but it’s part of OpenCorporates which is five-years-old.
- Name of business: OpenGazettes
- Location: London
- Team: Chris Taggart, Stuart Coleman, Alex Skene, James McKinney, Seb Bacon, Hera Hussain, Ben Tullis, Shyam Peri
- Elevator pitch: OpenGazettes opens up government gazettes, aggregating them across multiple countries and enabling powerful searches into the unstructured and rich seam of corporate events information contained in them. It is powered by OpenCorporates – the largest open database of companies in the world.
What does OpenGazettes do?
Government gazettes are used in many parts of the world to publish important notices about companies, from incorporation and dissolution to winding up orders, AGMs, mergers and more. However these notices are almost unknown, and rarely connected with the companies to which they relate. OpenGazettes opens up government gazettes, aggregating them across multiple countries and enabling powerful searches into the unstructured and rich seam of corporate events information contained in them. This will be incredibly useful for investigators, law-enforcement, and the underlying data will be of interest to business information providers, and to companies of all sizes who are doing business with the companies associated with the notices. Right now we have notices from Luxembourg, France, United Kingdom, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland, and Cayman Islands (contributed by a community member who is an investigative journalist).
Where did the business idea come from?
OpenCorporates was started 5 years ago when Chris, the founder, found it difficult to connect companies to contracts. That led to the start of OpenCorporates. When you look at global government data that relates to companies, it is often unclear, incomplete, inaccurate or hasn’t been kept up to date. We also found that the same companies appeared on different government registers without being linked, so there was duplication and valuable connections in the data had been missed. We wanted to change that and we knew there would be a market for it.
Are you working with any other partners?
Our data is of high value to businesses providing business intelligence, insurance companies, due diligence agencies and banks.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
When we started, we chose jurisdictions which were strategically important such as Luxembourg, Ireland, Switzerland and Spain. We underestimated how much interest it generated from the wider open data and investigative journalist community who had struggled to work with gazettes in PDF form too. It would have been good to ask what jurisdictions would be relevant for these groups. We’re planning on asking this now and prioritise the next jurisdictions we add based on this!
How has ODINE helped you so far?
ODINE has been an incredible opportunity for us to work on a project in a fixed amount of time, and with the reporting structure that was very helpful in keeping track of the milestones.
What advice would you give to other companies pitching to ODINE?
Set realistic milestones and use the regular reporting requirements as a way to reflect on the progress of your project. Also, don’t be afraid to make a few assumptions and test them out.
What would you say to other startups thinking of working with open data?
We think businesses are already realising the benefits of working with open data. It’s reusable, better quality and has provenance. There is also a thriving community of people who champion this space. Get in touch with the relevant communities to help support a pilot of your product but at the end of the day, what matters the most to clients it that your data is of better quality than other competitors.
How would you encourage big business to buy into the open data movement?
Open data is the future of authentic, more accurate and real time data. It will become the foundation for public good and innovation in business. Businesses are already realising the potential of open data, which is why you can see them launching open data products and governments adopting open data principles. This is why OpenCorporates has become such a critical tool to the workflow of traders, businesses, insurance companies, law enforcement, investigators and reporters.
What’s the key trend in open data at the moment?
When we started, the company information and open data were not connected at all, even by transparency NGOs. Now, it’s well understood by many governments, intergovernmental organisations such as the World Bank, and all transparency NGOs that open data on companies is an important requirement for a modern democratic society. There is also a growing trend in building businesses on top of public data and releasing it under a share-alike, a business model OpenCorporates pioneered. Whether it’s analysing transport, news, or company accounts, this growth of open data businesses is very encouraging and critical to the establishment of ‘open data’ as a de facto for many research, charity and government datasets.
(This article first appeared on The Guardian)