Our tech start-up of the week is Search4less.ie, a new online business information service that’s aiming to disrupt the online company search space by pushing out relevant company, director and shareholder information to give users a broader range of results in a more accessible and cost-friendly way.
The site has been live since September of last year after six months of development, according to founder Barry Darmody, to give businesspeople access to company, director and shareholder information.
Darmody had been working in financial services until November of last year.
"I needed to use this information for fitness and probity checks that came into financial services in 2012 for all directors involved in financial services. I found it quite difficult and expensive to navigate. That’s really where we came up with the idea that we could evolve a product offering that might capture a niche market."
Up until now, he says there have really only been two private-sector players in the Irish market apart from the Companies Registration Office (CRO) – CID and Vision-Net.
Darmody used to run CID up until 2007, as it was part of Rochford Brady Group. The Canadian multinational MDA Corporation acquired the latter in 2006.
With Search4less.ie, he says the concept is to make information accessible in a type of ‘all-you-can-eat’ model targeted at getting more general businesspeople to use the site.
"I felt this was important because in the current climate creditors are defaulting more often and people need to know who they are dealing with. The main issue, from a user’s point of view, is that the information can be quite intimidating," says Darmody.
He says that people need to know what they are looking for, otherwise they can incur large costs.
"We came up with a concept to make the site very easy to use. We have a Google-type search bar. It exposes results that you may or may not be interested in, but you can narrow down your results quite quickly by using the same technology that you would with Google," explains Darmody. Search4less also streams information to users.
He claims the site has taken off with users as a result of word spreading about its functionality, the quality of the data and its price proposition.
"The vast majority of our clients would be solicitors, accountants, banks or financial services. We’re concentrating on that market now and we will start marketing the general business user service later this year."
Darmody says this will allow business owners or directors to look up information about their suppliers, competitors and customers, and learn how to interpret the data.
"Our concept means that you pay a flat fee per annum. You search as much as you want and you get a real comfort about reading and understanding the data at your own pace."
The flat fee for a single user is €195 per year. He says that will give users access to search about 15m Irish-related pieces of information. For larger firms, he says there is a site licence that gives a number of users using a particular email domain access to Search4less.
"It is priced per director or per partner or director in a firm. That costs €150 per partner," Darmody explains, citing the scenario of a two-partner accountancy practice. This means the service would cost €300, giving all of the accountants in that firm access to Search4less information.
Data sources and real-time information
To collate all of this data, Darmody says Search4less buys information from different sources, including the CRO, and also sources shareholder, judgment and bankruptcy data from Experian.
"We put this information together with the basic CRO data to give more meaningful information about a particular company or director," says Darmody.
The site also accesses CRO information in real-time.
"The CRO have an open services initiative that allows you to use APIs to get into their data. We have used their basic information API to interrogate their database in real-time. This means that as you are searching our service you are getting the most up-to-date information that’s in the CRO," he explains.
While Search4less is currently concentrating on the Irish market, he says UK information will be pulled into the site later this month. The next step will be to explore whether the site’s technology can be applied to other jurisdictions.
"We do have plans to go into the UK in the next couple of years. We have built the technology to be horizontally scalable. This means we can cope with any number of users at any given time," says Darmody.
Plans for the service
As for the Irish market, he says the ambition is to look at providing more specific services to the legal profession to modernise some of the workflows in law searching and make that whole process more efficient.
Darmody says that Search4less employs cloud technology using the Amazon Web Services platform.
"Those cloud services have allowed us to be very scalable as a small company," he explains. "There are no resource issues because of the way we have built the service. We have very versatile business processes and we are starting to look at ways of applying these processes to the different professions that we are servicing with information to see if there ways that we can also improve their efficiencies internally."
Based in Dublin, five people are currently employed at Search4less, but the plan is to increase the company’s headcount to 15 by the end of 2014. Darmody says Search4less will likely be scaling up in the areas of sales and support staff.