The quiet start-up inking million-dollar deals

Quid offices
Source: Quid
Quid offices

The seven-figure deal. It's the holy grail of software.

In addition to real revenue, the million-dollar contract brings with it credibility and the stamp of approval from a big institution. It enables the vendor to tell the world, "We sell to the enterprise."

For a small start-up like Quid, it marks entry into the big leagues.

Quid has come out of nowhere to sign three such agreements in the past three months before ever putting out a press release. That can happen when a company sits at the intersection of massive technology trends like big data and artificial intelligence and layers on a simple tool for digesting all that information on a single Web page.

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Quid's visualization software algorithmically determines what the user wants and displays it in an intuitive fashion. Among its newly signed multimillion-dollar clients is global management consultancy firm Boston Consulting Group, which is utilizing Quid's expansive database of private company information to better inform and serve customers.

"It's very complementary to the sorts of things we do," said Patrick Forth, BCG's global head of technology, media and telecom. "Our consultants are trained to get data and draw insights from that data. Quid prepares it in such a way that it's easy and efficient."

Forth is quick to point out that Quid is a "relatively modest part of our armory," and that BCG has partnerships with many data providers and software developers.

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For a 60-employee shop like Quid, that's a big endorsement. The San Francisco-based company has only been selling its fully baked Web product since January of 2014, though the technology has been in development for years.

Quid was launched in 2010 as a rebirth of sorts after originally being created as YouNoodle three years earlier. Co-founder Bob Goodson, who previously helped build Yelp, had lofty ambitions—to map the world's information.

Visualization alone is a booming business. Tableau Software, which allows users to turn data from their desktops and servers into graphs and charts, went public in 2013 and is valued at over $6.5 billion.

To finance Quid's product development, Goodson raised about $20 million from the likes of Facebook backer Peter Thiel, Korean investor Charles Lho, Artis Ventures and Atomico, the European venture firm started by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom.

Other customers listed on Quid's website include Microsoft, Samsung and Hyundai, though BCG is the only member of the seven-figure club that Goodson would name.

Big data for everyone
Big data for everyone   

Goodson readily admits that he has Bloomberg and its eponymous financial terminal to thank for his business model. Quid charges $25,000 per user per year and sells the same product, accessible via Internet browser, to everyone. No customization.

There are downsides. At such a steep price, Quid is out of reach for most smaller businesses. So compared to companies like Box, New Relic and Atlassian, Quid is less able to employ a land-and-expand strategy of starting with a few small developers and then winning bigger teams of users over time.

Rather, buyers of Quid's software are the big spenders. Among the primary targets are businesspeople making strategic decisions about their company and looking for critical information about the competitive landscape, and marketing managers and advertisers trying to gauge consumer tastes.

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Forth gives the hypothetical example of a cloud services client that BCG may need to help in understanding who the other players are, how fast the market is growing and which corporations and venture capitalists are investing in the space.

Quid's engine spans corporate filings through a data partnership with S&P Capital IQ and patents cataloged by Thomson Reuters, and spits it out almost instantaneously on a map.

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"Weeks of laborious research are condensed into seconds or minutes," said Goodson, who studied language and language theory at the University of Oxford before moving to the U.S. over a decade ago. "Quid is used for people asking questions where the answer is not known."

Quid also has a full index of English language news and blogs going back to August 2013, so marketers can easily see what's been written on particular subjects, and its algorithms work to show what stories are most read.

One trend Quid is not embracing is the rapid move from desktop to mobile. While the company has a tablet product in development, Goodson says smartphone availability isn't critical yet because users doing this sort of work are going to be sitting at a computer.

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There's plenty of other work still to be done. For Quid to be truly comprehensive, it has to go find silos of critical information and import those sources into the platform. The company is actively looking to bring in legal filings, social media and academic papers.

"Our aspiration is for Quid to be the place to smartly consume and analyze the world's information," Goodson said.