Our storyIn this very first blog of ours, you can follow our journey with all the ups & downs, victories & defeats over the past three years and see how we got to where we are and what we learned along the way.
In deep waters3 years ago
We had come up with the idea to make an online encyclopedia for business information and in knowing that we were about to fill a definite gap in the way we obtain credible information, we were supremely enthusiastic. Not only did we have an idea, we had found some key people who could execute. And when a team of extraordinarily avid investors with a very solid background wanted to meet with us, we were on top of the world. Until we googled the director after the meeting.
Without going into too many details, he didn’t exactly spend his Friday nights with his family, nor spend his money on legal matters exclusively.
He wasn’t opposed to nepotism either but he was, however, averse to paying taxes. Needless to say, they did not end up investing in our company.
Ironically, the very problem we were looking to solve with our company was the very problem we encountered. You see, if you want to know something about a business, investor, or general professional, you have to go through the same many-step-process that we were trying to skip before our investor meeting. We have never done it since, and so each and every time we prepared to meet with a business or a professional, we’d spend a significant number of hours researching. We’d go to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. We’d google extensively. We’d search for core data, company history, employee data, financial statements, yearly reports, news articles, online customer interactions, social media engagement, and the list goes on.
The concept we had begun developing aimed at being able to present all that information about a company in one single page. Sounds easy enough?
The Online Business Encyclopedia2 years ago
Is what we named the first version. Originality in naming wasn’t our mostly priced feature. Yet, we had to start somewhere and we did in fact think we were going to be an encyclopedia. We know what you’re thinking though: hadn’t you guys heard of Wikipedia? Of course we had.
We wanted to specialize in business information. All business information.
And while Wikipedia is an outstanding model for almost all information in the world, the business realm isn’t part of it. In 2013, Wikipedia had 44.729 companies in its encyclopedia and while that is an impressive amount, it did not come close to the number of companies we wanted to provide information about.
We wanted to be able to provide the full insight on a company, regardless of where the company was based. In addition to Wikipedia, there were plenty of services on the market providing business information – yet they were all country based. This meant that in order to obtain information about a company, you had to know its exact origin and then find the specific country’s provider of business information – if there even was any.
We wanted to cross borders and provide information on a global scale.
We wanted to make it easy and to answer the questions that most people – including ourselves – pose when researching:
- Do I get the most important and relevant information about a company; and all of it?
- How do I get an overview of all these search results?
- Am I getting the latest news on this company?
- How can I ensure the information I get is credible and verified?
Now, users are naturally able to find this information themselves. If they know exactly what to search for, who specifically to search for, and all the sites, platforms, and the medias to conduct the searches on.
There was another issue we wanted to tackle too. See, even if people did undertake the above, there was one more factor – probably the most important – they need the time to make this effort every single time.
C0d1ng 0ur h34rts 0ut2 years ago
We saw a gap in the vast number of people who look for information and the information they actually receive. Most users are presumably aware that page one does not necessarily provide the full picture of a company or a business professional but are confronted with a time-restraint that simply does not allow browsing past that first page.
How do we fix that?
Give people more time! Or, perhaps somewhat more realistically, we decided to build a platform that enables people to go to our website, type in the name of a business or business professional, and get every single piece of information worth knowing on one single page. Although we were aiming for a much larger inventory of companies, we did associate ourselves with Wikipedia on several accounts. Like Wikipedia, we saw ourselves as an encyclopedia and we were also looking to crowdsource our content. At least that was our initial strategic direction.
With our concept in place, we began coding. That was all we did. For months on end we coded from morning to night. We grew as a company and both experienced the joy of having happy outstanding employees, and equally the frustration of having to let people go. While letting people go was undisputably one of the hardest aspects of growing as a company, it wasn’t our only worry. As we were coding around the clock, our database quickly grew from hundreds to thousands. And eventually, two million. But it just didn’t feel right.
We knew something was wrong, that we weren’t on the right track. But when you’ve been working on something for months, years actually, it’s just not easy to admit. We kept thinking we could work through it and that we’d eventually find a solution. It just never came.
— Michael Heiberg, Founder
114 million mistakes
We thought it made sense to build the company pages based on their domain. It didn’t. When building the platform from domains, you can never be sure 1) if a domain is in fact a company, 2) if one domain covers several companies, 3) if one company has several domains, 4) if a company is still in operation or if it’s just its domain that’s left, 5) where the company is located when the domain is a .com, and 6) is a domain even a company? We wouldn’t be able to differ between actual companies and personal food blogs and thereby not be able to provide particularly trustworthy business information. In wanting to make it easier to obtain valuable insights of a business, we had to acknowledge that this wasn’t the way forward.
So what did we do? We deleted 114 million companies and started over.
The long winding road1 year ago
We have ever since build an online integration into more 81 million companies from 37 countries and 72 jurisdictions (and growing). For every single company, we accessed their open data and ran it all automatically through.This ensures a 100 % coverage country by country.
We learned it the hard way how not to do things and instead we spent twelve months starting over, rebuilding our system, and custom developing a new one to be able to provide the information we wanted to provide. We sought to provide more than what you get from a domain or a simple company registry. You see, a domain name or the basic data concerning a company’s founding date and number of people in the management team, do not say much about a company. Did they struggle to get where they are today? Are they a great place to work? Or are employees running away in hordes? Are they financially stable? How do they engage with their customers?
In order to answer these questions, we ensured that all businesses were based on country registries and that all companies’ social media presence, financial information and news regarding the companies and their operations were added to the site. We felt that being able to present this kind of information provided a much needed aspect of transparency to business data that we hadn’t seen anywhere before.
Becoming Transparent9 months ago
With the launch of our new site, we were growing by the minute. And with the amounts of data we were daily crunching, we began to feel the responsibility weighing down on our shoulders. Aware that a great majority of the general population feel uneasy about big data, we slowly began a process of incorporating the notion of transparency in our operations. We wanted to make it clear where we were getting our information from and why that specific information was chosen. We had nothing to hide and we became increasingly adamant about making sure that we didn’t seem like we had, despite working with large amounts of data.
Our first goal had been to get every single piece of information worth knowing about a business or a professional on one single page. Our new goal centered on becoming fully transparent in everything we were doing; making sure that users were aware of our ethical codex of respecting privacy. Our main priority was ensuring that all users’ privacy was kept private at all times.
From nonprofit to transparent tech1 week ago
2016 marked the year where we went from a one-office-operation in Copenhagen to opening our second office in Kyiv. We began hiring data scientists and became a company of 30+ people. We were willing to go far for data quality, and hiring some of the best data scientists, developers, and designers out there, was one of the ways to achieve this. Despite being a small company, we were filled to the brim with bright minds.
In 2017, we launched the third version of our website. This time, it was developed in our own API as that supported our continuous plan to provide people with every single piece of business data worth knowing about. We were unremitting in finding quicker and more effective ways to make sure our business data is reliable and valuable. All ideas and suggestions were tried and tested in order to fulfil our goal of making the business world a transparent one. Hence, going forward, we will be known as Ocean.io. Ocean.io. with its connotations to the oceanic amount of data we deal with and the transparency of clear, blue water effortlessly tell the story of who we have become.
Along with our development into a bona fide technological company, we began incorporating machine learning in our operation. We were striving towards obtaining increasingly comprehensive information about companies and professionals. With machine learning, our system is able to look for, verify, and enrich data, to link information to companies and professionals, and to differ between private and public information; all indispensable functions for our future product.