These are not good times in business; just about all companies of all sizes are feeling constraints. But the tightening of the belt is more severe—as always—for merchants, startups and small service operations.
One overwhelming advantage big companies have over small businesses is in the area of data. Business intelligence is expensive but valuable. Every large organization moves on data and analytics just about the same way the Army moves on its belly. They know where and when to grow or cut and in these times, that is about as valuable as anything you can think of in business.
But what if business intelligence were made available to the little guys? What if the butcher, the baker, the accountant, the dentist and the plumber all had access to the same kind of demographic, sociographic data that the world’s largest organizations have access to?
And what if that data were free?
SizeUp, a recently launched startup housed behind the old San Francisco Mint seems to be offering precisely those business intelligence tools to companies of 500 employees or fewer and they are offering them for free.
The company launched at the recent TechCrunch Disrupt conference, and it seems to me that what it's doing is truly disruptive. The business intelligence market, according to various analysts, may soon be a $10 billion industry. So SizeUp may indeed be on to something.
SizeUp was co-founded by Anatalio Ubalde, who grew up in a gritty part of Sacramento where it was preferable to be tough rather than smart. But smarts got him into UC Berkeley’s City Planning program, where he met Pablo Monzon, a Fulbright Scholar.
The two have been partnering ever since. Previously, they started GIS Planning, a data service used by 13,000 cities in 43 states.
Let me give you just a few examples of what the company can do.
- SizeUp can tell a local shoe store owner how he compares with other shoe retailers in his neighborhood, city or even nationwide. He'll have the ability to compare employee costs, operating margins, rant, advertising costs, employee health costs and more.
- A beauty salon in Los Angeles interested in the glamour customer could use SizeUp to determine where to locate, based on where models and actresses resided.
- A dentist in New York City could determine the efficacy of advertising on subway cars instead of radio.
- An interior design business in San Francisco can download the beta software and see a salary chart that would tell her how much to budget for hiring and what she could expect the average revenue per employee to be.
- A Connecticut photographer could use the service to focus on the geographic areas where the need for her services was greatest.
There really is no end to the possibilities. What's more, is that the timing of SizeUp is perfect. We live in a time when the internet offers so much information, but so little of it is relevant to small businesses. Yet SizeUp is a strategic tool that is practical and much more useful than say, Groupon, which really only helps businesses cut their already slender margins even more.