Private companies, especially smaller ones, can be very disruptive, and very hard to figure out. They don’t offer the disclosures of a publicly traded company, they are often not well covered by industry analysts and press. The usual open source intelligence sources such as company listings on LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor are typically of very limited value, compared to for larger companies.
Because the company may be the subject of relatively little actionable intelligence, a valuable best practice is to focus on individuals, rather than the company itself. Start with researching to identify people in leadership roles, such as founders, principals, and executives. The good news is that, since the company is small, these people tend to broadcast their presence, in an effort to draw attention to their organization.
Looking at individual Twitter streams, LinkedIn profiles, and possibly Facebook accounts can start to fill in a picture of these people. One valuable practice is that if you know a person’s username on one social network, the web site Knowem will reveal their names on other social networks, linking to other public profiles. You can also pursue individual and company intelligence through Slideshare, Scribd, and conference presentations. Public records can reveal previous business ownerships, lawsuits, trademarks, and patents.
Finally, look for these people to be interviewed by local business journals, on the floor at trade shows, or in other venues. Executives often say things that they wouldn’t allow their staff to say, and those disclosures can be gold.
See our other tips on Gathering Competitive Intelligence on Private Companies:
Tip #2 on Gathering Competitive Intelligence on Private Companies: Go Local to Find the Best Data
Tip #3 on Gathering Competitive Intelligence on Private Companies: Use Specialized Tools to Dig Deeper
By Sean Campbell
By Scott Swigart