Earlier this week, I wrote about G2 Crowd, a Chicago-based startup that’s out to disrupt the IT market research industry with a model based on crowdsourcing and data analytics. In addition to explaining the disruptive change in models I wrote about, Matt Gorniak, G2 Grid’s co-founder and chief operating officer, addressed the company’s methodology and crowdsourcing process.
If you were to go to G2 Crowd’s website, you’d see what’s called the G2 “Grid,” which looks an awful lot like the Gartner Magic Quadrant. I told Gorniak it seemed to me that the G2 Grid is pretty much a knock-off of the Magic Quadrant, and I asked him if that was a fair assessment. He responded, not surprisingly, that he didn’t see it that way. He also made reference to BigMachines, the company that he and his fellow G2 Crowd co-founders had sold, which gave them the capital to start G2 Crowd:
It’s fundamentally very different. First of all, it’s not magical. It’s driven by data and statistics—crowdsourcing of reviews, social analytics, and big data. The two-dimensional presentation was not invented by Gartner—that’s Algebra 101. A two-dimensional x/y axis is fairly common in math. What’s different is we can show you our work—you can click into those tiles and see the work behind it. What you can’t see are the algorithms, obviously, but you can fundamentally see what’s driving all this. Garter, obviously, is very different. Back when we were a vendor [BigMachines] and we worked with Gartner, we really never knew how we got to be that dot where we were. There was no explanation of how we got there.
If you look at our Marketing Automation Grid, we have about 40 vendors. Nobody had a good working knowledge to compare what they were able to do—they had no hands-on experience. Also, when we were a Gartner customer as a vendor, they asked us for five references from our user base. That’s five users per vendor. So it’s research based on few data points, and someone not really knowing the software. If you look at our CRM Grid, there are over 1,000 reviews; our marketing automation grid has over 700 reviews from users. So when you look at that fundamental difference in models, it opens peoples’ eyes to the fact that it’s not just that it’s crowdsourcing, it’s just better data.
Funny Gorniak should mention the Marketing Automation Grid. So far, G2 Crowd has released two Grid reports. The first one was CRM, which seemed perfectly sensible, since just about everybody needs CRM software. But the second one was marketing automation. Why on earth would they choose what seems to me to be a pretty obscure software category for their second Grid Report? Why not ERP? Or perhaps data analytics, a software category that G2 Crowd itself is so reliant on? Oddly enough, the reasoning seemed fairly sensible:
It’s a very fluid area, it’s very disruptive, and it’s fast-moving. We thought it was a very good place to highlight a modern approach through crowdsourcing and big data. … People want to help their peers. They like impacting something that’s real time. They love to contribute and to be part of a knowledge base that rights a wrong. The wrong is data that misinforms. … And we have uncovered vendors that we haven’t seen the traditional IT analysts cover.
To be a reviewer on G2 Crowd, you just have to be a user of the software. In order to have a process in place to validate that, they set it up so you have to log in to G2 Crowd through LinkedIn—Gorniak explained that they simply used LinkedIn’s publicly available login API, and that there’s no revenue sharing agreement or anything like that. So before a review is used, I asked, someone from G2 Crowd goes in to LinkedIn and confirms that the person is who he says he is and that he has the right credentials? Gorniak said essentially, yes, but it’s much more “elegant” than that:
It all happens automatically. We really spent a big chunk of our resources to build a trusted site for business software reviews. So the trusted piece is very important—the data quality. We’ve tried to automate it as much as possible, and we have a QA team—the site runs logic that, for example, filters out competitors and employees [of the company whose product is being reviewed] automatically. It does much more than that, but that’s a common example of a QA check that it does automatically.
Finally, just out of sheer nosiness, I asked Gorniak why he and his fellow co-founders hadn’t just taken their millions from selling BigMachines and gone off to live the good life in some tropical paradise. He said it’s all about what your passion is:
We’re really passionate about the disruption here. We do feel there’s a little bit of a David vs. Goliath story, but we think our slingshot is pretty darn good. It goes back to the passion of providing a better mousetrap, a better solution to the problem. If you look at it, Gartner covers 10,000 customers in the world. That’s nothing. There’s a whole market of companies—think of the Fortune 50,000 in the U.S. They’re not even using research. They’re going to Google—they’re killing themselves, Googling all sorts of random things. There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet about B2B software that’s BS. When they buy software, their reputations and careers are at stake. It’s going to be a very big shift. Consumers want to know what their peers think. People are shying away from opinions without any basis. Someone has to do it, and it might as well be us. That’s what gets us up in the morning—to really change the market.