TechCrunch, the opinionated startup-focused blog network, has launched a low-cost analytic research service. Given the company's high profile, this research offering cannot be ignored. However, does this new TechCrunch initiative provide value to buyers or threaten established analyst firms?
TechCrunch describes its 1Q 2009 Report report this way:
[It] provides key take aways and statistical support for the major trends of Q1. The report covers trends in start-up foundings, products, financings and exits across a variety of technology sectors: consumer media and entertainment, social networking, cloud computing, mobile communications, search, advertising and ecommerce, consumer electronics and clean tech.
The report costs $149 and partially overlaps the outstanding, web-based MoneyTree Report, which is free and has been around for years. PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association sponsor MoneyTree.
THE PROJECT FAILURES ANALYSIS
TechCrunch keeps its finger on the pulse of startups, writing with a colorful (some say arrogant) tone and style. This formula has propelled TechCrunch's popularity and influence among those following technology startups and investment.
Given TechCrunch's immersion in the world of startups, anyone seeking raw data and high-level conclusions about startup investment will probably find the TechCunch data useful and compelling, especially at the low price.
However, should TechCrunch decide to go beyond supplying data into offering real strategic analysis, the company's personality-driven approach would raise serious questions about its objectivity.
I disagree with an assessment of TechCrunch Research's impact on traditional analyst firms from the Sway blog, which covers "influencer relations" (emphasis added):
The implication for analysts who cover tech and mobile start-ups is serious new competition for the coveted role as a trusted and well-known expert. TechCrunch Research is promoted across the TechCrunch network — a network that garners 5.5 million unique visitors each month and is wildy popular with VCs, start-ups, early adopters and C-level tech execs. Name an analyst firm that can compete with that kind of audience on this particular market segment. In an attention economy, TechCrunch Research looks like a winner.
Trusted advisor relationships do not arise merely because a firm is popular or supplies data. Primarily, being a trusted advisor means offering sound judgment, clear objectivity, and high integrity. Meaningful trust cannot exist without these fundamental attributes.
To be clear, I am not suggesting the TechCrunch brand lacks such qualities, but these attributes are not a function of number crunching alone. Rather, they only accrue over time based on market perception, and are rooted in the totality of an organization's entire body of work.
The best traditional analysts (the real trusted advisors) bring insight, interaction, and experience to their clients. These rare folks put client interests first, even to their own detriment. Unfortunately, some well-established, traditional analysts seem to be little more than technology vendor shills, pushing the party line to whomever pays the most. It's worth noting that one sees the same behavior among some journalists. I guess every industry has its bad apples.
Does TechCrunch Research matter? If you seek data about the company's startup-oriented sweet spot, the answer is definitely yes. Expensive, data-driven research firms in this space should rightfully feel threatened by TechCrunch's low cost and broad reach.
If you seek a high-touch, trusted advisor to help guide strategic decision-making, then look elsewhere. The TechCrunch trajectory doesn't go there.