iBegin Source – a radical approach to local data

Ahmed Farooq of iBegin.com contacted me several weeks ago to alert me to a new product that his company is releasing today: iBegin Source, a free and low cost source for business data in the 50 states.

Traditionally business data from InfoUSA and the like is expensive and very restricted in its use. For example, InfoUSA quoted $101,038.34 for every business in NY State as opposed to the $1000 for the iBegin commercial data set for New York. While InfoUSA includes more and different fields in the data, for many uses the geocoding available with iBegin may be more valuable.

iBegin Source is making this local data available for each of the 50 states. From iBegin Source’s website:

Key benefits:

  • FREE download for non-commercial usage
  • Commercial license is only $1000 for a state or $40,000 for the entire USA. Other data brokers can cost more than $500,000
  • Automated purchase. No sales team to go through
  • Data is updated constantly. Includes daily, weekly, and monthly data updates
  • We have 10,820,453 total business listings. Already cleaned and de-duped
  • Commercial license includes geocoded addresses

The availability of free or cheap local data that is updated regularly has the potential to shake up not just the internet yellow page business and local search but direct marketing as well. To quote Ahmed: “We want to help promote enthusiast and hobbyist sites (just look at what happened with mapping applications when Google released the Maps API).”

Here is an interview that I did with Ahmed over the past few weeks that provides more insight into his service:

Q:Tell us about your company and how you got into local search

The parent company is Enthropia Inc., a webdev firm based in Toronto. We are self-funded, over four years old, and we build our own sites (no client development).

We got into local search because the current crop wasn’t good enough. From massive errors in data to slow searches, it was a headache to find anything near me. Canadian local search is especially horrible. We didn’t want to take a shotgun approach, covering all of Canada/US. We opted for a city-by-city approach (ala CitySearch).

Describe your new service to provide local data

Local business data is expensive. The data itself is full of duplicates and errors. I remember processing 34,000 records for a city and ending up with only 8000 unique records. Brad Fled had an interesting post on how bad local data is, and how the suppliers provide of no way for direct updates.

So iBegin Source does four things differently:
1. Perpetual license. Once you purchase our data, you can use it for however long you want.
2. Cheaper data. An entire state is only $1000. The major data brokers (that everyone uses) are roughly 300-400% more expensive than us. Some are high as even 1000% more! We want to help promote enthusiast and hobbyist sites (just look at what happened with mapping applications when Google released the Maps API)
3. Open system for updating. Anyone can submit an update, and we also have a trackback system for automated updates (akin to what Brad Feld was suggesting). All of it revertable just like Wikipedia. No more closed systems.
4. Geocoding comes included. Six decimal accuracy and major intersection included. Simplifies the entire process.

What do you think will be the impact of making this data available?

The entire idea is that helps launch new local-oriented sites. If I wanted to setup a local site right now, the cost of the data is a major barrier. With iBegin Source I can self-fund my project.

We also intend on becoming the centralized place for local data. On the iBegin city sites we have received thousands and thousands of updates, of which a fraction of one percent were incorrect. Why not just give users the power to do the changes themselves? Worst case situation: we do some reverts.

How and how often will the data be updated?

We outline our update methodology here. Basically we have full, daily, weekly, and monthly data-dumps. The other data brokers charge extra for quicker updates not us.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

“Why should I trust iBegin? I haven’t heard of iBegin before”

As a company, we dabbled in local search before we did iBegin covering entire countries (eg New Zealand) and even going hyper-local (eg Yorkville a four block community in Toronto). We took this knowledge into consideration before settling on a city-by-city approach.

iBegin is now roughly a year old. We have been in Toronto for most of the time, and cover three other cities. We are self-funded, and have declined many investment offers. Over our first year we have had over 1.5 million unique visitors (currently averaging over 250,000 a month), have had over 500,000 searches conducted on our site, and have had over 15,000 updates submitted by our visitors.

We know local search and problems with local data.

How are you able to make the data available for free?

Can’t really answer this. We have heavily invested in this, and we will continue to do so.

Are there any restrictions on how the data may be used?

No. We have no desire to control what you can do with the data

Can it be shared or resold with another organization?

No. Redistribution in any manner is not allowed.

Can it be used for multiple purposes like print and digital?

Yes. Again, we do have no intention of controlling what you do with the data.

Is there a limit on the number of times it can be used?

No. We don’t have prices determined by the number of page views your site will generate (like the other data brokers). We don’t have a minimum buy, and we don’t have a sales team you have to go through. Use the data however you want, and use it for however long you want.

What is the difference between the free non-commercial data and the commercial data sets?

The commercial data has the following benefits:
Geocoded (latitude / longitude)
Phone #
Nearest Major intersection
Can be monetized
No need to linkback
Daily Updates

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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4 thoughts on “iBegin Source – a radical approach to local data”

  1. Hi Mike,

    Excuse my ignorance, but I had to bolt half way through your article so you may have answered my question in the second.

    Do you guys supply data/lists into Australia, particularly Western Australia?

    Cheers,
    Peter

  2. I have been out of town for a few days and I just got to a place where I could respond to your inquiry at my blog. The data that you are asking about is provided by ibegin (I have no relationship to them) and the owner/visionary that you want to talk with is Ahmed Farooq. I don’t know if he has Australian data or not but he might be interested in developing it if he doesn’t or might know how to get you what you need.

    His website: ibegin.com
    his blog: TechSoapbox

    Mike Blumenthal

  3. Hi Peter
    I may have the Australian data you need.
    Drop me a line on zen91104[@]zen[.]co[.]uk.
    Ben

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