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Welcome to SkyGrid.

(soft synthetic female voiceover:)

Welcome to SkyGrid. Please stand by for the safety demonstration. We hope you have a pleasant experience and come again soon.

I’m sorry – couldn’t resist. Whenever I think of SkyGrid it automatically triggers visions of Chiba City (from Gibson’s Neuromancer) or other techno-futuristic visions (think Totall Recall or Blade Runner or Minority Report etc.) But the SkyGrid in question is not some fictional future Matrix but a real 21st century startup based in Southern California focused on advanced search and filtering of company and sector specific news for a professional audience.

SkyGrid Screenshot

I was first introduced to Kevin Pomplun – SkyGrid’s founder and CEO – back in late 2006 when he was raising the initial angel funding for this venture and it has been interesting to see how the initial vision and business model have evolved over time. Especially since during this time you have seen the rise and fall of potential competitors like Monitor110, the strong growth of crowd-sourced and/or curated news aggregators (like Digg or more recently VBrief), and perhaps most importantly the explosive recent rise and rise of the “real-time” web and search with Twitter. So can SkyGrid compete in this fast-changing landscape? My view: maybe. It all depends on execution and knowing your customer. Well, duh – but let me explain.

Most – if not all – of the information that SkyGrid aggregates and filters is freely available on the web; further most if not all can be searched and/or aggregated with a number of other free and well known tools. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the early-adopter, highly web-literate user, would find SkyGrid somewhat limiting and would probably be more comfortable using a variety of other tools that are more flexible and precisely tuned to various tasks than SkyGrid. But – and this is where I think the opportunity lies for Kevin and his team – most potential consumers for SkyGrid’s product are not early-adopting-tech-geeks. Often, they are almost the opposite – skeptical, time-constrained, 80% rule, type-A personalities – that don’t want to have to do anything to get the information they are looking for: they just want it to work. Now. With no effort. Quickly. This is the core opportunity: intelligently package free data in a way that is highly relevant but also easy to consume.

SkyGrid’s initial business model focused on selling terminals (seat licenses) to professional financial services professionals – a well-trodden, often difficult but potentially lucrative path. This initial focus I imagine was a big influence on SkyGrid’s look and feel, as I guess they felt their prospective customers would take them more seriously (and pay them more) if SkyGrid looked like a Bloomberg termninal. (Personally I don’t like this look at all, but am conscious that I am probably not a good focus group when it comes to things like this!) More recently, they have started to offer their product for free, but on an invitation-only basis. If I understand the strategy correctly, this will allow them to build a very valuable community of high-end users, and over time add more social curation and editorial tools (like a Digg or HubDub, etc.) but in a closed more professional / specialist community.

It’s only been a week or so since I got an invite to use SkyGrid and so to be frank I don’t have an opinion yet on whether or not they have build a valuable and sustainable service but it looks promising enough to take a closer look. Better yet, Kevin has very kindly offered a limited number of SkyGrid invites to Park Paradigm readers (apparently you are just the kind of smart, informed, professional users SkyGrid is looking for!) Click here to sign up.

I’d obviously be very interested to hear both your first impressions and then once you’ve had time to use it for awhile, your more considered opinions on their product. At the risk of influencing your views, to finish, here is a list of some of my first impressions:

  • Like the simple, clean presentation of results and the tabbed history of recent searches.
  • Don’t like the Bloomberg-esque look and feel
  • Frustrating that it only searches on US listed equity tickers for now; want to see global coverage and ideally not limited to public companies – ie private companies, more sectors, by geography (esp. for emerging market countries), etc.
  • Would be nice to have a Google-Finance-like mapping of stories to price chart, or at a minimum a quick and easy way to visualize current market price and change

Let me know. And Welcome to SkyGrid. 😉

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Comments
  1. […] SkyGrid – Filtered Real-Time Web Financial Content via The Park Paradigm […]

  2. At 1:02 pm on 24 May 09 Jordan said:

    I don't get it, didn't they have a well done corporate site last year? How come it looks like it was made by a middle schooler now?

  3. At 2:24 pm on 26 May 09 Chuck Farley said:

    Not sure it's different enough from hitting refresh on a Google Finance news feed every few minutes: http://tinyurl.com/qxj5tl

  4. At 6:18 pm on 26 May 09 parkparadigm said:

    Indeed. I think that's the $100mn question. Haven't had chance to use it enough to have a strong view as to whether or not SkyGrid has a better signal to noise.

    In fact thinking about it now, one of the reasons I probably haven't used it much (vs say a google search) is: <ul><li>you need to sign in; and</li><li>you cannot search from the browser toolbar</li></ul>

    I'm thinking aloud here, but I definitely think they need to build some sort of bookmarklet to make it easier to access. Also a good iPhone app would also probably drive my usage up.

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