Guest feature | Alumnus Swan Insights: our bird is soaring with Bisnode Group

09/05/2017  |  CODE_n Alumni, CODE_n13 Startup CONTEST, Entrepreneurship

Since its participation in the CODE_n CONTEST in 2013, Swan Insights quickly matured from a fledgling into a majestic bird, and is now part of the Bisnode Group.

Swan Insights’ mission was to use data science to turn information into insights. By capturing the value contained in publicly available information, the platform contextualized data to provide business users with real-time insights that truly matter. Marketing, sales, and human resources executives can use the technology to improve their performance on a daily basis. From the massive amounts of unstructured text deluging the internet each second, the technology separates the wheat from the chaff by applying NLP and disambiguation techniques, coupled with extreme matching of individuals and organizations. One of the first startups to dive into this subject – which has since gone mainstream – Swan Insights also investigated business value by applying network science, especially social network analysis. Fun fact: Swan stands for Social Web Analysis.

From Brussels to Berlin, Dusseldorf, London, and Chicago

We were very happy to be selected to participate in the CODE_n CONTEST in March 2013 – which of course focused on big data. The week we spent there was both exhilarating and extremely constructive, thanks to the dozens of people we met and the parties we attended.

Soon after the contest, Swan Insights started an R&D collaboration with Axel Springer’s Dusseldorf-based StepStone, a leader in the job board industry, who went on to become the first industrial investor in the company in September 2014. This investment brought not only capital, but also a strategic agreement aimed at pushing both companies forward – the one getting data science for its processes and job board engines, the other getting research material for innovation and product development.

Source: Swan Insights

Since StepStone is an international firm, Swan Insights naturally provided big data support to the Group’s companies, especially to TotalJobs Group and JobSite in the United Kingdom. We opened an office there to streamline cross-border operations.

CODE_n also gave us the chance to meet Dr. Chris Moore of the United Kingdom Trade & Investment department (UK was the CODE_n partner country in 2014), who agreed to join our board of directors as an independent member. His contribution was really appreciated, especially thanks to his extensive network in the city.

At the same time we had an opportunity to expand to the United States, which we did with an office and a two-person team in Chicago. Like a lot of other startups, we went there too fast and without mobilizing enough resources. So we soon stepped back and put the U.S. structure on ice.

From Brussels to Paris, Zurich, Milan, and Stockholm

At the beginning of 2016, we designed the platform along with three applications. So we could strengthen and further develop these products and take them to market, we started our Series A fundraising process with the help of a corporate advisor specialized in cross-border operations. Our target was raising between three and five million euros. We met dozens of investors, mostly from France, Switzerland, and Germany. Based on our positive experience with the StepStone share ownership and industrial collaboration, we also contacted some big corporate organizations. We met international companies active in the business information, risk credit, and consumer marketing sectors in France, Italy, and Sweden. Discussions were very intense as we could be core to their strategy for the year to come. The negotiations with Bisnode Group, based in Sweden and active in 28 European countries, eventually concluded with a 100-percent acquisition of Swan Insights. The deal closed in January 2017.

Source: Swan Insights

Why did we decide to sell the business instead of finding Series A investors? Well, we were convinced (and still are) that within an international group like Bisnode, our technology would have better odds of succeeding than if we had continued alone, investing a lot of energy within a more competitive environment. Bisnode had what we were missing: data, talented people, and a global footprint. What would you choose in our shoes – a rock-solid opportunity or a bumpy road filled with pitfalls?

The next flight plan

Swan Insights is now the basecamp of Bisnode Group’s big data and analytics growth strategy. Our team of data scientists, engineers, and product managers work with all Bisnode markets to foster data innovation throughout the group. The strategic fit is perfect: the complete stack of Swan Insights technologies and algorithms is leveraged by Bisnode, and R&D processes are being streamlined with the group to distill an innovation-infused product and deliver solutions to their 150,000 customers.

It was a short but exciting flight – and it probably wouldn’t have been possible without CODE_n helping our nascent startup achieve liftoff. It launched us across borders, letting us fulfill our destiny.