by Helen Lu
A quick search on Craft.co for the company’s own profile brings up in-depth data with everything, from the number of employees down to the available job openings. It’s not surprising that a business would have this info readily available about themselves; however, Craft has also managed to compile this data on more than a quarter of a million businesses to date.
Founder Ilya Levtov’s vision of a free, structured index of sectors and companies led to the start of Craft. On the website, users have the choice of typing in a specific company in the search bar or browsing companies by industry. A complete business profile includes a company summary, growth metrics, Twitter information, key people of the company, locations, recent news, and photos of company life.
This sort of indexing and data compilation has proved to be a useful consumer resource for everything from real estate to restaurants. Levtov explains that many categories have a go-to online database.
“If I need to look up a restaurant, I need to go to Yelp. If I need to look up housing, take your pic; you need to go to Zillow or Trulia,” Levtov said. “Those companies have built really successful businesses by becoming the number one place that someone would go to when you think about ‘X’.
Now think of ‘X’ as a company. Where is that one place that you go to look up a company?”
Craft hopes to differentiate itself from other sites that provide company information like CrunchBase, Google Finance, and Wikipedia by consolidating the different information that each source provides into one location. For the the past six months, three developers, three content managers, and Levtov himself have been working on gathering more content for the site. One of Craft’s short term goals for the next six months is to look into more APIs, building up the technology, and improving the search functionality of the site.
Eventually, Craft’s challenge will be to become profitable which may be difficult considering Levtov intends to keep the information free for the public. The founder pointed out that current providers of company data charge large fees and operate as a business to business service.
“We absolutely want it to be free. What’s exciting is that we want to make this kind of data available to everyone: no credit card required, no fee. Just come in and say this is the kind of company that I’m interested in, or a sector that I want to explore,” Levtov said.
Another steadfast aim that Levtov hopes to accomplish with the site is to promote business transparency. Levtov, who currently lives in the United Kingdom, references the UK’s Companies House as an example of a method that keeps the public knowledgeable about financial information on public and private companies.
“In the UK and in most European countries, even private companies have to file summary financials and who owns the shares to Companies House. There’s a level of exposure that everybody’s accustom to. . . in the US we don’t really have that,” Levtov said. “Transparency, it just allows people to make better decisions. ‘Would I want to work for that company? Is that where I want to spend the next few years? Would I want to buy the product from that company?’”
Levtov’s experience in the UK, started when his family emigrated from Russia to England in 1980 in the middle of the Cold War. At the age of 11, Levtov moved as a transfer student to the Peabody Institute and continued to finish undergraduate studies at Columbia University. After working as an analyst at Goldman Sachs and completing a MBA at Stanford, Levtov got his first taste of Silicon Valley. The next couple of years involved jobs at startups and a venture capitalist firm, leading to Levtov’s realization that the job hunt process is “sub-optimal” for most people.
“Gallup does . . . a survey of the work place, and every year it comes out and says that around 13% of people are excited about their job and the other people are ‘eh’ or actively dislikes it. What a waste,” Levtov said.
Deciding to take his experience in building technology startups back to the UK, Levtov cites one of the toughest challenges that Craft has faced is getting funding.
“It’s really, really difficult to get some people to buy in and make those earliest investments. I heard ‘no’ dozens and dozens and probably hundreds of times, but I just kept going, listening to the feedback, and learning . . . so I kept doing that in the second half of 2014 and first half of 2015, until some angel investors believed, which enabled me to hire the first few people,” Levtov said.
With a current team of 8 employees, and $500,000 in funding, Levtov is going full speed ahead to craft the biggest structured platform for company data with Craft.