by Susan Wright
The internet has created many methods of discovering the executives who are serving within top-performing companies, but it is often difficult to find this information in one simple place. The Official Board acts as a contact database that shows the organizational charts for the 40,000 largest companies around the globe. Not only does this allow users to understand the power relationships within an organization, but there is also executive contact information available to premium users.
I was able to sit down with The Official Board CEO Thomas Lot to discuss how the idea for the site arose and how the site differentiates itself from competing databases.
Tell us about yourself first. Where did you go to school and work in the past?
I used to head companies such as Apple France and Amazon.com Europe. A few years ago, I wanted to build something of my own and to be more involved with the products and the customers. This is why I switched to entrepreneurship. My background is engineering in France and at MIT. I have had the chance to have great bosses such as Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or Eckhard Pfeiffer. They impressed me because they were smart, fast and passionate.
Tell us how your company started and when. Who was involved and what did each person do?
I often had organizational questions from entrepreneurs or friends. They wanted to get in touch with the VP of ”Company X” or the Director of “Firm Y.” I thought someone had to make this easier on a global basis, as many activities are either global or continent-wide. The organizational charts happened to be the best tool for understanding the relative roles of the executives.
I started to gather data on companies and opened the site in March 2009 to the public. I thought people would add and update the executive details as a Wiki. After a few months, I came to the conclusion that it did not work. So I discussed with many friends to find a way–this is how we built our move detector.
Tell us an interesting story about your business. Were there any “wow” moments?
My best moments are when I am chatting with a Senior VP of Sales at a US high tech company, a senior banker at a Brazilian investment fund or a managing partner at a Korean consulting group. We discuss how we can help develop opportunities and how they can connect the dots better with our data. Other “wow” moments occur when well-known senior executives thank us because their organizational charts are current and well-presented. This is the greatest reward that for the hard working team.
What does your company sell and how does it make money?
We produce our own data and we distribute them through our web site, through partners such as Dow Jones or Lexis Nexis, and in the CRMs of some of our customers. We keep the data current at the lowest possible cost thanks to our home-developed software and to our expert communities. Data is then verified with each executive by email.
Which companies do you consider to be competitors?
There are several ways to collect executive data. The first way is regulatory bodies, such as the register of commerce or the stock exchange regulators. The companies have to file their information. Our competitors resell this information. The second way is through direct inquiries or contacts with the companies. Press agencies, media groups and vertical directories use this method. The other ways are through social media, such as LinkedIn, where everyone fills out his own data, or integration of existing data on the web.
My conclusion was that none of those methods would let us spot the current 10-50 top decision-makers of a company. So we decided to invent our own way to collect, update and check the data. This is what we have industrialized.
What makes your products and services better than competitors’ offerings?
We concentrate on the key decision-makers (Board, N-1, N-2) in the key companies (Annual revenue over 100M$). We combine sophisticated technologies of web movement detection and analytics with expert communities inside and outside the companies to get the freshest data. We are passionate about winning our daily uphill battle with over 2,000 moves a day. At the end of the day, what matters is that we create for our 300,000 members and our 490,000 executives–mutually beneficial opportunities.
How big is the company in terms of its workforce?
We are currently 12 employees serving our 300,000 members and our 490,000 listed executives. About 200 top executives are very active in giving us advice that I would like to warmly thank.
What are the biggest growth catalysts for you right now?
Our biggest growth opportunity is to create opportunities for our members. We are developing smarter tools to facilitate the contacts. Organizational moves are rarely done by chance and convey strategic or tactical meaning. Another area of growth is to have our data speak better, either by linking them to other data or by understanding which benefits they carry for our users.
Is there any announcement you’d like to make?
Yes! We have just posted an infographic about female presence at the top of the large corporations, showing that only 6% of the CEOs are women. There are a lot of disparities by continents, industries and countries that we can all benefit from. It is worth it to spend a little time on this.