The Official Blog of Cogmap, the Org Chart Wiki



The Time is Money Gap – The Penny Gap for Content Creation

So sometimes I wonder about our map quantities. We have a few thousand organization charts when Hoovers touts “18 million” and Zoominfo says they have “3.5 million”. My contention in a recent conversation was that in a consumer generated world instead of an automated world, the focus on what is actually important becomes more visible. The 80/20 rule applied to their automated service means most of their data is not valuable, whereas I only capture the 20% people want via self-selection. What people make available, people want. A lot of those millions of companies aren’t the companies anyone cares about. Whereas when someone posts an organization chart, all of the sudden you are talking about a business.

It would be great to look at the overlap in companies from a list service. The odds that they reach out to the long tail when building lists is by definition relatively unlikely.

Wikipedia has an interesting, but woefully inaccurate, entry entitled “List of US Companies” that only has 400 companies in it. Obviously that is wrong, but it certainly provides some directional information about the huge gap between the number of businesses that exist and the number of businesses that people want to know about.

Then I went and did some research to figure out if I am lying. Here is what I found courtesy of Biz Stats:

  • There are almost 20m business entities in the US that have no employees. Real estate agents, nannies, Mary Kay and Amway account for more than 2 million businesses.
  • Only 0.5% of companies (16,740) had more than 500 employees (The most likely companies to have org charts here) but they represented almost 50% of total US employment.

Here is the chart:

Number of employees

# of firms

# of employees

% of all
Employer firms

% of total

less than 5

























more than 500





All employer firms





So looking at this, how important is getting access to 3.5 million companies? I know if I were an entrepreneur or a sales person that I am really interested in maybe 20,000. Maybe. Probably more like 10,000.

The next question is obvious and hard to answer: What I would love to do is figure out a way to map this back to Cogmap’s database. We definitely have small companies. We also have a lot of maps of big companies that only have 20 or 30 people in them and/or are broken down at varying levels of granularity. It is easy and probably accurate to assume that if Hoovers has 16 million companies, they have most of the organizations you care about.

Capturing more metadata about a company would be great, but the trade-off is that setting the participation bar higher for map creation results in fewer maps. In fact, one might suggest that when you compare Cogmap to automated tools, you are seeing “the Penny Gap” for content creation. Time is money in this model. The difference between requiring no effort to harvest data and effort to harvest data is the difference between millions and thousands of records. The good news is the concept of the Penny Gap only implies that good customers are customers that generate revenue, whereas in Cogmap, good maps are maps other people want to consume and also tend to be the maps people post. Thus the Cogmap model creates a system that surfaces the most valuable maps more rapidly.

While the absolute amount of data follows the straight, linear curves described in the Penny Gap, the value creation of the initial wave of maps is much higher.

Most people tend to work for one of just a few thousand companies, so those are the most likely maps to be posted and the most likely maps to consume. The biggest company maps have high value to lots of people. This is basic network effects 101 stuff. The value of maps drops to zero fairly rapidly and those are both unlikely to be made available and unlikely to be of interest – a happy concurrence. That millionth organization has very low value to very few people (org charts in three person companies are a bit superfluous and it is unlikely that headhunters or sales people want to call on those companies) and hence a low likelihood of getting posted. It is nice for the automated systems that they can capture it and add another statistic to their database, but not necessary for anyone who needs these systems because the odds they use it are low.

Hmmm, I need a better name for my Gap. Post comments.

One Response to “The Time is Money Gap – The Penny Gap for Content Creation”

  1. Cogblog » Blog Archive » Is Mahalo a Web 1.0 company? Says:

    […] my post on Cogmap data quality versus sites like Zoominfo, I made the case that the Mahalo/Cogmap approach probably works pretty […]