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vcdeals-share11For nine years, John Gabbert led the team at a venture capital data provider called VentureSource. But while there, he saw the need for something that combined private equity data with a robust technology platform.

So Gabbert made the startup leap and founded PitchBook. Six years later, the Seattle-based company employs 175 and is one of the leading information resources for the venture capital and private equity industries.

PitchBook crunches the numbers to offer unique VC market data, news and analysis. Its flagship product is the PitchBook Platform, a web-based app that helps professionals learn about the VC market and make decisions.

Here at GeekWire, we’ve referenced Pitchbook data several times in our stories about the VC market. Most recently the company provided an interesting look at Zulily’s fundraising efforts over the past few years.

We caught up with Gabbert to learn more about Pitchbook for the latest edition of Startup Spotlight.

Pitchbook founder John Gabbert.
Pitchbook founder John Gabbert.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: PitchBook provides an online research tool that helps private equity and venture capital professionals make better business and investment decisions.

Inspiration hit us when … Years ago, people kept asking for accessible, transparent private equity data and there simply wasn’t a tool that met their needs. Inspiration was as simple as that: a need exists and we have the capability to meet it. Then, once we had established ourselves in the private equity market, we took on venture capital, too.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Angels and one strategic investor (Morningstar). We have great investors who truly understand the private investment industry and believe in what we’re doing. Their confidence in us is as much of a motivator as their financial backing.

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Bacon.

An example of what analysis Pitchbook produces.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: Investing in talent. A product can only be as strong as the people behind it, and we have worked hard to build a great team of smart and hardworking employees who don’t settle for anything less than excellence.

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Our sales strategy wasn’t very strong in the beginning, so we didn’t see real growth until we changed course. Initially, we had salespeople scattered across the country in key market areas, but communication was difficult and we weren’t on the same page with a lot of things. Now we have two core teams working in Seattle and New York, and we’ve adopted a consistent approach when it comes to sales and a philosophy that can be summarized as: “Customers are King.”

pitchbookWould you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: They’re all geniuses for different reasons and we’ve tried to invoke each of them in some way. Gates was an innovator who built market-leading products; Jobs revolutionized the design of tech products; Zuckerberg had a strong intuition for what people wanted and made it happen; Bezos is extremely customer-oriented and is a brilliant business strategist. We want to be all of those things.

Our world domination strategy starts when: We’d tell you, but we’d have to kill you…

Rivals should fear us because: We’re determined to give our clients exactly what they want. A lot of people in the tech industry build things just to build them, or because it hasn’t been done before. We’re not out to get those titles—at least not explicitly. Yes, we want to provide the best product possible, but our customers dictate what that means.

The PitchBook team at a recent Mariners game.
The PitchBook team at a recent Mariners game.

We are truly unique because: We’re a SaaS company based in Seattle. Talk about shocking.

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: Launching a financial data product during the height of the financial crisis. We don’t consider this a “mistake” because what else were we going to do? Not launch until the crisis was over? That wasn’t an option. Timing was definitely an uphill battle, but the greatest achievements are typically those that defy the odds in some way.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Make sure you have a solid understanding of the business you’re creating, and a passion for what you’re doing. I didn’t start PitchBook just because I wanted to start a business – I love working on this stuff every day. Make sure you like what you’re doing, or it will be a grind.

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