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Bill Hankes and David Kellum.
Bill Hankes and David Kellum.

Reporters who dig through public documents — such as court records, SEC filings, and patent applications — can often “scoop” their peers and be the first to publish a news story on a given topic.

But the key is finding those documents as soon as they appear in online databases, which can be a difficult and time-consuming process in today’s fast-moving world of online publishing.

Now, two entrepreneurs from Seattle want to help.

Bill Hankes and David Kellum are the co-founders of Sqoop, a new online tool that alerts journalists when public documents become available online, based on the companies and topics they choose to follow. After starting with patent filings and SEC documents, Sqoop is expanding its beta this week to include alerts on federal court records.

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Hankes, a former RealNetworks and Microsoft corporate communications executive, developed the idea to fill a void in the landscape of digital news-gathering tools. Hankes noted that there are one-third fewer journalists in the market compared to a decade ago, but 40 percent more content being published, illustrating the need for more efficient methods of unearthing newsworthy information.

While there are neat data visualization applications and collaboration tools available, Hankes explained that reporters don’t have enough help when it comes to digging up stories and figuring out what to write about.

Hankes left Microsoft two years ago and subsequently teamed up with Kellum, an expert in search and data extraction who became Sqoop’s CTO.

Reporters who sign up with Sqoop can set alerts for what type of documents they’d like to receive for specific companies or keywords. They can also use Sqoop’s search engine to find documents — an alternative to digging through multiple layers on government websites.

“These are painful sites to use,” Hankes said.

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Sqoop’s competition is the “status quo,” Hankes explained, citing services like Bloomberg, Morningstar’s 10K Wizard, and Innography.

“Sqoop is a lightweight version of those things under one roof,” Hankes said.

The 3-person company has raised a small $100,000 seed round from Seattle angel investor Gary Rubens. Sqoop plans on producing revenue with separate products in the future, but for now is focused on building a user base of journalists.

There are about 85 registered journalists using the service daily, Hankes said. GeekWire’s news staff is among those using a beta of the service.

“Sqoop has an opportunity to help transform the news discovery landscape,” Hankes said. “There’s been $850 million invested in news media outlets over the past two years because there’s a gold rush to develop more original content. We have a net increase in reporters over the past two years for the first time in a decade, but no one is looking at what digital tools can help reporters be more efficient. That’s where we think Sqoop has a first-mover advantage.”

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