On a visit to a Seattle newsroom last year, public relations executive Bill Hankes was pained as he watched a journalist perform the mundane task of sifting through public documents in a quest to dig up new stories.
“He literally cut and pasted queries from a notepad on his desktop into Edgar. One after another. This took 45 minutes,” recalled Hankes, the founder of a Seattle area startup by the name of Sqoop (pronounced “scoop”) which is attempting to help journalists more effectively track information in public databases.
Sqoop just raised a small round of cash to help push the data journalism startup forward, including money from the Seattle Angel Conference and Dave McClure’s 500 Startups. Hankes, the former director of public relations at Bing and ex-vice president of communications at RealNetworks, first met 500 Startups at a workshop they hosted at Galvanize in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.
Total investment in Sqoop’s most recent round was $176,000, with the company last year pulling in $100,000 from Seattle angel investor Gary Rubens.
As part of the investment from 500 Startups, Hankes is participating in a four-month accelerator program in Mountain View, Calif. operated by the investment firm.
“The emphasis of the program is to take companies with strong growth and help them accelerate that growth,” said Hankes. “For the past eight months, Sqoop has been growing its base of journalists 30% month over month, and we hope to accelerate that by using the funds to build more data journalism tools.”
At this point, Sqoop is focusing on adoption rather than revenue, with Hankes saying they have a big opportunity to roll out new tools that help journalists conduct research more efficiently. Next up, tools to search trademarks and documents at the FCC and FDA, as well as new filtering tools which would allow journalists to search by geography or specific industry types.
According to Hankes, the goal of Sqoop is to help journalists “unlock data and information in public data sources” with current offerings now available for the SEC, the Patent Office and PACER.
Today, Hankes said that Sqoop is used by reporters at the three national daily newspapers in the U.S., as well as three of the four national broadcast networks. He estimates that nearly 7 percent of the business journalism market is now using Sqoop, including USA Today which Hankes said used Sqoop to break the news quickly that Google’s CFO was leaving the company, and GeekWire which used the service to break news on the 3-D printing techniques being deployed by Boeing, among other stories.
You can watch Hankes pitch his data journalism concept to venture capitalist Dave McClure and Highway1 vice president Brady Forrest at this year’s GeekWire Summit, telling them that Sqoop saves journalists time and helps them uncover “stories that would be difficult to get.”
Editor’s note: GeekWire is a beta tester of the Sqoop service and has provided feedback to Hankes as he has developed his product, as detailed in this story on Talking Biz News