Databases, which are arrangements of information that can easily be accessed, managed and updated, are wondrous things. As a society, we’re swamped with endless information. Thanks to computer databases, we can help organize it for our specific purposes in whatever complexity we wish. As our needs, our interactions with others, and our sources of information increase, moreover, our databases can evolve with them in an almost limitless way.
We can combine publicly available information in ways no one else has, not only in order to manage our lives and run our businesses but also to create new services for others. The database resulting from such a mélange of data can be proprietary. Database management can become a great business, particularly for the pioneers who have gotten in on the ground floor. Once a database is securely established and widely used, services can be added, new capabilities offered, and new potential customers reached. For a startup venture, it’s a matter of turning the corner.
Earlier this month, the Hudson Valley Startup Fund (HVSF) presented a check to StateBook International, Inc., a Kingston-based startup that bills itself as the first proprietary online marketplace for site selection and economic development. This is the second investment for HVSF, a $1.15-million local seed-capital fund. The first investment was in an urban shrimp farm in downtown Newburgh.
StateBook facilitates corporate site selection “by aggregating and standardizing objective federal data alongside editorial commentary and available sites and buildings from EDOs [economic development organizations] throughout the United States in one centralized, searchable location,” according to a press release from HVSF. The company sees itself as the definitive site for site selection, “aggregating over 63,000 strategic data points,” units of information standardized for every county in the nation. Real-estate developers, companies, site-selection consultants and governments have found using StateBook’s county-level data much faster, easier to use and less cumbersome that than gathering their own.
Calandra Cruickshank, a resident of Big Indian, is president and CEO of StateBook. It has taken capital, technical skills and time to create the well-organized, easy-to-use StateBook platform, while the income to support the fledgling business has taken nearly two years to build.
But the tide is turning. Though Cruickshank does not share detailed financial information, StateBook’s revenue, driven by her own tireless outreach and marketing efforts, has increased exponentially this year. The platform has become far more widely adopted. It’s becoming the industry standard.
StateBook seems to have turned the corner in terms of recognition. Some 620 EDOs in 13 states have joined StateBook and access the platform’s data for an annual fee. More than 1200 companies employ it for site selection decision-making. SelectUSA, a part of the federal Department of Commerce, uses the platform to help attract foreign direct investment by international companies. Five states — Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma — have signed up to make StateBook available for all their counties, and Cruickshank says several more states are currently exploring that option.
A startup that’s beginning to find viability in the marketplace is attractive to investors as well. Cruickshank has been attracting venture capital from a variety of sources.
This month, she has received investments of nearly a million dollars from a variety of sources, including the HVSF, Westchester Angels, the Executive Forum Angels and several individual investors, including some from Golden Seeds, an early-stage investment fund based in New York City with a focus on women leaders.
The HVSF itself invested $150,000 on StateBook, and individual investors from its group added $75,000 in sidecar funds (an investment vehicle of individuals operating alongside HVSF). Tom Morton, an experienced investor with Executive Forum Angels, recently joined Cruickshank’s team as chief operating officer. Cruickshank and now Morton currently operate out of a small office in a former home on Kingston’s Fair Street that has been converted into professional offices.
According to the HVSF, the new investment will allow StateBook “to significantly scale operations, accelerate software development, grow sales staff, and pursue additional corporate, state and local government clients from across the U.S.” It’s time for Cruickshank to build the support team of trusted professionals who will keep StateBook rapidly growing.
Being a solo entrepreneur (the latest jargon calls it “solopreneur”) is not easy. Cruickshank, who’s been building her vision for about five years while bringing up three kids in Ulster County, has shown an ability to learn diverse skills, a flexibility in pursuing her goals, and an admirable and indefatigable doggedness that’s taken her far. But there’s always another turn in the entrepreneurial road, another important decision to make.
One interesting characteristic of the StateBook platform is that its growth potential is enormous. It has one foot in the universe of supply (geography) and the other in the universe of demand (site selectors and companies seeking new locations). Having established relationships with local, regional and state governments across the country, it can now expand its focus on business.
There’s potential in an ancillary income source as well: advertising. Developers, businesses, banks, attorneys, cultural and educational organizations and others can promote their services on the platform to reach a targeted audience of companies expanding or relocating. There’s a sweetener in the offer. Half the advertising revenues go directly to local EDOs who are StateBook members.
This is a business that could be just at its beginning. Having established a solid EDO base and grown its relationship with the site-selection universe, StateBook can now build on that base. It can supply custom-tailored, specialized data and information. It can incorporate new data into its formidable database. And it has opened the door to establishing a unique status in the delivery of digital information to the field of economic development.
Not bad for Calandra Cruickshank, who grew up in the Town of Shandaken, still lives deep in the Catskills, and runs her business out of Kingston.