Venture capital firms are constantly on the lookout of innovative start-ups for investment. Whether you provide financial capital to early-stage start-ups in IT, software products, biotechnology or other booming industries, you will need the right information as soon as possible. In general, analysing media data to discover and validate insights is one of key areas in which analysts work. Hence, constantly monitoring popular media outlets is one of the ways VCs can deploy to spot trends. Read on to understand how web crawling can not only speed up this whole process but also improve the workflow and accuracy of insights.
What is web crawling
Web crawling simply refers to the use of automated computer programs to visit websites and extract specific bits of information. This is the same technology used by search engines to find, index and serve search results for user queries. Web crawling, as you’d have guessed is a technical and niche process. It takes skilled programmers to write programs that can navigate through the web to find and extract the needed data.
There are DIY tools, vertical specific data providers and DaaS (Data as a service) solutions that VC firms can deploy for crawling. Although there is the option of setting up an in-house crawling setup, this isn’t recommended for Venture Capital firms. The high tech-barrier and complexity of web crawling process can lead to loss of focus for the VC firms. DaaS can be the ideal option as it’s suitable for recurring and large-scale requirements which only a hosted solution can offer.
How web crawling can help Venture Capital firms
Crawling start-up and entrepreneurship blogs using a web crawling service can help VC firms avail the much-needed data that they can use to discover new trends and validate their research. This can complement the existing research process and make it much more efficient.
1. Spot trends
Spotting new trends in the market is extremely important for venture capital firms. This helps identify the niches that have high probability of bringing in profit. Since investing in companies that have higher chances of succeeding is what Venture capital firms do, the ability to spot trends becomes an invaluable tool.
Web crawling can harvest enough data to identify trends in the market. Websites like Techcrunch and Venturebeat are great sources of start-up related news and information. Media sites like these talk about trending topics constantly. To spot trends in the market, you could use a web crawling solution to extract the article title, date and URL for the current time period and run this data through an analytics solution to identify the most used words in the article titles and URLs. Venture capital firms can then use these insights to target newer companies in the trending niches. Technology blogs, forums and communities can be great places to find relevant start-ups.
2. Validate findings
The manual research by the analysts needs to be validated before the firm can go ahead with further proceedings. Validation can be done by comparing the results of the manual work with the relevant data extracted using web crawling. This not only makes validation much easier but also helps in the weeding out process, thus reducing the possibilities of making mistakes. This can be partially automated by using intelligent data processing/visualisation tools on top the data.
3. Save time
Machines are much faster than humans. Employing web crawling to assist in the research processes in a venture capital firm can save the analysts a lot of time and effort. This time can be further invested in more productive activities like analytics, deep research and evaluation.
Our analyses on TechCrunch data
We extracted article titles, URLs and dates of all the posts on TechCrunch for 2016 and used R to analyse the dataset. Here are top buzzwords from TechCrunch article titles:
Here is the chart depicting the number of mentions of top five buzzwords over the four quarters in 2016.
As you can see bots received huge boost during third quarter. This could be an indirect result of the rapid adoption of chat bots after Facebook launched chatbots on messenger back in April 2016.
Venture capital firms can make use of the trends spotted using web crawling to aid their decision-making process. It can help them discover innovative and promising start-ups that may not be in the limelight. This unique power of web crawling can help venture capital firms by complementing their research and improving the overall operational efficiency.