Where IT pros go for business software reviews

Mar17, 2016

You could call it Yelp for the IT set. G2 Crowd hosts a site where verified individuals can leave reviews of business software, from storage management to digital analytics to computer-assisted design.

Tim Handorf, co-founder and CEO of the Highland Park company, got the idea for G2 Crowd after selling software for Big Machines in Deerfield. He had learned that business software buyers greatly valued feedback from others who had tried the products and that there was no platform that offered comments from others who were already using these tools.

“I really wondered why anybody hadn’t done this in the past—create a product that will allow the users—the real experts with this software—to get experience and share their experiences with each other,” he says.

Three years after launching, G2 Crowd has more than 60,000 reviews on 15,000 products in 500 categories, and more than 50 employees, including three in San Francisco. G2 derives revenue by selling copies of reports that provide aggregated data and reviews for software in a given category for $599. Additionally, G2 Crowd charges software vendors for a premium page that provides a virtual trade show booth, visited by nearly 600,000 people. The company will also introduce companies to software vendors they can work with, for a fee.

To ensure the credibility of its posts, G2 Crowd requires reviewers to log in using a LinkedIn account, setting it apart from other review sites that let people post anonymously or without verifying their identity.

The startup is the only company that combines research and brand awareness into its data, Handorf says, but it does face indirect competition from traditional tech sector analysis firms such as Gartner of Stamford, Conn., and Forrester of Cambridge, Mass.

4C Insights, a technology media firm in the Loop that creates software used by advertisers to manage and measure their ads on TV and social media, has been a client of G2 Crowd for more than a year. Since then, its revenue has more than tripled, says Aaron Goldman, 4C Insights chief marketing officer. “There’s really nobody out there who’s like G2,” Goldman says. “The big analyst firms tend to have their own methodologies for how they rank companies, but G2 lets the users speak.”

Handorf won’t disclose revenue or profit figures but says that sales, head count and site traffic have all tripled year over year. It’s also recruiting top talent from other tech companies. Adrienne Weissman joined G2 Crowd a year ago as chief marketing officer after working as a marketing executive at LinkedIn.

G2 Crowd, co-founded by Chairman Godard Abel, who was CEO of Big Machines, is backed by more than $11.5 million from Chicago-based investors Pritzker Group, Chicago Ventures and Hyde Park Ventures.

Handorf, 43, a native of Gladbrook, Iowa, got an engineering degree from Iowa State University in 1995. Before moving to Big Machines in 2000, he worked at CNH Industrial, a maker of farm and construction machinery, in Wichita, Kan., and Racine, Wis.

By Katherine Davis, Crain’s Chicago Network

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