Plonked Launches Intelligent Business Search

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted March 03, 2016

Google is great at a lot of things, but it falls a little short in business search, according to Ankur Varma, CEO of Plonked.

Though whimsical-sounding, Plonked is serious business. Founded less than a year ago, the San Francisco startup set out to help sales professionals and business people harness the power of the Web, machine learning, and advanced analytics to research tech companies and zero in on leads with laser-like precision—and to seek out business-to-business (B2B) opportunities.

There's a reason that Google has morphed into a verb over the years. People have made it their go-to destination for Web searches. But what works for personal and household needs doesn't always align with what business professionals look for online.

Out of habit, small business owners and sales professionals will visit Google.com—by default if they use the popular Chrome browser—type in some search terms and skim through the top results. Unfortunately, the most search-friendly results are rarely the most business-friendly ones.

Top Search Results vs. Best Search Results

"Google returns a lot of information that a sales guy finds burdensome," said Varma. Though the search giant is exceptionally good at surfacing information, Google results often lack context and insight into a searcher's intent. Finding information about another business' customers, vendors, and overall health can quickly turn into a tedious process of clicking well beyond the first results page and massaging query terms to filter out the noise.

Plonked; search engine for business

And Google's not the only company failing business people. Business-centric search services like those provided by Dun & Bradstreet and others don't fare much better, Varma said.

To remedy this situation, Plonked uses natural-language search and machine-learning technologies that help business people zero in on the information, metrics, and answers they seek. It delivers results by incorporating public and proprietary knowledge bases.

While some services get that far and call it quits, Plonked goes further by parsing news feeds and analyzing social networks. "We're building a graph of how companies are related to each other," Varma said.

The system then generates personalized results; it provides "additional insight into what's happening in companies," said Varma, and it delivers metrics on how a business is performing, its industry peers and connections. Those connections can include partners, customers and vendors. For sales and business development professionals, Plonked's ability to unearth first- and second-degree connections serves as a lead-generation toolthat identifies the most relevant prospects.

And the more that people use Plonked, the smarter it becomes. "The more information we get, the better it gets," Varma said.

Prospecting for Leads and Jobs

In addition to his acting career, actor Kevin Bacon is also famous for the "Six Degrees" parlor game that has captivated movie buffs for years. The aim is to link Bacon with any actor through his or her movie roles in as few steps as possible.

In the business world, Plonked has discovered that most businesses in the U.S. have closer ties than you may think. On average, tech companies share 3.5 degrees of separation between each other. Even the most obscure small businesses are separated by just three or four hops to the other 24 million businesses in the U.S., Plonked's analysis found.

Varma and his team fully expected sales professionals and business people who used the three-month Plonked beta—it officially launches today—to explore those connections to find prospects and to help improve their own B2B smarts. However, his team was pleasantly surprised to discover that Plonked served as another career-boosting aid.

Plonked has emerged as a vital resource for "people looking for jobs," Varma said. Taking over where Google and LinkedIn leave off, it provides job applicants with deeper, more insightful information about a company, how it's faring and where it stands in within the competitive landscape, allowing them to confidently pursue job opportunities and expertly navigate the interview process.

Plonked is free and open for business. The company plans to offer "a premium option down the road" that integrates with popular business software platforms, Varma said.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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