Many years ago, I realized that there are enormous advantages in developing new data-driven services and solutions that provide real-time access to comparative corporate intelligence in ways that could overcome the barriers to information flows that exist within many large businesses. Too many companies don't know what they know or what they have and do a poor job of sharing and communicating knowledge.

Today, we have newer companies like Knowledge Hound (See How Knowledge Hounds Sniffed Out a New Platform.) and 1871 alum Baloonr (See Common Communication Mistakes That Destroy Productivity) helping companies address specific aspects of this problem.

It was clear way back when that the same kinds of issues existed within entire industries. Groups of competitors operating independently needed to have access to certain kinds of critical information they couldn't efficiently accumulate or practically/legally share easily. These were often oligopolistic markets with very large players operating essentially in their own vertical and narrowly-focused silos. They couldn't even see what they were missing much less come up with a solution. Basically, they needed an independent outsider to build a common, shared (call it "horizontal") and broader data platform for them.

One of the simplest examples of this type of solution was the development in the 1980s by my first business, CCC, of a computerized service for the auto insurance industry that I called VINguard. Initially, it was a program that let insurance adjusters validate and decode the 17-digit VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) for any car that was involved in an insurance claim for theft or total loss. Embedded in the VIN number by the manufacturers was a bunch of descriptive information about the car in question, which could save the adjusters considerable time in data entry and would also make sure that they were dealing with the properly-described insured vehicle.

But the auto insurers had a bigger, costlier problem. Crooks and other con artists would take the VIN number from a single wrecked car and then use it to obtain insurance coverage from, and file false claims with, multiple insurance companies for the same allegedly destroyed or stolen car. Amazingly, the insurance companies at that time never talked to each other or exchanged information about suspect VINs that should have been taken out of circulation.

This situation was the opportunity that VINguard addressed by creating and constantly updating a VIN database built from information drawn from the claims departments of all of the large automobile insurance companies, which was then provided back to them as an anti-fraud tool. We broke down their silos and created a horizontal data platform that spanned the individual insurance companies and solved a problem that they really couldn't solve themselves. In essence, we sent them back their own information and charged them for the privilege. But, in so doing, we saved them time, resources, and unnecessary payouts as well as increasing the productivity of their people-- all at the same time. No one complained.

This, of course, is all part of the power and value of building an industry-wide platform, which I've written about in the past. (See How Ridescout Demonstrates the Power of the Platform) You make the investments and do the hard work of building it once, it's used by many who couldn't justify the time or investment to do it themselves, and you take the money to the bank.

A more recent example of the same idea is Rippleshot. Rippleshot ( is a company started several years ago at 1871 that provides fraud-deterrent services to help merchants and card issuers protect themselves from stolen credit card numbers in ways they can't do alone. Other examples abound.

Bottom line: In today's global and inter-connected world, shutting yourself off in what seems to be a safe and secure silo offers little real advantage or protection. You probably know what your own business is all about and you may even have a fairly clear idea of what your direct competitors are doing and planning. But that's not the problem.

You need to access and understand the criticality of everything that is going on around you and especially outside the four walls of your own business. The coming changes, disruptions, and new technology solutions as well as the changing demands of your clients and customers are not simply head-on challenges - they're lateral attacks, competitive entries from adjacent markets, and newly-enabled ways of doing business that never existed before.

Uber wasn't a better taxi company - it was a harbinger of the new world.