Shining a light on what happens to a company

Why Company Data Matters

Your Data Business – Series, Issue #2

We spoke with Mollie Hanley of OpenCorporates. OpenCorporates is a pioneer in the open data movement. In the scope of euBusinessGraph they aim to create a EU-wide product around corporate events data, derived from corporate register data in database, and from other registers and datasets. OpenCorporates’ vision is to enable users of this product will have access to a range of critical, standardised corporate events.

Mollie, why is company data so important for OpenCorporates?

OpenCorporates is collecting company registers from across the world, and turning them into open, standardised data. Our primary goal is to make information on companies more usable and widely available for the public benefit, particularly to tackle the use of companies for criminal or anti-social purposes, for example corruption, money laundering and organised crime.
Access to open data about companies is essential infrastructure for everyone; from law enforcement countering fraud and money laundering, businesses researching suppliers and competitors, and journalists investigating the corporate world.
Despite the importance of this information, in many jurisdictions across the globe finding even basic records about a company can be surprisingly difficult. Accessing this information as open data is even harder.

What has OpenCorporates worked on lately?

OpenCorporates is creating a product that tracks the major events in the lifespan of a company, enabling clearer understanding of its day-to-day operations. Despite the importance of this data for all stakeholders of companies, surfacing this information is surprisingly difficult. In order to create this dataset, corporate events – for example incorporation, change of officers, mergers, acquisitions and winding up orders – are inferred from changes to official company registers, or extracted from government gazettes.

What’s in it for us?

Knowing what happens in a company is not a luxury, it’s an essential requirement for healthy economies and societies.
The corporate events dataset will enable better understanding of how, when and why companies behave, drastically increasing visibility of the day to day running of a company.

How does your work make a difference?

Greater understanding of how companies behave benefits all stakeholders, from consumers to employees, investors to regulators, as well as journalists, NGOs and anti-corruption campaigners.

Which challenge lie ahead of you?

We need more open company data. Although many jurisdictions publish at least some company data openly, access to this information is not a given, and there are vested interests in keeping information about companies closed.

In order to meet the challenges of the world we live in – one controlled by companies and driven by data – we need governments to be proactively publishing more company information under an open data licence, allowing both commercial and non-commercial use.

Mollie, do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with us?

There are three ways you can support our campaign for open company data:
1. Demand more (and better) open company data is published by governments.
2. Use open company data that is available (OpenCorporates has collected data from over 163m companies across 129 jurisdictions).
3. Reach out! Connect with us on twitter and linkedin, subscribe to our newsletter, and read our blog.