Executive Briefings

Uber Has a Department That Spies on Its Rivals - and It's Not Alone

How far would you go to figure out what the competition is up to?

Uber Has a Department That Spies on Its Rivals — and It's Not Alone

Test out their products and services to see how they work? Hire away their staff to learn their tricks? Monitor their job listings to glean insight about upcoming initiatives?

Such tactics are par for the course in the technology industry, where companies go to great lengths to size up their competition. The latest example is Uber, which according to a New York Times report employs what it calls a "competitive intelligence" team to study its rivals. That team bought anonymized data — including information on Lyft receipts gleaned from customer inboxes — from analytics firm Slice Intelligence.

Although both companies faced criticism over their practices — Slice for obtaining the data and Uber for buying it — business and market intelligence experts weren’t surprised by their efforts.

Everyone does it (to some degree)

Competitive intelligence has been around for as long as corporations have, according to Chris Robson, the senior vice president of research science at ORC International. At its most basic level, it’s about figuring out what the competition is doing: What are they saying to shareholders and the press? What’s in their publicly available financial documents? What products have they launched?

“For a lot of companies, it’s just one person buried somewhere in the marketing department who every couple of weeks talks to the CEO or produces a report,” Robson said. “But other companies will have bigger groups doing more explicit mining of the information that’s out there.”

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Test out their products and services to see how they work? Hire away their staff to learn their tricks? Monitor their job listings to glean insight about upcoming initiatives?

Such tactics are par for the course in the technology industry, where companies go to great lengths to size up their competition. The latest example is Uber, which according to a New York Times report employs what it calls a "competitive intelligence" team to study its rivals. That team bought anonymized data — including information on Lyft receipts gleaned from customer inboxes — from analytics firm Slice Intelligence.

Although both companies faced criticism over their practices — Slice for obtaining the data and Uber for buying it — business and market intelligence experts weren’t surprised by their efforts.

Everyone does it (to some degree)

Competitive intelligence has been around for as long as corporations have, according to Chris Robson, the senior vice president of research science at ORC International. At its most basic level, it’s about figuring out what the competition is doing: What are they saying to shareholders and the press? What’s in their publicly available financial documents? What products have they launched?

“For a lot of companies, it’s just one person buried somewhere in the marketing department who every couple of weeks talks to the CEO or produces a report,” Robson said. “But other companies will have bigger groups doing more explicit mining of the information that’s out there.”

Read Full Article

Uber Has a Department That Spies on Its Rivals — and It's Not Alone