The business intelligence company SizeUp looks like it could offer an extremely useful service for small businesses. It takes a city or business district's publicly-available data, and presents it in super-clear ways for small businesses that could use the intelligence.
The demo at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference was compelling. An imaginary shoe store business owner could see where his competitors were located, how his business metrics compared to other stores, demographics of neighborhoods for opening new stores, and other data. All the data comes from public records. SizeUp does a fantastic job of processing and presenting the data in smart and clear words and pictures.
The data source--public information--is SizeUp's greatest strength and its biggest weakness. If your business is traditional (a shoe store, a restaurant) the chances are good that your local public records have a category for you and you'll be able to find very good comps and relevant data. But if you're working in a cutting-edge field (in my test, I imagined myself a UI designer), your locality probably doesn't have a code for that line of business, and it's going to be hard to get completely relevant data.
But I like what SizeUp is about here. Like Wolfram Alpha, this business represents an emerging opportunity: mining existing rich data sets and giving real humans access to intelligence from them. Next week's Strata conference in New York is all about this trend.