InfoReady Helps Customers Navigate $1 Trillion Grant Market With Search and Collaboration Software

11/4/10Follow @xconomy

Collaboration software for office workers isn’t new, and neither are technologies for doing refined, targeted Web searches. But Ann Arbor, MI-based InfoReady is combining those elements in a social networking-like interface to create a workflow tool that the company’s president and CEO Bhushan Kulkarni thinks will really shake things up.

“I feel that we are hitting on something that’s going to allow us to change the way that business is done in the collaboration space,” he says.

The startup spun out of Kulkarni’s Ann Arbor-based IT consulting firm GDI Infotech in March, and released its first product in June, attracting about a dozen paying customers, Kulkarni says. He thinks the market potential for his company’s product is massive, but wanted to start with a more targeted customer base and get good at that, he says. So InfoReady has selected the problem of finding government grants and other awards and putting together proposals as the first application for its software.

Between federal agencies, state agencies, and foundations, there’s about $1 trillion in grant money available every year; the problem is knowing where and what to apply for, Kulkarni says. Traditionally, those interested in grant money have had to go to individual agency and foundation websites, and by the time they gather the information on grants that are available, “there’s not enough time left to respond with a quality proposal,” Kulkarni says. So InfoReady is targeting its software to streamline the grant search and proposal process for groups such as big research universities, community colleges, public school districts, economic development agencies, and local government entities.

“It’s probably because of the environment in Michigan,” says Kulkarni of the inspiration for grants as a first market for the InfoReady software. “What became clear to us is that everybody is hungry for new sources of revenue.”

InfoReady’s software platform crawls the Web for information relevant to a particular customer, and delivers notifications on available grants to their inboxes, based on their customized search criteria. It’s designed so that users can take action on that particular grant right away, by putting together a proposal. “If we’re trying to find something, chances are we want to find that information because we want to do something with it,” he says. “With most software tools out there, once you find info, there’s no easy way to collaborate.”

Rather than requiring customers to go into separate programs and documents and copy and paste relevant content, the software platform enables different users to post items on an interface similar to the wall in Facebook. The software also pulls relevant content exchanged via e-mail regarding a document directly into the InfoReady interface, so users can work within the platform they’re comfortable with. The program then strings together a cohesive report from the items users posted.

“If you’ve used LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail, then you should not need any training on InfoReady,” Kulkarni says.

The InfoReady platform also keeps all the content its engine picks up, as well as that which users submit, in a resource library to enable collaborators to quickly access and reuse items in reports. It also provides tracking and analytics to monitor who performed which task.

Ultimately, the software, which is available for a monthly subscription rate per user, could serve those working in sectors such as intellectual property surveillance, healthcare, and human resources—for example, helping to bring life to the job search process, he says. “The whole matchmaking science is something that’s missing, and the collaboration around that is missing,” he says. InfoReady could also work to match investors and entrepreneurs, he says.

InfoReady has raised about $1 million in seed funding, from Ann Arbor Spark’s Michigan pre-seed fund, Automation Alley’s seed fund, First Step Fund, and angel investors including Terry Cross. The startup is also planning a quick follow-on round in the neighborhood of $2 million, Kulkarni says. The near-term focus for the 11-employee company is viral marketing and sales to really nail the grants space, he says, before going out to raise a venture capital round later next spring or summer.

“The reason I’m taking this route is the market is still very cautious,” he says. “I don’t want to paint a big picture. I want to get further along.” The firm has also introduced a second application (still in stealth mode, but in the HR space) for its software, which has already attracted some customers. And InfoReady has gotten some interest from large information management and integration software firms for strategic investments, so we’ll have to be on the lookout for what names show alongside the startup.

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