Start-up PaperShare Inc. officially debuts today with a content network for technical professionals that combines social sharing and discussions with access to technical content downloads such as case studies, software demos, videos and white papers.
While PaperShare plans to host a variety of technology content, it is initially concentrating on cloud computing and virtualization. Possible future topics include data, security and storage.
“What's interesting to me is that we have created this social site that is leading with content,” said former Microsoft Corp. executive David Greschler, who is now PaperShare's CEO. “We're using that as a reason why people get together and build communities.”
Greschler said users can search not only for content but also for people by categories. So, for example, a search for those interested in backup and recovery solutions provides a means to crowd-source knowledge and engage in peer discussions, he said.
Visitors can upload for free a limited amount of content to the PaperShare site, which also provides a list of topics, companies and materials relevant to users' interests, and the ability either to download the materials or store them in a personalized “library.” There's also a search function, direct links to LinkedIn and Twitter, and the ability determine who else has read, shared or commented on a particular piece of content.
Paying PaperShare customers can upload an unlimited amount of content, but the website works under a true lead-generation model as well. Subscribers can also provide a company profile that will be featured on the site, host discussions and receive reports about who accesses their materials and whom they're sharing it with. Pricing ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 annually, depending on the level of service.
These paying customers also can reach out directly to leads via PaperShare to make commercial pitches.
“If somebody has read your paper five times, we're telling you who these people are,” said CTO Douglas Brown.
The company had been in beta since July and has amassed an archive of 27,000 content items, according to the company. Current customers include Citrix Systems, Microsoft Corp. and Quest Software.
“Instead of leading with advertising, content marketing is the new way to approach people,” Greschler said. “And when people share [content], they're promoting it for you.”
Greschler said some customers are using PaperShare to host and distribute all their marketing content, rather than hosting it themselves on their corporate sites.
While a large number of white paper distribution services using various business models already exist (a charge per download to the originating company is common), Greschler and Brown feel that their focus on technology along with a social component makes PaperShare unique.
“We started in this vertical because this is where I came from,” said Brown, a former Citrix Systems executive. “I've run one of those white paper aggregator sites and thought we could do it better.”
The two would like to expand PaperShare beyond the tech arena, and are eyeing creating areas for finance and healthcare sometime in the first half of 2012.
Certainly there are other ways to source technology buying prospects. Harte-Hanks, for example, offers its Ci Technology Database, which identifies and ranks prospective companies based on their likelihood to purchase products.
Harte-Hanks accomplishes this by interviewing 7,500 tech buyers a month; the company has completed about 200,000 interviews, which provide details on planned purchases in 37 technology goods and services areas.
With PaperShare determining who is reading and sharing content, Greschler and Brown feel that prospects' actions can indicate as much as words can.
“Eventually we see the prospects for specific communities, where people are thirsty for knowledge,” Greschler said. “This can be a crowd-sourcing phenomenon.”