I was following up on an information request yesterday to TLO VP Bill Parker for a blog that I was doing about the company, when he told me that the company had temporarily laid off 150 of its 200 employees- including him. TLO (which stands for “The Last One”- founder Hank Asher’s last entrepreneurial venture), was attempting to compete in a market dominated by such online giants as Lexis/Nexis and Thomson Reuters. John Walsh of TV’s “America’s Most Wanted” fame and Hank Asher founded the small company in 2009, after Asher had sold his previous data-fusion investigative software products, and after his non-compete agreement with Lexis/Nexis had expired. Asher had sold Database Technologies to CheckPoint in 2000 for close to $500 Million and Seisint (which later became Accurint), to LexisNexis in 2004 for over $750 Million. In between, he reportedly received an $8 Million grant from the Department of Homeland Security for another one of his ventures, since his earlier work had focused on catching child predators and 9/11 terrorists.
TLO. LLC is a small company located in Boca Raton, Florida with less than 25,000 subscribers that competed in the public records market dominated by larger and more familiar names such as LexisNexis’ Accurint and Thomson Reuter’s CLEAR. TLO had maintained close ties with law enforcement agencies, and in fact, offered its TLOxp software and vast database records to law enforcement entities in all 50 states for free. (This has probably helped Asher, since he had encountered privacy concerns about his data collection in the past, and maintained a Chief Privacy Officer on staff). TLO listed the legal, financial services, insurance, global risk, corporate security, collections, fraud and asset recovery, and private investigation industries as paying customers, but apparently it had not significantly penetrated these sectors to generate sufficient revenue. Unlike, its competition, TLO didn’t have a large staff to market its product. This was curious, given its relatively low name recognition and market share. (Even a major player like Bloomberg, with its vast financial resources, knew that it needed to invest heavily in an effort to penetrate the legal database market dominated by such entrenched competitors as Lexis and Thomson). TLO had relied instead on its small team of telemarketers based at its Florida headquarters, and its pricing structure, which appealed to smaller law firms and solo practitioners that couldn’t afford expensive database contracts or costly pay-as –you-go searches.
Some major questions remain for TLO:
- Can they convince venture capitalists and potential clients that some neat features (powerful search engine, Google maps for property, mobile capabilities with Android and I-phones, photos of real and personal property), and low pricing –it costs only $.25 (yes – cents!) for a criminal background check or $5 for a full comprehensive report sway customers away from the competition?
- Can TLO continue to severely undercut its competition (e.g. Accurint can charge $30-$60 for the same report) and still generate enough revenue to survive?
- Will TLO merge or be taken over by a competitor? If so, by whom?
- What will happen to TLO’s vast database(estimated by some as “trillions” of records), containing information on people, assets and liens, court filings, bankruptcies, dockets and judgments culled from public records, credit headers, commercial vendors, law enforcement agencies and even public information from social media sources- if the company fails?
Tune in for further developments on this breaking story.