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Overcome Startup Growth Challenges in 2024 By Utilizing This Valuable Resource Although there is some hope that the venture capital market is slowly stabilizing, the upcoming year will still be competitive for most startups. Here's a solution that can help some to get ahead in the Hunger Games.

By Julius Černiauskas

Key Takeaways

  • Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is a key strategic tool for startups aiming to excel in a competitive market, with utility extending from market research to enhancing cybersecurity and compliance.
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The startup market peaked in 2021. After that, we had a couple of turbulent years. Even the AI boom, which attracted considerable investments, could not kickstart the markets hit by the banking crisis and unfavorable conditions across industries.

The beginning of 2024 brings hope that the venture capital (VC) market will stabilize and the funding will start picking up. This is good news for startups, especially in the tech industry, as new opportunities to grow and raise funds arise. However, those windows of opportunity will not be wide enough to fit everyone, and competition will be fierce. Open-source intelligence (OSINT) might become the difference maker for those startups that will excel at utilizing it.

Related: Think Like a Spy: How Open Source Intelligence Can Give You a Competitive Advantage

Challenges and opportunities for startups

In the heyday of tech startups, the general public and investors were captivated by the visionary, relentless, move-fast-break-things type of CEOs, often dubbed "genius" in the media. At least for now, those days are over. The tough economic climate and shortage of available funding call for frugal entrepreneurs who can demonstrate the ability to cut spending and achieve sustainable growth at a lower cost.

These startup founders and leaders will be met with both challenges and opportunities, and turning the first into the second without always having the funds for it will require creativity.

One opportunity is provided by the recent wave of layoffs in the tech industry that made far more talent available. However, competition among the tech startups will be fierce for everything this year, including the best talent. Additionally, plenty of well-established legacy companies will be more than happy to accommodate outcasts from Google or Meta.

Another disruptive factor is that investors are paying more attention to European startups. For American companies, this means even more competitors for funding. On the other hand, entering the U.S. market is never easy. If firms from elsewhere want to reach U.S. audiences, they will have to invest in understanding them and master digital marketing.

Furthermore, navigating the ever-evolving regulatory landscape on both sides of the pond will be challenging. The public and legal scrutiny of the IT sector is on the rise. Fintech is especially under the magnifying glass since one of its latest superstars is now, reportedly, trading canned mackerels in jail. On the one hand, regulation brings legitimacy and fair opportunity. On the other hand, having to deal with legal proceedings and their outcomes can severely curtail innovation.

Finally, technological innovation is as rapid as ever. Startups can use this to implement better solutions and introduce fascinating new products. However, new developments can also make their products obsolete before they even go live. Additionally, possibly no one implements new solutions into their "business" faster than cybercriminals. And who is a better target than a promising new company with little to no money to spare for cybersecurity?

What is open-source intelligence (OSINT), and how can it help?

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is the gathering of information from publicly available sources to produce actionable insights. In other words, everything openly available, from books and archives to what one freely accesses on the internet, can be analyzed to answer intelligence questions. This resource is vast and potent beyond imagination. Furthermore, it is free to take as long as you have a way to extract and use it.

Thus, this free resource can potentially reduce many headaches for frugal entrepreneurs. The following examples demonstrate how OSINT can help startups grow in a challenging market.

  1. Market research: You can learn a lot about consumers in particular markets by gathering OSINT on ecommerce — for example, which products sell fastest. Additionally, OSINT provides valuable competitive insights in those markets. For example, you can foretell competitors' plans by their job postings for particular specialists and in specific regions.

  2. Identifying opportunities in the labor market: Following labor market events through open web sources can also boost your headhunting activities. In this case, automated monitoring is the way to go. It allows learning about layoffs as soon as they are reported or even rumored.

  3. Adjusting marketing and pricing strategies: Digital commerce is extremely dynamic. Both customers and competitors might act and react in unexpected ways. OSINT allows you to gather real-time insights and immediately adjust your own practices. For example, you can change your pricing to offer better deals than your competitors.

  4. Navigating risks: OSINT helps you follow cyber attack and threat reports and improve your cybersecurity. Additionally, software tools can be used to keep track of international regulations and constantly check for data leaks that might affect you and your clients.

Achieving all this without blowing up the costs will allow some startups to stand out when presenting their case to investors.

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Spy on Your Competition

How to get OSINT effectively?

The internet is the world's greatest resource for information. Gathering OSINT manually from the internet is possible, but it requires time and personnel to spare. Early-stage startups often have neither. Even if they decide to dedicate some labor hours to sift through websites and report on competitor prices or the newest tech developments, the results cannot be very thorough. Often, they will also come too late to be actionable.

Thus, the most effective way to get OSINT is automated web data extraction. Known as web scraping, this method utilizes proxies and sophisticated software tools to instantly collect large volumes of publicly available data. Real-time data acquired on a budget is precisely what companies need to survive and thrive in the still quite turbulent and always fast-moving tech startup market.

Related: How Web Scraping Brings Freedom to Research

The situation with big data today is sometimes compared with the gold rush of the nineteenth century. Gold was there in the public lands for anyone capable of finding and taking it. Another valuable commodity, data, is likewise there in the public domain, giving everyone an equal opportunity to make use of it.

Unlike gold, however, the same piece of information stays right where it is, even if someone extracts it. Yet, time is still of the essence because, unlike gold, data loses its value over time and can become worthless quickly. Thus, the race to get to the resource first and make the most of it is still on every day. The startups that consistently and effectively utilize OSINT will have a strong advantage when competing for growth opportunities in these times of prudent funding.

Julius Černiauskas

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Oxylabs

Julius Černiauskas is Lithuania’s technology industry leader & the CEO of Oxylabs, covering topics on web scraping, big data, machine learning, tech trends & business leadership.

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