One of the two most request jurisdictions for OpenCorporates to start covering has been Spain (the other one, for obvious reasons, is Delaware, in the US).
It’s not hard to understand why, as the official register doesn’t even allow you to search for a company name without subscribing to its paid service. In case this doesn’t strike you as odd, it’s worth remembering that the key purpose of registering companies is to give them legal standing, and so it’s important to be able to check this with as little effort as possible, so you know whether this thing you’re buying from, selling to, working for or investigating is a legal entity, or if it’s just some words on a fake letterhead.
Fortunately there’s a good transparency community in Spain who were as keen to solve this problem as we were, especially David and Mar at Pro Bono Publico and AccessInfo, and pretty soon we were having one of those multiway email conversations that are brilliant for collaboratively solving problems (and despite twitter, email can still be the best way).
Together, we worked out a way to get the very basics for each company – the name, and the company number, which in itself is useful as it does that basic thing that OpenCorporates was designed to do: provide a URL for every company in the world (see here for why this is so important). We’ve so far got about 1.7 million spanish companies, and while there seem to be a few more to go, we think we’ve got most of them (let us know if you discover any omissions).
Then, we were able to extract the company type from the name, and thus allow filtering by company type. Like most countries, the company type is inconsistently used (e.g. a Sociedad Anónima company might be called SOMECOMPANY SOCIEDAD ANÓNIMA, SOMECOMPANY SOCIEDAD ANÓNIMA, SOMECOMPANY S.A., SOMECOMPANY SA), so we’ve had to do some clever matching, and are still refining this.
Then, armed with this dataset, we were able to start matching these companies to both existing data (e.g. WIPO world trademark register) and to a new one, the Spanish Official Journal (BORME), in which companies, especially large companies, must make all sorts of notifications, from annual meetings to mergers to liquidations. It’s an ongoing process refining the matching, but it already starts to build a record of Spanish companies, such as this one for Ferrovial:
We’ve also recently added several other countries, including a million Indian companies (thanks to Shyam Peri, who did this as part of the bounty scheme run in collaboration with ScraperWiki) and Panama (thanks to Dan O’Huiginn, whose Panama companies database is essential for anyone investigating Panama companies – and there are over 700,000 of them, in a country of only 3.5 million people).
Finally, we’ve added the first of our planned enhancements to Corporate Groupings, showing data recently added to any of the companies in the grouping, allowing you to keep a track of not just one company but of all of them. You can also subscribe to this info as an RSS feed, to get alerted as soon as new information is added. Here’s the one for Capita, a large outsourcing company, for example:
We’ll be presenting at the Open Knowledge Conference in Berlin later this week, so if you’re there do come and say hello; we may even have some new features to show off 😉