OpenCorporates: 10 years of corporate transparency (and what comes next)

The world was a very different place in December 2010. 

The first iPad had just been released, Instagram had just been founded – and it also saw the launch of a small corporate transparency site called OpenCorporates.

Since then, OpenCorporates has gone from little more than an idea to being an essential resource for thousands of journalists, investigators, law enforcement, NGOs, and of course business itself. Not only that, it’s made open company data something of a norm, with governments around the world realising that this key dataset – of these artificial legal constructs we call companies – must be available to all, as data, under an open licence. 

It hasn’t always been easy. But we know it’s been worth it every day as we hear how our company data has been used to fight corruption, uncover illicit activity or solve critical challenges relating to the universe of legal entities. Or when a major blue chip company switches to using OpenCorporates’ White Box Data, telling us how much better it is than that from legacy Black Box data providers. 

To celebrate, here are 10 of the achievements we’re most proud of.

  1. We’ve built the world’s biggest open database of companies in the world
    We have collected, standardised and made freely available – information on 188 million companies and 242 million officerships from over 130 jurisdictions. Whilst there’s still some way to go, we’re proud that OpenCorporates has made available as White Box data: 50 of the 51 US jurisdictions worth of official US state registry data, and a jurisdiction like Germany – whose data was extremely complex and had to be collected from gazettes.
  2. Millions of users rely on our data
    OpenCorporates has gone from nothing to being a critical part of the corporate and investigative data architecture. Over 5 million visitors a month from all over the world (three times what it was a year ago) use OpenCorporates to investigate criminals, regulated entities, potential business partners, suppliers, customers, employers, and companies in the public eye.
  1. Our data makes a significant impact every day
    Over the past 10 years, OpenCorporates’ data has been instrumental in countless investigations by journalists and international NGOs into illicit activity. This includes high-profile investigations such as the Panama Papers, the Troika Laundromat investigation and 29Leaks – with organisations such as Global Witness, Transparency International and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) using our data. But this is a small fraction of the total impact – every day there are examples of investigations, not just by high profile news organisations, but by citizens, bloggers, and law enforcement.
  1. We built a thriving ‘virtuous circle’ public-benefit business model too
    One of the things we’re proudest of is a business model which aligns commercial success with the public interest. Over 400 organisations the world over utilise our White Box company data at scale via our API or in bulk, including government agencies, blue-chip companies, financial institutions and innovative technology platforms. This means OpenCorporates’ data now powers millions of due diligence reports, and a plethora of tech products. This commercial success drives a virtuous circle, allowing us to deliver on our public-benefit mission of making the data for free via the website, and as structured data for journalists, NGOs and academics. The millions of users that access our data for free in turn provides a powerful data-quality feedback loop which powers higher quality data for commercial use. 
  1. We fought (and won) to open up company data (and keep it that way)
    We’ve successfully advocated for company data to be made available as open data and have even been prepared to pursue this in court – such as when we successfully won a court case against the Quebec registry, proving that we had a right to hold a copy of its registry data. The Open Company Data Index, as well as reports on the state of access to company data in the US and EU, have also helped move the open data debate forwards, for example with the soon-to-be implemented EU PSI Directive.
  2. We created a unique corporate structure to safeguard our mission
    We created the OpenCorporates Trust, along with a unique corporate structure, to ensure we remain independent and cannot be bought, distracted or otherwise deviated from our public benefit mission. This powerful governance mechanism is reinforced by a world class group of trustees.
  3. We built innovative data & technology solutions
    Remember the time we mapped the Globally Systemically Important Banks (GSIBs)? Or how we introduced new solutions to make company data more connected (Corporate Networks) or more timely (Corporate Signals) than ever? Not to mention how we built a machine-learning-powered reconciliation API to solve the entity resolution challenge – as part of the EU’s They Buy For You project.
  4. We built a great team
    OpenCorporates is growing fast – thanks to a skilled and dedicated team. We’ve doubled the size in little more than a year, and plan to rapidly even faster in the near future. We’ve expanded at all levels, from customer success execs, to Chief Impact Officer, and in October welcomed  Oliver Ratzesberger (formerly of Teradata and eBay) as the first Chair of the OpenCorporates Operating Board. Think you have skills to offer, and want to join a fast growing team on a mission – contact us at jobs@opencorporates.com.
  5. Covid-19 has made open company data more vital than ever
    Recent investigations into alleged fraud amongst the businesses who applied for Covid relief funding, particularly in the US, has illustrated the key role of open company data for the public benefit. The Anti-Corruption Data Collective, and more recently Bloomberg, have conducted investigations that simply wouldn’t have been possible at the pace or ease they were without our data. The positive contribution our data makes to society has been widely recognised, which is why Luminate awarded us grant funding as part of their financial transparency impact area.
  6. We’re not finished yet…

There’s more to come – including some really exciting things we’re not ready to take the wraps off yet. This means we’re going to make more data, from even more jurisdictions, and we’ll continue the fight to make company data open for all. As we scale up, we’ll continue to disrupt the way company data is made available, thought about and used – for the public benefit.

As we write this, we are of course coming to the end of what has been a shocking and tumultuous year – one where entire industries have been upended, where the centrality of tech companies in our lives has accelerated, and where trillions of dollars has been paid to companies around the world with little oversight. 

And yet even as the world deals with the virus, we are accelerating OpenCorporates’s mission to build a better future, bringing transparency and trust to business, for the benefit of all. Our mission has never been more pertinent.