I’ve only recently started working as a self-employed accountant. Having had a background in a global accounting firm I’ve been pretty brainwashed about what is ‘professional’. One guy and some occasional helpers working from home doesn’t fit into this so there is a huge industry out there making small companies look big. Whilst sitting in my house in Reading I could set up what appears to be an established accounting firm in Inverness cheaply in a few hours with a basic website, Inverness phone number and office address. I could, but I’m not sure what it would achieve.
What is Duedil?
Yesterday I came across www.duedil.com. It was a huge gift to me. My old firm had access to all Companies House records through a service called ICC. You could get the accounts, annual returns and director/shareholder information of any company in the country. A service I have been missing. I don’t know how much my old firm paid for this but it was probably a very very large number. Duedil does exactly the same thing but much better. As far as I can tell so far there are two benefits:
- The interface is excellent – It’s just really smooth. Give it a go if you know the name of the company you are looking for you can find out where they are registered, who the directors are and look at their last accounts in about 30 seconds. ICC involved looking at the wrong companies and opening loads of PDFs before you found what you were looking for.
- It’s totally free – Apparently once you have bought info from Companies House (directly or otherwise) it is free to do what you wish with. In this case they seem to have used it to make a far superior version of Companies House. There website suggests that all this will be funded by selling premium services over and above what is currently available (credit reports is my guess). I do wonder what happens if they become a huge success and Companies House only ever sell each bit of information once to DueDil, but that must be a long time away.
This being 2011, it also has a social network built in. I’m not sure how this is going to develop. Like all these things it will need a critical mass before we have any idea.
What’s it for?
Outside of me immediately diving into it to find potential clients the answer of what it is for is in the name, Due Diligence. If you get a big new client or supplier and want to know if they are still going to be around in 12 months you can check there accounts and see if they are profitable and supported by a strong balance sheet.
I suspect though that DueDil will end up being used for a whole lot more, with all sorts of unintended consequences. It gave me the same level of giddy excitement as when I discovered Wikileaks or Spotify, with both it was clear they would be highly disruptive but impossible (for me) to predict exactly what they would disrupt and how. I find this level of access to free data (or media) both greatly empowering and also slightly terrifying at the same time.
One inevitable consequence is to further improve one’s ability to do a bit of online stalking. Want to know how much money your small businessman neighbour is making? Easily done. There’s nothing new in this, company accounts have been publicly available as long as I have known but never this easily. The more people become literate with this sort of information they will very quickly work out that I am not an Inverness accounting firm but a guy in a house in Reading with a laptop. In about 16 months time when I have to file my first set of accounts you will also be able to see how much money I’m making (or not making) too. There’s no hiding.