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U.S. Research Firm Expands to Korea

MindBranch, a “supermarket” of value-added market research, made its first foreign acquisition in January 2000, buying Outsource Korea for about $10 million in stock, cash and currency. The company is planning other ventures abroad later this year.

“We are looking very broadly across various areas of the world and talking to companies in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Israel, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany,” said Matt Hall, vice president for international operations at the North Adams, MA, company.

“The best way to think of us is as a supermarket for business information,” Hall said. “You can find material from Forrester, Gartner, Jupiter and hundreds of other information providers in our files. We take their information and resell it. They are manufacturers, and we are retailers with this difference: We provide our own technology platform for customers to store, access, use and share this kind of information.”

MindBranch clients include many Global 2000 technology companies like Cisco, Lucent, Nortel, Siemens, and British Telecom, Hall said.

“Most of this type of data is produced and consumed in the U.S., but our analysis of market conditions suggested that other parts of the world had the kind of companies that need this information but lack supply,” he said.

MindBranch looked for areas with fast-growing economies driven by technology companies that buy the information the company sells; Korea was in the top 10 attractive areas, Hall said.

“We found a great partner in Korea, and that's why we moved there first. Korea has the 13th-largest economy in the world and the sixth-largest online audience. Outsource Korea is a leading source of business information there.

“We will be investing some working capital to hire more salespeople and expand our presence there. We expect to make Seoul our headquarters for Asian operations, but we are taking the company as is and won't be moving any of our staff over.”

MindBranch does not do original research in the United States beyond making the information it sells easier to handle. But it will add local Korean input to the U.S. data it markets there.

The company will follow similar policies in its other foreign operations, Hall said.

“We will be announcing several partnerships in those areas soon. Some will be strategic alliances, some investments, joint ventures and outright acquisitions,” he said.

But most of the content from the 275 providers MindBranch represents will be in English. Most foreign customers “have a high comfort level with English,” Hall maintained.

But he conceded that “what we will do in most places is translate executive summaries so that the buyer is sure he is getting the right product.” In China, however, local partners will translate the whole product.

Outsource Korea has been in business for five years and has done well with executive summary translations and the bulk of the texts in English.

MindBranch, which changed its name from Publications Resources Group last August to allow easier Web access, has been in business for ten years. Its focus changed in 1999, when it developed its proprietary technology platform for easier access, storage and handling of information.

It did $10 million worth of business in 2000 but expects technology and foreign expansion to double that amount this year.

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