Tech firm emerges in downtown Highland Park
G2 Crowd co-founders Matt Gorniak (left) and Godard Abel show off their new downtown Highland Park office March 6. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Specialty: Peer review site for marketing, IT software and vendors
Location: 1910 First St., Suite 400, Highland Park
Information: www.G2Crowd.com; (847) 748-7559
Updated: March 19, 2013 10:14AM
HIGHLAND PARK — What Yelp is to restaurant-goers, G2 Crowd aims to be for information technology pros.
Based in Highland Park, G2Crowd.com users can find and offer peer reviews of software in categories such as customer relationship management, marketing, sales, enterprise resource planning and IT management.
It’s an idea whose time has come, said Godard Abel and Matt Gorniak, two of the start-up firm’s five co-founders, who range in age from 28 to 41.
Michael Federman, a technical account manager for VMware, has been a top user of the fledgling site.
“There’s so much value,” said Federman, a Chicago resident. “It’s filled a gap that’s been there since the dawn of IT.”
G2 Crowd employs 10 people in a compact downtown Highland Park office. The workforce includes the founding five, all executives who worked together at the highly successful BigMachines Inc. in Deerfield. Along with Abel and Gorniak, G2’s co-founders are Tim Handorf of Trevor, Wisc., Mark Myers of Beach Park, and Mike Wheeler of Chicago.
Abel, Lake Forest resident, also founded BigMachines, a firm that he and his colleagues grew from scratch to a 250-employee company valued at more than $100 million. The launch of G2 Crowd was self-funded using a portion of the proceeds from the 2011 sale of that firm to Vista and JMI Equity, Abel said.
“We all stuck around (after the sale) for different periods, until we realized we really enjoyed working for ourselves more,” Abel said.
The group’s work at BigMachines, a software as a service (SaaS) provider, convinced the G2 founders that companies’ traditional path to large IT software investments was unduly burdensome.
“For a company like Symantec or GE, they might have up to 50 people involved and take three months just to come up with a short list,” said Gorniak, who lives in Vernon Hills. “You do some math, and you can come up with a million-dollar number they’re spending just evaluating software.”
G2Crowd.com users must create accounts via the business social network LinkedIn. This ensures credentialed commenting. G2 receives name, company name, industry and company size data when users connect.
It’s free to view or post reviews. And incentives like iPhones and iPads are offered via point-based contests for those posting solid commentary.
G2Crowd.com users cannot review products they sell, nor those of direct competitors, but may suggest a product for others to review. G2 Crowd does not take money from vendors, but aims to profit from sales of in-depth, algorithm-driven reports and, eventually, from positioning software experts for consultancies, Abel and Gorniak said.
They envision the site as a neutral zone, where those researching products and looking for vendors can get beyond marketing spin and hear directly from end users. Technology research giants like Gartner Inc., which offers software and technology analyses, have been accused of bias toward big-spending corporate clientele, Abel and Gorniak said.
In addition, traditional analyses simply do not keep pace with their subject matter, they said.
“The technology world changes quickly,” Abel said. “Any analyst really can only publish every two years, so it’s inherently not real time.”