How to do a 360° search with Mergeflow

Typical duration

20 - 40 minutes. Can be shortened by skipping steps. Steps do not build upon each other.

The goal of a 360° search is to get a first useful approximation to a topic.

Things to watch out for

Very often, technical sources such as R&D publications or patents use different language than news or blogs to describe similar things. For example, more technical sources might call something "C-RNN" or "recurrent neural network", whereas news or blogs might call it "artificial intelligence". So it's sometimes a good idea to OR-combine several terms in order to avoid lopsided results.

The steps of a 360° search

(1) Start

Search for your topic, go to 360° view.

(2) Venture Capital: Bets on the future

If you think of venture capital investments as bets on the future, it makes sense to start here:

  • What do the most recently funded companies do, and what do the companies with the biggest funding rounds do? Are they different?
  • Who are the investors? Any surprises there? Or are your competitors among the investors? If so, zoom in on those and see which companies are associated with them.

Of course, use your judgment.

(3) Markets

Zoom in on ‘Markets’. Go to the table. Perhaps sort by descending market size. Then look at the market segments, in particular those that do not contain your search query. Can you see applications of your topic? Or ingredients (e.g. required materials)? Use market segments to inspire additional searches.

(4) Patents

In patents, look at the patent classes. Any interesting applications there? Then look at the patenting companies in the tag cloud. Now, use this to generate a graph, and add ‘Person’. This shows you the inventors. The inventors may be interesting people to get in touch with.

(5) Technology Licensing

Scan this, and check if anything tickles your fancy. If so, do a background check in R&D papers.

(6) Science Publications

If you are not an expert in a topic, use patent classes to zoom in on interesting applications and subtopics. If you are an expert, you may consider exploring a people graph. This shows you coauthor networks.

(7) Technology Blogs

Think of technology blogs as a bridge between “smart non-expert” and “subject matter expert”. The smart non-expert can read and understand tech blogs, but then also ask the subject matter expert about the R&D papers that are often (but not always) referenced in the blogs.

(8) Industry News

You can probably keep this short. In the companies tag cloud, do you see any surprises? If so, zoom in on those.

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