Symbology

When you want to look up information on publicly traded companies, it helps to know the ticker symbol. Microsft's ticker is MSFT, Google's ticker is GOOG, Apple's ticker is AAPL. Every publicly traded company has a ticker.

But private companies don't have tickers. And as more and more private companies are attaining status and drawing the attention of mainstream media and the investment community, it is time for that to change.

Yesterday Stocktwits and Second Market proposed a set of tickers for popular privately held companies. The proposed list of tickers is here.

I'd like to see services like Tracked.com (a portfolio company of ours: $TRACK), Google Finance, Yahoo Finance, Crunchbase, Wikinvest, and their competitors adopt these tickers. If everyone supported the TWIT symbol for Twitter, the FBOOK symbol for Facebook, and the SKYPE symbol for Skype it would make it a lot easier to aggregate financial and other information on these companies.

I have been an investor and on the board of a company called Alacra for over ten years. We made the investment in the Flatiron partnership. One of Alacra's most successful services is called Concordance. They manage symbology for large enterprises with large datasets. It is a critical service for large banks, brokers, accountants, consultants, law firms, and other knowledge driven industries.

Unique identifiers are so helpful when you are trying to make sense of large amounts of data. It is particularly helpful in the case of company specific information and it is also expected in the investment community.

So I hope this effort by Stocktwits and Second Market gains traction with the other web services that aggregate information on private and public companies. I'll do my part by tweeting with these tickers (using the $ticker standard set by Stocktwits) when I talk about private companies on Twitter. I hope others will do the same.

And Stocktwits and Second Market can make my life easier by making sure that companies like Alacra and Wikinvest that don't have private company symbols get them asap. I wonder if they should open up this database in some way so that companies can issue themselves tickers. It seems like trying to manage this as a closed system won't scale very well and some kind of open system will work better. I'm curious what others think.