MeansBusiness: New Partners, New Focus
Judith Rosen -- 1/8/01

MeansBusiness, a Boston company that produces an online index to more than 800 business books, has formed a partnership with Duke Corporate Education Inc. DCE, a for-profit company formed by Duke University and Duke's Fuqua School of Business last summer, offers management education and educational services to corporations.

This partnership is one of several that illustrate a fundamental shift from MeansBusiness's original goal as an information resource toward knowledge commerce. The change reflects the educational emphasis of MB's principal investor, Michael Milken, head of Knowledge Universe. In September, MeansBusiness ( entered into its first e-learning partnership, with SoftSkill Corp. SoftSkill provides short-term subscriptions to MeansBusiness as part of its more than 335 e-learning courses worldwide.

MeansBusiness CEO David Wilcox told PW that the change in the company's philosophy has more to do with ideas he gleaned from Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point--which, ironically, is not yet part of the MeansBusiness database--than the current financial troubles plaguing dot-com companies. "We were never a dot-com," said Wilcox, "and we didn't rush out and dump a bunch of money into marketing. We've been very careful in building partnerships. We started on the information side, because that's where I had most of my experience, but we moved to e-learning and business schools because it was a better context and people cared more about vetted material."

At the same time, MeansBusiness has continued to strengthen its database, adding extracts from books published by Doubleday, Broadway Books, the Free Press and Simon & Schuster. The company now has relationships with 26 business book publishers in the U.S. and Oak Tree Press in Ireland. According to Wilcox, "We're pretty much adding 100 books a month." For each book, MeansBusiness creates roughly 20 verbatim extracts of five to seven paragraphs, or up to 500 words, and its database contains about 20,000 extracts. The extracts are sold as a summary of a single book or as suites from several titles. Complete books are available for purchase through links to