Jinfo BlogChecking in with Vin Gupta

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By Nancy Davis Kho

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In light of the recent departure of Clare Hart from InfoGroup USA, as reported by Tim Buckley Owen, I thought it might be time to check up on her predecessor, Vin Gupta. Gupta founded the company that came to be known as InfoUSA back in 1972, providing direct mailing lists and lead generation services, not to mention business-to-business (B2B) database products including OneSource from its offices in Omaha, Nebraska.

Back in 2009, the company came under a storm of criticism for misspending – among the eyebrow raising transactions were millions of dollars paid in consulting fees to President Bill Clinton after he'd left the White House, and a full time job for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's son paying $180k/year, curious because he already had a full time job at the time. NASDAQ threatened to delist the company for failing to file financial documents in a timely fashion. Gupta was forced out and told to pay back the company he founded more than $7 million.

Fast forward to 2012 and Gupta is once again at the helm of a company selling sales leads – Database101.com. His management team is seeded with InfoGroup veterans – Monica Messer (Database and Technology), Fred Vakili (Customer Satisfaction), Brad Roselle (VP of Sales and Customer Service), John Ferris (VP of Product and Content) and Rakesh Gupta (no relation – GM of the Library and Licensing Division).

Throughout the company's marketing collateral and website, indirect reference is made to that legacy – if one didn't know better, the "Leaders in Direct Marketing since 1972" tagline would seem to refer to Database101.com.

It looks like the company is sticking to the knitting for now, with online databases of business and residential leads and lists. But Gupta's been busy. According to a 2011 interview with Gupta in India's Economic Times, he's also founded expresscopy.com, which offers online digital printing services, and infofree.com, a lead generation service for salespeople, small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Gupta's private equity firm, Everest Group LLC, focuses on investments in the business information and marketing information sectors. Again, "past acquisitions" on the Everest web site lists activity from the InfoGroup days, including the OneSource and Hill-Donnelly acquisitions.

Gupta is certainly putting his best foot forward – a visit to www.vingupta.com finds a landing page with a list of the charities to which he contributes, and a press release includes the announcement that the Vinod Gupta School of Management in Singapore was named Asia’s Best B-School by CMO Asia.

But, especially with Hart's recent departure, one wonders if Gupta sees the ultimate prize as a company that competes head-to-head with the one that let him go in 2009.

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