Alibaba’s Tmall Global now features goods from 14,500 overseas brands, 80% of them selling in China for the first time.
The startup online business network, founded by several current and former executives of business data firm Dun & Bradstreet, specializes in helping small and mid-sized businesses find trading partners. The CEO of one participating company, industrial parts manufacturer New England Miniature Ball, says the network has increased his number of 2014 business prospects “in a way I never expected.”
Powerlinx, a startup online network that helps small and mid-sized businesses find trading partners, last week closed its first round of seed funding of $2.4 million, which came from its founders as individual investors. The company, which launched in a beta program in October, adds that it’s already nearly half-way through its second funding round, having raised $1.4 million from the same investors out of a planned $3 million.
Based in New York, the company operates its network on the web at Powerlinx.com, where companies can find trading partners, including buyers or suppliers of products, providers of business services and sources of capital. New England Miniature Ball, a manufacturer of industrial parts including metal balls used in products ranging from ball bearings to ink pens, has lined up eight companies that it may use to expand its sales and market reach, including one company interested in purchasing its products, Powerlinx says.
“Our challenge in today’s market is to find additional applications of the products that we manufacture, from automotive to medical and industrial electronics,” Michael Kann, CEO New England Miniature Ball, says. “I was really impressed by the results that Powerlinx came back to me with, which were all very targeted and specific to our business. It provided simplicity to a degree that I never imagined was possible. I’ve already increased my 2014 business prospects by an order of magnitude, and in a way that I never expected.”
Powerlinx, which is still operating in a beta test program, has not yet started to charge fees to its client companies. During the second quarter of this year, however, it expects to begin charging annual subscription fees based on the number of connections companies make with trading partners, says Kristen Fergason, vice president of marketing. The fees will range from $250 for a participating company that has connected with four trading partners to $1000 for companies with 10 trading partners. Additional services could bring the fees into a range of $2,500 to $7,500.
“Our goal is to help economic development globally,” says Fergason, a veteran marketing executive of Internet businesses including social media and advertising service ShareThis.com, Yahoo Inc. and Major League Baseball’s MLB.com. “If a company wants to expand to another country, for example, they’ll need to find the right partners for warehouses, lawyers and translations.”
Powerlinx so far is working with about 2,000 companies that are looking to grow their business. It’s initially targeting about 140,000 small and mid-sized companies in the United States ranging in size from about five to 100 or more employees and up to $50 million in annual revenue, Fergason says. It’s reaching out them with marketing tools such as Internet search and e-mail.
It’s working with a database of some 10 million companies, to which it forwards requests from companies on Powerlinx that are interested in in their products or services. Fergason adds that Powerlinx is planning to expand that database to about 20 million companies.
For now, Powerlinx is focusing on providing basic services to help companies make initial connections. Last week it launched its own proprietary analytics technology designed to show participating companies potential trading partners and funding sources based on their profiles and their click activity on Powerlinx.com.
Later this year Powerlinx will offer additional online services such as bringing on board parties needed to close business deals and completing online payments with payment cards or other forms on online payment, Fergason says.
The company’s financial backers are also its four founders:
● Chairman Steve Alesio, who is operating partner of Providence Equity Partners (which is not itself an investor in Powerlinx), a former chairman and CEO of business data firm Dun & Bradstreet Corp., and a former executive of American Express Co.;
● CEO Doron Cohen, who is chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Israel and chairman of equity investment firm CB Alliance, and the founder and former CEO of Fidelity Holdings;
● Christine Christian, a director of Powerlinx, who is a former CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Australia & New Zealand and former chairwoman of Dun & Bradstreet Consumer Card Services; and
● David Emery, a director of Powerlinx who is founder and chairman of Reciprocus, a Singapore-based firm providing advisory services for mergers and acquisitions. Emery’s other previous roles include chairman of Dun & Bradstreet India and vice-chair of Huaxia Dun & Bradstreet China.
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