Private investment firm Comvest Partners acquires the financially troubled e-retailer, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.
Online global business networks Sable Accelerator and Powerlinx have teamed up to help startup companies in South Africa make connections with millions of companies worldwide.
The Sable Accelerator, a Silicon Valley-based organization of South African expatriates that helps grow South African startup companies, signed an agreement last week with online trading services company Powerlinx, opening up Sable’s clients to more than 15 million potential business partners.
“A lot of early-stage companies in South Africa are under-resourced, so we help them develop strategic partners,” says Donovan Neal-May, a San Jose, CA-based managing partner of Sable, which stands for South African Business Link to Experts.
By integrating Sable’s online network, SableNetwork.com, with Powerlinx.com, Sable’s South Africa-based clients will be able to search among millions of companies when looking for customers or suppliers of product or services.
Powerlinx and Sable will share fees charged to client companies as they are introduced to companies in the Powerlinx database. Following a 30-day free trial, fees vary based on the maturity of the client company seeking to find other businesses to conduct commerce with. Startup or early-stage companies pay less than $300 per year for one business introduction per quarter; mid-stage companies pay about $1,000 per year for three introductions per quarter; and late-stage companies, typically firms with multiple locations across multiple countries, pay close to $12,000 annually for 120 introductions per year, says Kristen Fergason, chief marketing officer of Powerlinx.
Powerlinx is itself a startup, having been launched last October by several current and former executives of business data firm Dun & Bradstreet. But the company is quickly building a database of companies—currently about 15 million, with a total of 20 million expected by the end of this year and 50 million by the end of 2015, Fergason says.
The sign-up process for Sable’s clients using Powerlinx includes a short initial assessment of the client’s strategic objectives in such areas as business partnering, distribution development, new market entry, geo-expansion, product diversification, supplier sourcing, capital raising and financing, company acquisition or sale, intellectual property licensing, or business exit planning. “This is done simply and easily online with question prompts,” Powerlinx says on its web site.
Sable is working with about 20 “emerging growth” companies that are either based in South Africa or have connections through facilities there,, Neale-May says. The list includes BusinessOptics, a developer of business intelligence software systems; Delta Steam Systems, a manufacturer of industrial parts; EcoloBlue, which builds systems for harvesting water from moisture in air; Disruptive Vision, which develops online video technology; Virtual Mobile Tech, which offers a platform for building mobile apps; and InnovUS, which designs furniture and accessories for offices and commercial establishments.
Another client, Santa Cruz, CA-based Cavendish Corp., produces Kari’s Malva Pudding frozen desserts, which it sells online at Malvapudding.com. Basing their products on a South African family recipe, proprietors Kari and Werner Mansfield launched the company in 2008 with three bricks-and-mortar shops in California along with their e-commerce site.
In their first effort to significantly expand their business, the Mansfields approached the Whole Foods Market grocery chain in northern California. After taking about nine months to “get in the door” at Whole Foods, the Mansfields began distributing their pudding cakes to Whole Foods stores across northern California, Kari Mansfield says.
Now with Sable and Powerlinx, she adds, she expects to speed up such efforts with other Malva Pudding buyers. In just the first three weeks of operating on the Sable and Powrlinx network, she’s received six introductions to potential buyers, including a grocery chain of about 165 stores and a distributor that sells to restaurants. “We’ve been quite happy with the results so far,” she says. “We’re ready to ramp up production.”
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