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Just Bidding Around

Online marketplace

If time is money--or even if it's not--there's a new online site that can save you both time and money. Designed for small and midsized businesses, particularly benefits start-ups. It reduces time spent sourcing business products and services, enables you to become operational sooner, and helps jump-start your business by providing an instant national market for your products or services.

In essence, is an online marketplace. Entrepreneurs describe services or products they want to buy, and qualified vendors bid to fill those specific needs. In a matter of hours, you can obtain competitive quotes from pre-screened sellers coast to coast. In most cases, responses are limited to the first five vendors who submit bids; however, you can resubmit your request to receive additional bids. You can review all bids--both individually and in a side-by-side comparison table--and contact a vendor to close or refine the deal. Until then, you remain totally anonymous.

"Our ability to source multiple vendors at once--and furnish the buyer with the most competitive bid within a few hours--dramatically simplifies the way small businesses purchase goods and services," says Bernard Louvat, 35-year-old president, founder and CEO of the Santa Monica, California, company, which launched in June 1999.

Starting out, most entrepreneurs are "all charged up to execute their concept, but they get bogged down for weeks or months finding the best phone system; getting the right computer and Internet connection; and searching for a copier, an attorney and a logo," adds Paolo Consiglio, general manager and senior vice president of "With, you can submit 20 different requests for quotes in one hour and receive multiple bids on each request within the next 24 hours. You quickly--and at no cost--get the detailed information you need to make an informed decision." The service is free to buyers; vendors pay a nominal fee.

"Many of us here have been through the start-up experience," says Consiglio. "We know the pressure of entering an empty office and saying `What do I do first? Where do I begin?' We help ease such pressures, and help business owners save money in more than 50 different categories of products and services." These range from computers and financial services to cars and office space. For example, long-distance service represents about 20 percent of's business, says Consiglio. "An entrepreneur asking for quotes on long-distance service hears directly from Sprint, Qwest Communications Inc. and three other suppliers that offer savings averaging 40 percent," he notes. Once your business is up and running, you might want to consider becoming a vendor, too. As of January, the company had an estimated 20,000 registered vendors, 30 percent of whom have submitted requests for bids. "It's an excellent vehicle to kick-start a new business," says Consiglio. "Entrepreneurs who register as vendors have immediate access to a market consisting of thousands of businesses."

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