A tale of two websites

The Internet is the new Wild West. When an 18 year old with no real working experience can become an overnight e-millionaire, why...

The Internet is the new Wild West. When an 18 year old with no real working experience can become an overnight e-millionaire, why can’t you?

Tradeemporium.com - Bobby's story

Bobby Mamudi's concept was to build a trading exchange for developing markets, primarily in the Far East. However, he wanted it to be more than "just another e-business site". His vision involved three separate projects: the trading site, a resource centre and an information centre, to make tradeemporium.com a complete knowledge and business centre. The target audience is broad, engaging all markets for people wanting to sell online fast.

Mamudi explains how the site started. "Back in the mid 1990s I worked for a advertising and marketing agency which had several clients in the Far East. I was posted overseas in Saudi Arabia and while out there experienced the problems that many Middle Eastern companies have with getting product information, contacting suppliers and arranging procurement. The Internet seemed like the perfect solution to get around many of the problems experienced in Saudi Arabia and in other developing countries."

After leaving the advertising agency, Bobby made the first tentative steps of creating a business plan and looking at the feasibility of the site. "Convincing others of the merits of my idea was a challenge. Instead of going around the venture capital circuit I initially used my own money to begin development on the site and added on extra features and functions as money became available."

As a business-to-business site, Mamudi chose not to make a profit through revenue generated from advertising sales, but instead takes a small percentage from deals successfully brokered on the site.

"We are still a small site, but we've found our niche and are growing successfully. The developing nation are being somewhat overlooked and offering them business services such as those on site, we hope we will form a community."

Tradeemporiuim.com is growing fast and this year has seen the first of several venture capital deals, which Mamudi is keen to use to improve the site. "Many dotcoms seemed have been started with the intention of a quick IPO and fast profits. We're using our venture capital money for site development as opposed to just pushing our brand. Our biggest form of advertising is successful deals for our users which, in turn, bring in new customers through recommendation."

The Exchange area of the site includes several unique features. Beyond exchanging excess stock, providing procurement details, updating tenders and selling goods and services using both fixed price and reverse auctions, Mamudi wanted to enable registered customers to be able to define their own target audiences. The next major step is to include language support for Arabic, Portuguese and Spanish, targeted at bringing online business customers who have previously been ignored by English-only websites.

Mamudi offers some advice: "Many people think that the dotcom is an easy business environment to flourish in but like any venture, many of the goals are long-term. Our ultimate aim is to create a reliable service that is valued by our customers. If they make money by using our service, then so do we."

Bidbusiness.co.uk - Andrew's Story

Andrew Biggs had run a successful real-world company specialising in providing minerals and aggregates to the construction industry. In the spring of 1999, having looked at the market, he decided that the Internet would be a perfect place to create an online site to help connect buyers and sellers. The original website, although useful for others, failed to generate revenue for his own company.

Undaunted, he looked at what other Internet applications could prosper within his chosen area of expertise and the idea of Bidbusiness.co.uk was created. As a family-owned company established with personal investment, Biggs enlisted the help of his brother, a lawyer in the city, and wife, an expert in marketing, to formulate a concept. "My biggest problem was restricting my imagination. The scope of services we could potentially offer and the ways in which we could improve the tendering and bidding process was huge, but we needed to concentrate on areas that would quickly generate results, " he says.

Targeting the waste disposal, haulage, property, industrial mineral, machinery, sales equipment hire, as well as construction and many other industries, Bidbusiness.co.uk allows users to target niche markets and specify particular geographical regions, ensuring that the trading platform mirrors real-world trading patterns.

To capitalise on Interbuild, an up and coming trade convention held every year at Birmingham's NEC, Biggs pumped money from his real-world business into the dotcom, forgoing trying to find venture capital money. "Our main business was doing reasonably well and between the family we had enough skills to make a real go of our online venture. We really did 'seize the day.'"

The development of the site was carried out by Terra Nova Media and was built on OpenSite's Corporate Edition platform using various ASP customisations, WebTrends statistical software and Verisign security technology. The goal was to produce a site easy to navigate and trade on since, being the first of its kind, Bidbusiness.co.uk needed to win the hearts, minds and confidence of traditional industries using traditional methods for moving their stock.

The development work was carried out in just over eight weeks by Terra Nova's development teams. Having designed more procurement sites than any other company in the UK, the company had a portfolio of ready made sections to get the site up and running quickly. These included several unique and invaluable features, such as "category watch", a feature that issues email alerts to users as soon as a product or service tender is posted on the site.

"In the Internet arena, starting up any new company sets the stop clock ticking. Being first to market can be the difference between success and failure, but even more important than being the first is being able to deliver what you promise, fast and glitch-free. Having come up with the idea, I needed a company to create a fully functioning trading platform that wouldn't let me or my customers down - and I needed it live quickly," says Andrew Biggs.

By definition, auctions are "dynamic sales events", and because Bidbusiness.co.uk operates on both a "bid up" and "bid down" basis, an auction solution is available to please both suppliers and buyers. This sales forum had to be created before Biggs' ideas could come to fruition, and for Bidbusiness.co.uk to become the success it has now proved itself to be, generating over £300,000 of business in the first few weeks.

Biggs continues. "I worked for a large construction firm for many years and I understand the business. The number of people involved and the complexity of the purchase process is expensive and time-consuming. Some of the 'big boys' may see the new start-ups as a threat but ultimately, within industries such as construction, customers will use our services when dealing with these larger companies. The customers will force the acceptance of these new ways to do business if the services like ours offer them a real advantage."

Both tradeemporium.com and Bidbusiness.co.uk are now trying to make themselves stand out from the growing number of websites competing in the market. Both Mamudi and Biggs agree that without the advertising budgets of some companies, the only way to get noticed is to create a good service and innovative offerings. Although not e-millionaires yet, both sites have the two essential ingredients for success: a good idea and people prepared to put in the hard work to make their businesses work.

Will Garside

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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