I’m a small and mid-sized business guy – I spend a lot of time advocating for the “little guy”. As such I’m always happy to see large companies do their bit to help SMBs compete. An interesting example of that is the MasterCard business network I recently heard about – a site that aims to make it easier for SMBs to leverage the community in order to make purchases more economically, manage their travel, and wrangle the back office financial tasks – kind of a one stop shop for a bunch of different things an SMB need.
The network (MBN) includes some functionality powered by Rearden Commerce’s Deem platform – an interesting network play that wants to change the way SMBs buy and sell. Deem works through a suite of interoperable smart applications, and focuses on optimizing the exchange of goods, services, and information in a personalized context. The idea being that SMBs will gain efficiencies by being part of a commerce network that includes context and individual-sensitive purchasing options.
The platform is only available to MasterCard holders (boo – there’s always a hook) but it’s kind of an interesting play and has three distinct modules:
- Purchase – Offers small and mid-size businesses discounts on a bunch of products delivered from national distributors, including office supplies, computers, construction and electrical needs
- Travel and Dining – Helps businesses manage their air, hotel and car rental bookings; create employee travel policies; review restaurant ratings; and make reservations, manage invitations and set dining preferences
- Expense – Create, save and print basic expense reports for free. Businesses can upgrade for enhanced capabilities including the ability to import transaction data from MasterCard credit or debit cards and integrate scanned or uploaded receipts
Of course I’d prefer a network which didn’t have quite the same gotchas (the Mastercard membership, the expectation that users will move to the paid versions of Deem. But the idea of increasing efficiency and effective reach for SMBs is a powerful one. It’ll be interesting to see how this initiative progresses.
(Cross-posted @ The Diversity Blog – SaaS, Cloud & Business Strategy)