For web hosting providers, a new online tool could make finding a business partner as easy as finding a friend on Facebook.
Alex Kehayias created business development platform BeanSprout (www.bnsprt.com) six months ago to help companies find new growth opportunities in the form of channel, technology, OEM, reseller and co-marketing partnerships.
BeanSprout works like an online dating service: a company creates a detailed profile and BeanSprout matches your company with partners that fit your business needs using algorithms that are constantly adapting to what’s working and what’s not, according to Kehayias.
“Once you’re matched you can start communicating with them, as long as you’re mutually interested,” Kehayias says.
BeanSprout initially launched for Web hosts, since Kehayias says a lot of growth in the industry is built through partnerships. Kehayias himself has a history in the industry, previously working for security firm Comodo (www.comodo.com).
“At the end of the day you don’t have a huge amount of resources so hosting companies scale through partnerships,” Kehayias says. “The way they can make more money is through partnerships.”
“A Web hosting company for example is not going to go spend the time and money to go build an e-commerce platform, either they’re too young to do it, they don’t have the money or they don’t have the right team to do it.”
Kehayias says BeanSprout members start by sending partnership requests. Once a request is sent, the other business has to express a mutual interest for it to count as what BeanSprout calls a “connection.”
“You don’t want to get spammed all day,” Kehayias says. “I get spammed from lots of different sources and I also work with a lot of business development or sales folks that are constantly pushing and pushing. That’s why we wanted to add the layer of mutual interest and that’s where the concept of connections comes from.”
Kehayias says that the platform is pay-per-use, or pay-per-performance. If a business does not reply to your request within two weeks, you get your connection credit back to use towards a different request.
BeanSprout has three different plans: a starter plan, standard plan and unlimited plan. The starter plan includes four connections and the standard includes 12 connections. The plans range from $8 a month to $50 a month.
While BeanSprout is not exclusive to Web hosting providers, Kehayias says every company that enrolls must be valuable to everyone in the system. Recently, BeanSprout partnered with e-commerce software provider X-cart to help online merchants find business development partners.
“Our strategy has been to go into related industries, so we’re using it as this big ecosystem,” Kehayias says. “It’s not so much industry specific. It’s really, who are the other players that are marketing either to the same customer base or are related services? The most logical thing for us was to start moving into IT solutions, some of the systems integrators as well as web development and web design shops.”
Kehayias says BeanSprout is unique in that it offers company-level information rather than the more personal and social information on platforms such as LinkedIn.
“LinkedIn is great, it has a ton of people on it but the information is very specific to the person. It’s also a tool that’s been used traditionally as a recruiting tool and as a social tool,” Kehayias says. “At BeanSprout we’re valuing the company-level information that isn’t readily available through traditional means right now.”
“Part of the BeanSprout network is actually being connected to the right person and not having to go stumble around wasting your time trying to get to this person,” he says.
To speed up the process of adoption, Kehayias says his team has recently started creating profiles for Web hosts using public information about the company. He says more than 100 companies already have partnership requests waiting for them.
“Right now we’re just trying to keep up with the requests that are coming in and making sure we’re doing everything we can to bring that person on the platform to make that connection happen,” he says.
BeanSprout is not necessarily looking to replace traditional means of business development, but to provide a more efficient option, according to Kehayias.
“There is a certain amount of hunting that goes on and we don’t think that that will ever disappear,” he says. “We’re just giving companies a more intelligent way to find what they’re looking for, faster.”