VendOp is basically a Yelp for business – they help people to find the best manufacturers, suppliers, vendors and consultants for their project through crowdsourced reviews. No longer are reviews only for personal purchases, but you can now see how previous customers rate their experiences with B2B companies. VendOp provides a single place to find vendors that provide the service or product you need, see ratings and reviews about the company to understand what working with them would be like and ability to contact the company for more information. Previous methods were time consuming, had limited selection and risky in the sourcing process. Word of mouth was the best, but only got one person’s perspective and limited to vendors they had used. Trade shows had a larger selection, but were time consuming to attend, only happened a few times a year, and did not give any insight into a vendor’s performance. Online directories are basically digital yellow pages. Web searches provided the most selection but information is fragmented and hard to use to find the best vendor.
Andy Kohm has a PhD in engineering and an MBA from Wharton. He worked in R&D for medical devices, specifically spinal implants and treatment of fractures and cancer in the spine, for almost a decade before starting VendOp. His co-founder Dave Blado worked at eBay, deCarta and Red Hat before joining him to start VendOp. Part of Andy’s job working in R&D was to source vendors for the company for his projects. Many times even finding vendors that did what he needed was hard. Luckily, he had the pleasure of working with many great companies, but there were some major underperformers – those vendors ended up costing his company time, money, and a lot of headaches. Unfortunately, in some cases projects were cancelled because of vendors not being able to perform up to expectations. This got Andy thinking that there had to be better way to find vendors to help de-risk the selection process. He wasn’t able to find any website which provided reviews or testimonials about vendor performance, and the only thing he could find were the testimonials on the vendors’ websites. Why can we read reviews for everything in our personal lives but we can’t at work where we are signing contracts and making large purchases?
VendOp’s target audience is companies looking for vendors in the USA. The job functions are typically engineers, marketing, purchasing, manufacturing and quality – anyone that would be involved in sourcing vendors or making a decision on which vendor to use should look into this product. While there are ways to source vendors both online and off, online directories, trades shows, even Google searches, there isn’t a single location which helps find vendors that fit your particular project and provides insight into their past performance. VendOp fills a huge gap between personal recommendations and online vendor sourcing. Reviews have proven themselves in the consumer space to be useful tools in purchase decision-making and we are now providing that tool for B2B purchases. Finding the best vendors and suppliers for your company is a fragmented market which has not benefited from the new internet trends. This is not just a problem small companies face either – Tesla just announced delays in the release of the Model X SUV and lower sales… “I don’t want to sort of name specific suppliers,” Musk said, “but our biggest challenges are with the second row seat, which is, it’s an amazing seat, like a sculptural work of art, but a very tricky thing to get right.” VendOp is taking a tool everyone uses in their personal lives to make decisions, crowdsourced reviews, and applying it to the B2B world. Of course, there are some very important differences in how this is being done that make VendOp quite different than the B2C review process. Most of this is around allowing users to be anonymous while maintaining trustworthiness of the reviews by knowing who all the reviewers are on the backend.
Companies are able to create a basic profile on VendOp for free. A premium profile which allows for more information, pictures, documents, videos, and so on to be added to the profile to allow for branding, customer engagement and increased conversion will be on the basis of a monthly subscription. VendOp competes with all of the traditional methods of finding vendors – trade shows, professional publications and online directories. They are looking to augment the ability to perform due diligence on a vendor prior to committing to a purchase or a contract. VendOp has some features in the pipeline to continue to make the vendor sourcing process easier and less risky. They want everyone to be able to make their next purchase with confidence that they have selected a great company to work with. After all, the B2B world is huge – VendOp is basically looking to become the place everyone goes when they need a vendor. Also, vendors can use them as a reference to potential customers to help them close the deal.