It seems that being a marketplace is back in vogue these days. But this time around — based on the strategies of MFG.com, Ariba and Ketera — there appears to be two keys to being successful: building scale and building liquidity (versus following a Field of Dreams “if you build it they will come” type of approach that doomed hundreds of similar efforts a decade ago). When it comes to scale this time around, some providers like MFG.com have opted to go deep in certain areas (e.g., metals fabrication, textiles, etc.) while others, like Ariba and Ketera, have decided to take a broader focus. Ketera’s recently announced partnership with Thomas — yes, that Thomas, that used to ship the big green book — is an attempt to build sell-side critical mass into their marketplace.
According to the announcement, “the two organizations have partnered to bring the entire ThomasNet.com community into the Ketera Network. This action simultaneously offers new online transactional capabilities and greater online exposure to ThomasNet® suppliers while growing the Ketera Network with additional suppliers and more than 5,000,000 new publicly available catalog items.” ThomasNet suppliers will “have the abilities to participate in Ketera Network sourcing events, receive POs from Ketera buyers, manage invoices electronically, and host catalogs in an open transactional network.”
Our cursory research suggests that there was material thought put into this relationship and approach. If it proves successful, it will be an example of a clear win/win for both Ketera buy-side and Thomas sell-side customers. Yet Ketera will need to accelerate the pace of buy-side liquidity in its marketplace on the sourcing side to compensate for the addition of all these new suppliers (especially from a direct materials perspective). Still, given that Ketera has focused historically on indirect materials trading enablement, the direct materials flavor of the Thomas deal should help broaden its providers’ overall sourcing appeal if they can get additional manufacturers to sign on the buy-side dotted line.
But others aren’t sitting still in the network enablement race…