At Ariba LIVE this spring, I got a walkthrough and demo of Ariba’s latest release, Discovery, a web marketplace that most closely resembles sites like MFG.com and cBoxBid, matching buyers and sellers in an environment that is free to buyers — or as Ariba likes to say, in their marketing spin, “matching buyers and sellers in the cloud.” I’ll be candid in my take — Discovery is impressive and could prove disruptive to existing marketplace business models — not just based on its underlying architecture and future integration into Ariba products (and maybe other providers as well), but because it appears that Ariba will lower the barrier of entry to suppliers in the marketplace world. Suppliers frequently complain about the high costs of participation in similar offerings, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for the opportunity to bid on business, and we suspect Ariba will charge less than competing sites like MFG.com.
What does Discovery do at its core? I previously wrote that “essentially
Discovery is a tool that combines an open RFX platform tied into other Ariba products (for Ariba customers) that allows for supplier discovery. Suppliers can register for free on the Discovery-related network, yet pay for certain access privileges to respond to RFQs [or will pay in the future]. The vision for Discovery sounds remarkably similar to a cross-vertical / cross-category MFG.com. Perhaps a more accurate comparison is to describe it as a global Alibaba-like supplier directory service combined with the integrated RFX and sourcing discovery components of an MFG.com.”