Well, not quite. The b-to-b bubble burst shortly after it formed. Covisint -- a massive auto components marketplace jointly owned by the big carmakers -- stalled almost immediately. It was purchased by Compuware in 2004 and now functions as an "on-demand collaboration platform" for a wide range of industries. Dell opened its own exchange for parts suppliers in November 2000. Four months later it was shuttered. Others, such as GlobalNetXchange (GNX) and the WorldWide Retail Exchange (WWRE), survived by pooling their resources.
Philip J. Philliou, a principal at payments strategy consulting firm Philliou Selwanes Partners, was working for MasterCard during that era as VP of e-commerce product and technologies. Both MasterCard and Visa invested heavily in new systems and products to facilitate electronic payments and data transfers across these exchanges.
At the height of the dot-com boom Philliou says there were more than 2,500 major b-to-b exchanges worldwide. Today, he guesstimates 90 percent of them are gone. Part of the problem was timing; the other part was the difficulty in getting people to substantially change the way they did business.
"The dot-com implosion took the oxygen out of many of these exchanges," he says. "The other problem was that for these exchanges to succeed, you needed to achieve a certain scale. That meant convincing a lot of buyers and sellers to change well-established business processes."
He says b-to-b markets were a "red herring," but that many organizations are finally starting to realize the benefits using their financial institution's payment gateway in conjunction with their internal electronic invoicing and ERP systems.
David Freschman, managing partner of venture firm Innovation Capital Advisors, says some major VCs bet big on b-to-b markets whose potential never got realized. "Business is still a social function in many respects," he says. "I think a lot of people still prefer to do business face to face. They want to know who they're buying from and develop relationships with them."
6. Enterprise social media
The pitch: "[Our enterprise social media product] improves organizational awareness and fosters cross-functional workflows in ways that collaboration and social networking software alone never will .... helps organizations view and engage in the 'big conversation' -- the sum of all discussions, content creation, and planning activities taking place ... increases organizational effectiveness by providing individuals a 360-degree view of conversations and activities across previously isolated information silos ... while also meeting the enterprise security and data portability requirements of the most demanding CIO." --Unnamed enterprise social media vendor, October 2009
Your employees schmooze on Twitter, Facebook, and countless other social networks; shouldn't they be doing it on behalf of your business? That's the sales pitch enterprises are getting today from the dozens of vendors surfing the social media wave.
The idea: Instead of tweeting about what they had for lunch and engaging in Mafia Family Wars, your workforce can be using these tools to brainstorm new ideas and collaborate on projects.
They're not the only ones who smell a social media boom. IDC predicts the market for workplace "online community software" will grow from $278 million last year to $1.6 billion by 2013.