After a stimulating discussion with some work colleagues last night, I was once again reminded that there is always much more happening on the web than one can keep up with.
While the media focus on teenagers spending a large amount of unproductive time on Facebook and celebrities positing uninteresting twitter updates, there are a lot of new business models and breaking of old paradigms on service delivery happening.
One great example is the number of marketplaces which are staring to blossom. They function in a very similar way to eBay, where independent sellers can offer their products and are evaluated by the buyer community. If you are a reputable seller then it should not be risky to buy from you.
Let’s take a look at rentacoder.com for instance. If you need a programmer to develop software to a specific need, you can go to the website and post your program or problem. Some of the 250k coders from around the world which subscribe to the website will send you their bids for delivering the work. You can review the bids and each bidder’s resume and reputation online. When you’re ready to make your decision, you can hire your personal, expert, coder with just a few clicks!
Posting a bid request is free, and you would not be under obligation to accept any bids. Once the bid is accepted, there is a requirement to put the payment into escrow which will be released to the coder once the work is completed according to the original specification. If there are any problems (apparently there are not many according to the website forum) an outside party to arbitrate is available.
Marketplaces like this are supported with an infrastructure which includes technology, communication, framework for evaluation of reputation and comparison and payments and which is quite efficient and has been proven over the about 5-10 years in which the concept has been maturing. As far as payments are concerned, PayPal is a very interesting example: it started as an alternative to old EDI transactions offered by banks and now is a “de facto” way of transferring money on the web. Another commonly used alternative are, of course, credit cards. There are several statements of misuse and fraud using credit cards, not to mention exchange rates and fees, but there is an efficient model for treating disputes established by the bank and a strong campaign to maintain the trust ensures that consumers continue to use credit cards on a continued basis for internet payments.
I have met a gentleman last night who runs a global publishing company and have made significant money selling his books online on the top of his day job. How did he do it? Here are some of the interesting initiatives:
– Established virtual presence (i.e. an registered company with address, phone, fax but without any employees or offices) on the US, UK, Singapore and Australia. A way you could do this is using skype-in to have local numbers in over 25 countries. With MyUS you can have an address in the states and they will forward your mail to wherever you want in the world. eOffice allows you to do the same and hire an office or have virtual working rooms in the UK.
– If you have a publishing business for example, you can distribute a pdf book through the web and get it printed and delivered on demand. Lulu is a website based on the UK which offers exactly that for a fee.
These are just examples of how you could set up a proper businesses using these new online tools available. There are much more different and interesting stuff out there (let me know on the comments section if you have suggestions!).
More than ever: if you have an idea or a product that everyone wants there’s never been a better time to put it out there.