Web 3.0 and Enterprise 3.0. I also wrote a piece towards the end of 2005, called What is this Sea Change? In this article, I am going to start coverage on a very interesting company called Rearden Commerce, which touches upon many of the concepts we’ve discussed in the 3 pieces referred above. (I recommend you read the framework pieces first, before reading the rest of this story.)I have written a few framework articles recently, defining
Rearden is a services marketplace that consolidates various service providers (Travel, Dining, Conferencing, Shipping, etc.), and offers it to the employees of an Enterprise. It is a very well funded company, with $100 Million investment, and was featured in Business 2.0's 25 startups to watch list at the end of 2006. Rearden Commerce's business model is subscriptions and it currently has over 200 customers.
Let me explain this to you by using a scenario. The tool that an employee uses is called the Rearden Personal Assistant, which is a web app that helps users find and manage all the services available to them via Rearden's network.
Let’s say, for example, that I am an employee of Pfizer and that Pfizer is a client of Rearden (which it is). Rearden has a network of 135,000 service providers, many of whom have negotiated preferred rates with Rearden. In addition, in some cases Pfizer has negotiated its own preferred rates - and the Rearden system can be configured to use those rates as well.
So say that I am planning to go to a conference next month in New York. [Context]
I start my travel planning - airline, hotels, limo to/from JFK. I also plan where I want to eat, what shows I want to see, etc. When I log into the Rearden “Personal Concierge” system, it knows my profile and the human resource policies of Pfizer for me (e.g. I am not allowed to travel First or Business Class).
The company has certain negotiated preferred rates with 5 mid-town hotels. If I need to ship packages during my trip, I have to use Fedex - the preferred rates for that are in the system. I have to also make arrangements for 3 online meetings while I am there, and Pfizer has preferred rates set up with Webex. [Policy Propagation]
My “Personal Concierge” also knows that I like Jazz and Blues, so it recommends clubs where I can go to listen to my favorite bands. [Personalization]
It also gives me restaurant reviews from Zagat in the neighborhood where I will be, and which are consistent with my food preferences. It provides relevant Google Maps and Rewards Network discount coupons. [Content]
How it works
All of this is powered by a SaaS platform from Rearden Commerce, architected with the philosophy of User-Centric Computing. It provides Identity-based, User-centric personalization. It uses native web services and a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), and provides a mashed up user experience that is extremely CONTEXTUAL.
If you recollect the Web 3.0 model, Rearden already has an excellent Context, Personalization, Commerce, and Content integration. I haven’t checked their Vertical Search capabilities yet, but it should be a natural extension of their offering.
What it lacks, however, is Community. I would like to also coordinate plans with my cousin in Manhattan, and a couple of friends, as well as meet some Swing dancers, so that we can all go dancing together. All of this should automatically get logged into my calendar, my PDA, etc.
Now, if you recollect the Enterprise 3.0 model, Rearden certainly hits the spot on both SaaS and the Extended Enterprise trends.
Finally, in the Sea Change piece, I discussed the possibilities for B->B->C Contextual Advertising. Rearden Commerce is well-positioned to draw upon its platform and extend it to include an Advertising Management System.
Bottom line, I really like what I see in this company - and it has a lot of possibilities. It also aligns with the still fairly open opportunity of leveraging the SME markets and pulling them into relevant consolidated marketplaces. By providing, say, restaurants with a consolidated contextual market channel through Rearden, it can also start tapping into the marketing budgets of these restaurants.
All in all, Rearden demonstrates that Context is a really powerful organizing principle!
Sramana Mitra is an Entrepreneur, Founder CEO of 3 companies, Strategy Consultant to 50+ companies, and Author of a popular technology business blog, Sramana Mitra on Strategy.