MarketSharing’s main focus won’t be on typical business fare, like printers or software. Instead, the company, launched by a former small business owner, is targeting the “extras,” things like team-building activities, flower delivery, and even in-office massages–-things that small and medium-sized businesses like to have in-house or to offer their employees but find it hard to research.
“We want to be the discovery engine for things in this space,” founder John Amato tells Fast Company.
“These are things that executives or procurement officers don’t have a ton of time to investigate,” he says. “But if it comes in your office, and it looks like something fun, you’re going to buy it.”
MarketSharing has the backing of AppFund and K2 Labs, the New York-based investment arm and incubator created by Kevin Wendle, cofounder of CNet, Fox and iFilm, and Music Nation cofounder Daniel Klaus.
The service has been in a private beta but opens its doors today to all comers (in New York). On offer: Deals from SeamlessWeb food delivery, BlogWorld 2011 event passes, and TeamWorx, which runs team-building challenges in Central Park.
Amato previously cofounded Show Media, an Inc. 500 company which places advertising on top of a third of all taxicabs in New York City. As the young owner (he was 25 when it started) of a 62-person business, Amato says he sweated the task of hiring great people and figuring out how to keep them.
The business-to-business daily deal space is going to get crowded soon, Amato says, just as the consumer deal space has. The entrants that make it are going to be the ones that figure out a niche and serve it well.
Amato’s niche: The things that make companies the kind of places that attract great people and make them want to stay.
“MarketSharing is not looking for [customers] who are looking for a deal,” he says. “We’re looking for people who don’t have enough time to make great experiences for their staffs.”
Winning in this space, however, won’t only depend on bringing in the buyers. It will also require getting the right kind of merchants to pony up deals. Amato says he thinks businesses will bite because of the potential to turn deal-takers into ongoing customers–many of the deals will offer sample tastes of recurring-revenue-type services, the way Netflix gives potential customers the first month free to lure them in.
But Amato also thinks there’s the potential that employees that sample the merchants’ experiences could become customers in their private lives. For example, Amato says, a bowling alley that offers a deal on company party could end up winning some customers who come back later with friends and family.
Like other players in this space, MarketSharing plans to go national. Amato says services will open in Austin and Los Angeles next month and in 10 other cities by the end of the year.