We sat down with Jeff White, co-founder and president of mySBX, recently and spoke with him about his business model, and how to emulate mySBX’s paradigm of rapid growth. His advice: work on your business, not in it.
GovConExecutive: What exactly is mySBX?
Jeff White: Originally mySBX stood for my small business exchange. What the ‘s’ now stands for is a little bit up in the air because so many large companies have come into the network; the likes of Lockheed and ManTech and others. We are trying to figure out what the ‘s’ will eventually will stand for but probably the best way that we can describe it is we have been called by the Washington Post and others ‘the match.com for businesses in government contracting’.
GovConExecutive: You all match people with surplus personnel and assets to companies that need them, right?
Jeff White: Yes, basically if you believe what Forrester says, this is going to be the next big thing. They’ve actually predicted it to be bigger than LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites, something they call business collaboration for resource planning, effectively allowing businesses to expose a set of demands into a marketplace and allowing other businesses to expose a set of capacities and bringing those together in ways that they couldn’t have before. This is not any different from what eBay did in the way consumers sell to consumers; basically taking highly fragmented marketplaces adding a layer of technology and efficiency and allowing them to connect and link in together in ways they couldn’t before.
“The greatest thing that I can tell anybody is always focus on the thing that drives your business and use tools like mySBX to handle those types of exception based things. Allow mySBX to get you on contracts and to keep your people billable. You focus on just managing your business.”
-Jeff White, mySBX Co-Founder
GovConExecutive: What unique protocols does mySBX take to avoid disclosing proprietary information to people who aren’t authorized to see it?
Jeff White: It’s funny because things like extra resource capacity are a sign of weak revenues and other things to analysts. We have some of the largest integrators, and I’m not allowed to mention names, that use mySBX to actually get their own consultants on contracts. We give them the ability to do it all with anonymity so they are allowed to post excess capacities in their organizations anonymously into the network and only reveal themselves when they are ready to consummate the transaction. It can save them from revealing competitive positioning, intelligence, and allow them to go out and find potential teammates to shore up weaknesses in their teaming efforts without revealing who they are. We give them all of that ability to remain as anonymous as they want to be and still conduct business and get things done.
GovConExecutive: What kind of safeguards do you have to make sure companies have the exact capabilities that they say they have?
Jeff White: In one sense the paradigm of a company misrepresenting themselves is always going to be a risk and it’s a risk that companies have today, there is no way around it. Someone can lie on their resume when they come in for a job interview and until you call them out on it, you won’t know. Our best policing is actually the community itself with our ratings and ranking systems and other things, just like eBay has done with sellers. You only get the chance to fool Lockheed one time. You won’t get a chance to do it again and that black mark will follow you throughout all of those that you try to conduct business with. Ratings and rankings is one, we are also integrating with Dunn & Bradstreet so we can actually pull information to make sure these companies are who they say they are. We have verified them in government contracting databases and confirmed they are representing themselves both to us and the government about who they are and what they do. The ratings and ranking systems then come into mostly quality standards and how they did what they said they were going to do on the right price at the right time with expected quality among other things.
GovConExecutive: Does mySBX actively match people to the services that they need or is it on the end of the companies and mySBX provides the platform?
Jeff White: Companies are allowed to keep both private and open ratings and rankings of their own relationships with other companies. Our job is simply to make sure that when demands and capacities can be matched that we bring them together. We have something called Match Alert, which is a whole bunch of inferential matching algorithms that allows discovery of opportunities for companies that otherwise would never have had. Think of a Venn Diagram – we know things about company X and we know about things that are going on in the market Y and we know things about company Z. When those three things overlap it creates an opportunity for those companies to come together because we know those attributes about them. We bring opportunities to companies that they wouldn’t have otherwise known or have thought about.
GovConExecutive: Do you have any advice for other people starting up companies and how to emulate your growth paradigm?
Jeff White: I had my own small business that I sold in 2007 and the two biggest things that kept us up at night when we were growing our business were where is our next piece of business coming from and how do you keep your people billable and on contracts. The greatest thing that I can tell anybody is always focus on the thing that drives your business and use tools like mySBX to handle those types of exception based things. Allow mySBX to get you on contracts and to keep your people billable. You focus on just managing your business. The old adage: work on your business, don’t work in it.
GovConExecutive: Is there anything else that you would like to add about your service, anything you want to highlight?
Jeff White: Maybe two months out of beta , we’ve already gotten about 5,000 companies to sign up which was our annual goal and growth continues to exceed expectations. It has taken off way faster than anybody would have thought.