The craze among investors this year is for anything B2B, and online market-makers top their list. So Oxford-based Mondus (www.mondus. co.uk) has won attention. Having opened offices (and web sites) in New York, Hamburg and Paris, Mondus claims to be the first global e-marketplace where small to medium-sized businesses can 'obtain competitive quotes on essential business equipment and services' across more than 50 categories. The company takes 2% commission on sales.
Mondus provides no-frills, utilitarian sites, with glaringly clear instructions for the Web-wobbly shopkeeper. Site tabs are labelled 'buy', 'sell', and 'how-to'. And a team stands by to help the benighted by phone. Encouraging.
But Mondus reveals the dilemma of such generic market-makers: they cannot attract users or outdo their competitors on any basis except market size. Bereft of the industry news updates and interactive communities that vertically targeted sites can offer, cross-sector sites must live or die by the sheer volume of their trading traffic. Yet I found fewer than 600 offers up for bid on the four Mondus sites when I visited. Not a ghost town, perhaps, but not Manhattan either. Nor is Mondus truly a global bazaar, since each of its sites focuses on a separate regional market. So far, Mondus is the world market writ small - too small.