Deep’ Job Platforms and How to Build Them.  The article was focused on job platforms, those matching employers with individuals, so it’s more B2C than B2B, but it is close.  Almost every bit of the article, however, applies to anyone building a B2B platform.

Deep Job Platforms Offer More Value Propositions

Coolican and Jordan point out that ‘shallow’ job marketplaces simply match employers and job candidates, but ‘deep’ job platforms add products, features, (I would say value propositions) that remove friction for the employer or the job seeker.  Their great graphic of this is:

Deep B2B Platforms

As I mentioned, almost everything in the article applies to B2B platforms as well.  In most cases, you can just remove the term ‘job’ and replace it with the term ‘B2B’.  Take a look above A16z’s list of expanded work done by the marketplace in the ‘deep’ example.  Many of them are the nine value propositions I’ve seen B2B platforms offer:

  • Payments (payments and transaction finance in my lingo)
  • Vetting (credentialing)
  • Collaboration tools (collaborative project management)
  • Job matching and discovery (matchmaking)

(Training, community, and insurance are a bit vertical-specific but apply in many B2B cases as well.)

Four Tactics for Building a Deep B2B Platform

A16z suggests four tactics for building deep jobs platforms. Here are their first three suggestions altered to use B2B examples:

Tactic 1: Find your unique friction. Remove it.

  • The unique friction in onsite B2B services are safety screening, IVR or geo-fencing, call center availability, or even insurance.  Many contractor marketplaces offer combinations of these services.
  • In the case of Travel and Expense platforms, the friction solve was credit card integration and/or travel booking integration.  Concur undertook this path, Ariba, which had a T&E module and procurement, did not.   Concur ended up being bought for almost twice Ariba.
  • If you are going to play in the healthcare supply chain, you better connect not only to hospitals and suppliers but also to GPOs and have a strong MDM capability.  GHX does this.

Every great vertical B2B marketplace identifies that industry’s unique friction and solves it.

Tactic 2: Come for the tool, stay for the network

  • Ariba, Coupa, and Jaggaer are great examples of this strategy.  Jaggaer started as a cataloging tool only and expanded into a complete solution over many years.
  • MBO Partners has used this strategy in high-end, independent contractor labor. (MBO Partners should have been in 16z’s article since they have been offering a deep job platform for a while.)
  • Yardi has leveraged its position in property management tools to build a marketplace.

Tactic 3: Bring your own supply

Bringing your own exclusive supply is harder to do in B2B than in the job market, but there are examples:

  • AmazonB2B and Alibaba’s marketplaces make it possible for Chinese factories to become suppliers to American companies.
  • Upwork makes it easy for anyone to use offshore freelancers.
  • GHX, OEC, Elemica all have unique relationships with suppliers which help them provide a differentiated offering to their vertical.

A16z’s final tactic for job marketplaces is to start as a community or networking site and then turn into a jobs marketplace.  This one does not apply to B2B very well.  Platforms that have tried to build business communities first have really struggled.  Most employees of companies don’t look to software vendors for “community”, they look to solve a problem first and then they become a part of the community of like-minded problem-solvers.  As individuals, most of us find professional community on LinkedIn or in professional associations.

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