There are various business directories, job-bidding sites and marketplaces that are designed to help small businesses find customers and suppliers, but Sydney-based startup Knokal thinks it's found a valuable new approach to the problem.
The problem with job-bidding sites is that you need to know exactly what you want done and how much you're prepared to pay for it, says Knokal co-founder and CEO David Smith. And directories are generally limited to keyword and location based searches.
Knokal is more like an online dating site in that it uses the information businesses provide in their profiles to match them with appropriate potential customers, service providers and partners. It can thus educate small business operators about things they didn't know they needed, Smith explains.
One example from his own experience is that he didn't realise there are people around that produce PowerPoint presentations for clients. He discovered one by chance, and now has a high-quality deck rather than his own attempt.
The inspiration for Knokal came from his sister's efforts to start a business: "My sister was launching her online business and struggled with development stages. I watched the difficulties she faced in trying to find the right partners and networks to grow her business. From PR, to marketing, to web development and financials, running a successful business required her to manage so many different factors. And it was a steep and expensive learning curve for her."
Small business owners have so much to do, he said, so ways of saving time - not just by delegating tasks but also by finding the right person to take them on - are valuable.
The plan is to appeal to service-oriented small businesses with fewer than 10 employees, regardless of the industry they operate in.
So far, Knokal has been in 'soft launch' mode and has attracted more than 70 users. The plan is to switch to a freemium model at the end of April, but anyone joining before then will be granted premium status without having to pay for it.
Premium features will include testimonials, ratings (both the ability to rate other businesses and to display their rating of yours), video content, a web page under the user's control, and access to value-added deals with Knokal's partners (eg, free trials of other services).