Verifying the credentials of the other party in a transaction is an important step for any buyer or seller. B2B equipment deals throw up specific challenges: deals are frequently international, time critical and of high value. Inevitably, these factors sometimes result in a buyer or seller having to take a very exposed position in order to get a deal done - usually during the grey period between payment and delivery.
Being able to assess the credentials of a buyer or seller before equipment or money changes hands is therefore extremely valuable. But other than providers of financial information (e.g. Dunn & Bradstreet, Experian) there are few resources to turn to if you want to run the measure over a new buyer or seller.
This may be set to change. Michael Arrington reviews a startup called Rapleaf who are launching an online ‘reputation management’ system. The idea is to create an open platform that will allow users to leave feedback on anyone they complete a transaction with. Over time this would become a resource for anyone looking to verify buying/selling credentials of anyone else.
I can foresee plenty of problems ahead for Rapleaf, not least the question of false or malicious feedback submissions, but if they succeed it will be hugely important. One need look no further than eBay to see how powerful reputation management (the phrase is growing on me) can be. Arguably, its feedback system has been the most important factor in its growth. Amongst other benefits, it has enabled small-scale traders to create “brand” trust on the back of publicly viewable evidence of good service. A reputation previously developed via years and years of word of mouth recommendation can now be achieved in a short – but successful – period of trading on eBay.
However, eBay’s feedback mechanism is directly connected to transactions and exists only to manage reputation within its own marketplace. Rapleaf are attempting to create the same value out in the open. It’s going to be very tough to pull off but I wish them the best of luck.