VIP Crowd Takes Online Dating Approach to Enterprise Software Buying

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today, and learn about products that might help them address these issues.

Currently, purchasers can use VIP Crowd to browse products from 300-plus vendors, Wilson says. Rather than focus on widely used (and often expensive) systems for things like enterprise resource planning, the featured vendors are mostly ones that sell “bolt-on” software-as-a-service products that automate manual tasks, like tracking receivables, he says.

After a vendor spots a listing on VIP Crowd and contacts the purchaser about setting up a meeting to provide more information about the vendor’s products, services, and prices, the purchaser can accept or decline the invitation, Wilson says. (That’s one of the features VIP Crowd has in common with some online dating services.)

A purchaser who agrees to take a meeting sets a fee—usually in the $20 to $70 range, according to Wilson—that the vendor must pay to VIP Crowds. (Think of it as the cost of a sales lead.)

“We’re selling two valuable things,” he says. “First, the attention of people that matter. And then, after that, their time.”

VIP Crowds receives $8 of the meeting fee, and donates the remainder to a charity of the purchaser’s choice, Wilson says. One reason the startup came up with this model is that in certain industries there are conflict-of-interest rules preventing purchasing managers from benefiting personally from decisions they make on behalf of their organizations.

An upcoming upgraded version of VIP Crowd’s software will be targeted at teams within companies and will focus on three areas: vendor management, process improvement, and idea management. Other companies that concentrate on at least one of those areas include two businesses with Wisconsin ties, ThirdPartyTrust and Ideawake.

VIP Crowd’s app also allows users to take notes during meetings and share them with colleagues, Wilson says. The startup will likely set up software tools in the future allowing vendors and purchasers to move their notes over to other applications, such as Slack and Microsoft OneNote, he says. That underscores Wilson’s vision of VIP Crowd as a niche product.

“A product like ours is expected to integrate with products our users already use,” he says. “We’re not trying to replace Slack.”

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