Startups to Watch: Reverse Auctions with Squeezify
By self definition, Belgium-based Squeezify is an online marketplace that helps companies and freelance workers connect and request services from each other using reverse auctions on jobs. To redefine the concept, this means that, as a business, you can sit back and watch while service sellers compete to gain your trust. And you will only have to pay a fraction of the cost, as prices will typically decrease while the sellers undercut each other.
It’s not a novel concept (the first reverse auction websites appeared in the 1990s) – it’s the same system that made the likes of MyHammer, Hotwire, Elance, and many others popular. The trend is strong enough to expand to social media sites, like Pibster (Twitter-powered reverse auction) and beyond. Basically, when sellers bid to get a customer, less than their competitors, it’s a clear case of reverse auction.
Of course, established professionals see reverse auctions with the same criticism (regarding the ethical implications of low wages paid to those winning the bid, and the impact on quality) usually targeted at crowdsouricing sites like 99designs and others. In fact, there is a very fine line between crowdsouricing and reverse auctioning. While in crowdsourcing buyers set the price, then choose the best service submitted for review; reverse auctions empower sellers to underbid each-other. More often than not, the auction winner is the seller that offers the cheapest price. This is Squeezify’s business model.
The problem now is that Squeezify lacks the community to make things work. With only four deals to review, the company seems to have hurried to launch as an open beta. This is, in fact, an alpha stage (although the company released in public beta at the beginning of January 2013 – too soon, if you ask me), where PR should play the main role in gaining public attention towards a service so much needed by companies on a tight budget. Despite the beautiful design of the site, the approach to business seems amateurish – it lacks planning and fails to engage meaningfully with those who might be interested in Squeezify (both businesses and service providers). For starters, the focus is too broad: Squeezify is an online marketplace that aims at helping individuals, freelance workers and companies connect and request services from each other at the best possible price.
But there is no clue as to which services could be considered, leaving room for everything under the sun. Need hair removal? Try Squeezify. Need a paint job? Squeezify might be the right place to look for it. Need a “squeeze“? Perhaps this is not what Squeezify is about, although there is no way to know…
What makes Squeezify a 2013 startup to watch? In all honesty, right now, its geo-location, and the obvious talent of the two young entrepreneurs behind it. Obvious because, once you sign up, the UI is flawless: intuitive, simple, uncluttered. But they have a long long way to go, and they can only improve with feedback. They also need community, which cannot just “come” to their site, just because they built it and post random messages on Facebook and Twitter. PR, at this stage, is not only mandatory: it is the only thing that can push the business forward.