Entrepreneur Applies Telecom Lessons to Online Discount Site

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  May 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of NGN.

You’ve heard about, and probably even used, online resources like Groupon, Orbitz and Priceline to find deals on travel, meals, spa services and the like. Well, just last month yet another online discount outfit joined the pack. It goes by the name bidmyway.com, and it’s run by John Shave, the guy who built Globalcom (News - Alert) into a multimillion-dollar business.

Shave clearly understands that the online discount business is already crowded and getting more competitive every day. Indeed, he compares it to a derby with horses lined up. But given the high stakes – hundreds of billions of dollars are spent locally, he says – running the race could result in a huge payoff.

“This is the beginning of an industry,” says Shave. “Groupon has fundamentally uncovered something.”

Shave is moving on that opportunity with the introduction of what he says is a unique spin on online-to-offline commerce space, as he calls it.

He says bidmyway.com is the Priceline of online-to-offline commerce – allowing merchants to sell their wares without discounting their brands in front of the public. That means merchants don’t have to expose to the potential buyers the prices at which they’re willing to sell their products or services. Instead, merchants set custom profiles behind the scenes so bidmyway.com knows which bids are and are not acceptable. Those bidders whose offers are within the parameters set by merchant get those products and services at the prices they offered. Those who don’t meet the criteria, however, get a consolation e-mail that may include a marketing message for another product.

“We’re a true merchant marketing partner, and there’s no need to disclose to the customer what you’re willing to give your products and services up for,” says Shave.

He adds that bidmyway.com also offers a “buy now” option, for which prices are exposed and customers are assured they will receive the goods and services of interest.

The bidmyway.com services will be available in 10 cities nationwide initially, with Chicago and Milwaukee the first to go live. Shave says he has six direct reps reaching out to potential merchant partners in each of the 10 markets. Additionally, bidmyway.com is working to drum up merchant support for its service via a group of inside sales reps in Chicago. If all goes well, bidmyway.com will likely to expand the sales effort to include an indirect sales program over time.

The company is also readying a mobile application called bidmybudget. Using this app, which is expected to launch around mid June, wireless subscribers will be able to enter information about what kind of food they desire and what they are willing to pay for a meal. The mobile app will then present information on bidmyway.com merchant partners that are offering deals that match these requests.

Also on the drawing board, Shave tells NGN Magazine, is an online portal called Dr. Deals.com, which will focus on the medical space. He declined to elaborate on the specifics of what would be offered as part of this effort, but said we’d hear more about it in late summer.

Company management and an investment vehicle called Four Directions Holdings Co. that Shave controls provided the initial $1.315 million in funding for bidmyway.com. The online portal plans to complete a second round of funding in mid summer. And Shave estimates that bidmyway.com will be generating gross revenues of more than $21 million after 12 months in service, and exceed $150 million after its first 10 markets go live.

The reason bidmyway.com is going to be successful, says Shave, is because the space in which it exists has a lot of parallels with telecom, an area in which he already has shown his mettle.

Shave founded Globalcom as a Chicago-based phone services reseller in 1993 with $5,000 and sold the company, which had evolved into a facilities-based full service business service provider, 15 years later to First Communications (News - Alert) for $58.5 million.

While Shave is clearly excited by telling his story about Globalcom, the experience was no walk in the park. In fact, he says, being in telecom has been “like going through a war,” he says.

But Shave is apparently ready get back in the battle. And he says that, as with Globalcom, the success of bidmyway.com will depend heavily upon building a strong direct sales force, modeling quotas per rep, taking care of the customer, and making sure service is always up and available.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi