Date:23 August 2010
New social networking site aimed at business leaders and entrepreneurs
A Franco-Israeli entrepreneur is hoping to rekindle some of the
optimism of the dotcom boom with a new social networking site that
combines the mass-audience reach of eBay with the trend for grassroots
funding of small businesses.
Serge Bueno, who relaunched the SodaStream soft drinks maker in
mainland Europe, is hoping that his latest project, called the Tribe,
will help the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs get
off the ground by providing them with a ready-made market.
His plan comes as the UK government continues to press high street
banks to start lending to small businesses again. Mervyn King, the
governor of the Bank of England, admitted this month that the credit
crunch was lasting longer than he expected. While large companies have
access to other sources of funding, small and medium-sized companies
are still struggling to obtain the cash they need for investment.
Bueno said: "The idea for the Tribe is very simple. I think our world
is simply dying, as capitalism is coming to an end. I think we are
trapped. The other problem is most jobs are created by small companies
and there are less and less of those."
The Tribe opened its doors on the internet this month but will launch
officially on 18 September. It is designed to bring entrepreneurs and
business people who have projects that need funding together with a
large pool of users who have registered online and are looking for new,
innovative products to buy.
If enough "Tribers" express an interest in a product and make a small
up-front payment, its developers will be able to calculate their
break-even point and decide whether to press ahead. If the product
cannot reach that break-even point, everyone gets their money back.
Anyone can put forward a single idea to the Tribe community for a $100
(£60) introduction fee, or an unlimited number of ideas for $500. Bueno
hopes to have 50,000 users by the end of the year.
The Tribe's business model is similar to that of an earlier group
buying site, LetsButyIt.com, which hoped to bring buyers together to
reduce the price of goods by placing bulk orders. But Bueno must hope
it will be more successful: LetsBuyIt.com collapsed in 2002, having
racked up tens of millions in losses, although the name was
subsequently sold to become a price-comparison website.
Bueno's ambitions for the Tribe go beyond group buying. The site will
loan cash to projects using a fund created in part from its
introduction fees, and it is hoped that small investors from among the
community will be attracted with the promise of better returns on their
savings than are offered by high street banks. The Tribe will also sell
any products that it thinks are especially marketable through its
retail store in Covent Garden, central London, which will open for
business next month.
Bueno thinks his plan will have a particular appeal to women who have
given up work to have children but want to continue to develop business
"New mothers are always full of ideas. Whether they have a good idea
for a product, a book or a business, the Tribe can help," he said.
He is also putting together a team of business experts, who will be
able to advise the entrepreneurs who come to the site, along the lines
of the business incubator model that again was tried with varying
degrees of success in the dotcom boom of a decade ago.
"We bring two things, security and guidance," he said. "Security is
brought by the break-even point, guidance by our group of experts,
because you can be a very smart, creative person but have no idea of
accounting or marketing."