mySBX.com: The Match.com of government contractors

Web site copies dating service model to connect primes and subs

Sometimes someone actually does build a better mousetrap. Jeff White, president and chief executive officer of mySBX.com, certainly thinks he has.

White’s new online service might be considered the government contracting equivalent of the eHarmony or Match.com dating Web sites. It’s where prime contractors search to find appropriate subcontractors and vice versa.

“If Lockheed [Martin Corp.] is looking for a ‘purple cow’ in Illinois, we can find it for them using our technologies,” White said.

He formed mySBX toward the end of 2007 and began working on the site in 2008. Much of that time was spent creating the matching algorithms and blending what he called “the secret sauce” that makes mySBX.com function as it does.

In May 2009, White’s new entity entered into a partnership with the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Entrepreneur Center to exchange partnering opportunities and help NVTC's member companies expand business and increase profitability.

White launched the mySBX.com Web site in September, after about four months of beta testing.

“We already have about 7,000 companies that have signed up,” he said, citing Lockheed Martin, CACI International Inc., ManTech International Corp., CGI Group Inc. and other large and small contractors.

Moreover, he added, enrollment is doubling about every six weeks.

Using mySBX.com, member companies can search for potential contract partners according to various categories: keyword, number of employees, annual revenue, previous customers, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes and several other qualifiers.

“Let’s say you’re looking for someone who’s had Defense Department experience, and [to be] more refined, with the Air Force, and then also [with the] 22nd Wing Command, or something like that,” White said. "You can get to that level of specificity.” 

He recalled a tier-one contractor that spent about 10 man weeks trying to find an 8(a) certified small business contractor at Eglin Air Force Base that also had competencies across three NAICS codes, was ISO 9000 certified and had done business with a specific wing command at the Galveston, Texas, base.

After submitting the required requirements to mySBX.com, the following business day, the contractor received an e-mail list, called a match alert, of seven potential partners, four of which were small companies already in the company’s database.

“One of them wasn’t listed anywhere,” White said.

But mySBX.com found that company because it was included on a request for proposals response for work at the base. Following a call from a mySBX analyst to Eglin Air Force Base to verify the RFP information, the small company was included on the match alert.

What the large contractor couldn’t do in 10 man-weeks, mySBX.com did in 24 hours, White said. “And, the contractor was able to remain anonymous and not reveal its requirements or any proprietary information to potential competitors,” he added.

Conversely, the site offers small companies contract opportunities they might never have known about, White said.

Small contractors never have enough employees or information, said Melinda Warren, vice president of finance and administration at Vistronix Inc., a government IT support and managed services company in Reston, Va.

“So to have everything in one consolidated place, where you just go and get what you need, and [for] sharing of information, it seemed like a great concept,” said Warren, who was a beta user of the service.

When mySBX.com went live, Vistronix became a small-business member.

“Shortly thereafter, I had a few requirements that necessitated we get people in pretty quickly, and I was having difficulty,” she said. “I posted them on mySBX and got an immediate response.”

As a result, Warren has hired several more employees to handle the contract work.

White said mySBX.com has cut the time it takes for a small business to partner with a prime contractor from an average of 18 months to as few as two days. And it is pairing about 2,500 companies a week.

Contractors also can sign up for one-click subscriptions, which are match alerts triggered automatically according to preset requirements. Some larger contractors run as many as 60 searches a day, White said.

For example, Lockheed Martin wants to be notified whenever service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses become available for new government contracting or when they update their qualifications and certifications, White said.

Nancy Deskins, director of corporate agreements and supplier diversity at Lockheed Martin, said she became aware of mySBX.com about a year ago through a company business unit that was using the service. She reviewed the offerings to see whether mySBX.com could be more broadly beneficial throughout Lockheed Martin.

“I was seeking to enhance our existing resources with new, innovative technology and approaches,” Deskins said.

White’s corporate background as founder of Blue Canopy Inc. in 2001 was the inspiration for mySBX.com, he said.

As a small-company founder, White quickly discovered that partnering opportunities were hit-or-miss propositions, even after he set up a special email address to receive task-order notices.

“It was a wildly inefficient e-mail spreadsheet kind of thing,” White recalled. “The pains that I [experienced] growing that company were all the reasons why we started mySBX, to alleviate those pains in the marketplace.”

After six years of pain, White sold Blue Canopy to start mySBX.

His new venture and its eight employees are backed by angel funding, including some of White’s own money. “We are not cash positive yet,” he said.

There are no upfront costs to members. Large companies pay a monthly subscription fee based on the category modules or searches they use. Small companies can use the site mostly without charge.

“Our goal is to create value on both sides of the equation,” White said.

Based on its initial success, mySBX.com launched a module in October devoted solely to governmentwide acquisition contracts, listing all GWACs, prime contractors and potential task orders.

Subscribers are alerted to GWACs when they are made public, RFPs, contractors that are eligible for a GWAC, and which companies have responded and their subcontractor teams.

Warren said that as an Alliant small-business contractor, Vistronix will use the GWACs module to disseminate requirements and information to its own group of subcontractors.

“You have the ability [on the site] to have subsets of information flow so that you can share it with everybody or share it with a small group,” she said.

Rather than accept advertisements to boost revenue, mySBX.com offers sponsorships to companies that do business in the federal community. White cited American Airlines, which has a program to assist government travel, as an example.

“If it doesn’t benefit government contractors and our audience, we won’t do it,” he said.

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