Reducing that latter barrier is the goal of the Supplier Connection website. Funded to the tune of $10 million by the IBM International Foundation, the initiative will provide a single, streamlined electronic application form that will be accepted by (to start) AT&T, Bank of America, Citigroup, Pfizer, UPS, and of course IBM itself. The organizers expect other large businesses will sign up after the site is up and running, which is set for the first quarter of 2011.
The site will also facilitate collaboration among its SMB members. It will give the participating large companies a venue for telling suppliers what they need, and small businesses can share ideas and even use the site to sell to each other. "We believe opening up new markets for goods and services, in the billions of dollars spent by large companies can be the fuel that will allow those small businesses to grow," said Stanley S. Litow, IBM vice president of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and president of the International Foundation. "I liken the mechanism we're unveiling to a Universal College Application, which simplified the way in which students could spend less time filling out redundant forms, and focus more on academic excellence.