Online group wholesale provider OrderWithMe, based in China and Houston, today announced a new partnership with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten that will see OrderWithMe reach a potential new market of 38,000 retailers. That should help the startup considerably with its goals of growing internationally, after a promising start helping U.S. small businesses go in together on bulk purchases of inventory and merchandise, making them better able to compete with huge companies that can afford to buy in high volumes.
“Small business owners have always been treated individually, one by one by one, but all we’re doing is saying ‘Hey look, actually there’s more of you small guys than there are the big guys, and we’re going to count all of you as one,'” OrderWithMe founder and CEO Jonathan Jenkins told BetaKit in an interview. The more small businesses that sign up, the bigger the price breaks OrderWithMe can secure, allowing mom-and-pop shops to compete with huge retail chains competitively on pricing.
Now, thanks to the Rakuten partnership, OrderWithMe’s buying power will grow stronger, and the startup has a path not only to the Japanese market, but also eventually to other areas of the world, since Rakuten has been on a path of global expansion that gives it presence in many international markets. The Japanese company’s goal is to “[become] the number one internet services company in the world,” its U.S. Executive Officer Michael Jaconi told us in an earlier interview, so OrderWithMe likely would be hard pressed to find a better partner to help it grow globally, especially in the world of ecommerce.
“After winning TechCrunch Disrupt in Beijing [in 2011], we knew that our solution would work really well for small retailers here in the states, but one of the things that happened was we had other companies all over the world reach out to us,” Jenkins explained about the genesis of the partnership. “Rakuten was one of those, and once we started talking to them it felt like a perfect fit. They have this ecommerce platform with thousands of small businesses on it selling products, and they were looking to launch a B2B platform to help them find products and source inventory together, so working together makes a lot of sense.”
Despite international aspirations, OrderWithMe is also still very much focused on the U.S. market. In fact, tomorrow the company will unveil its UnitedWithMe campaign, which is a road tour of the U.S. where the startup will be going coast-to-coast talking to small businesses about their needs and giving away $1 million worth of free inventory. Jenkins said that a lot of what OrderWithMe is based on is giving small businesses a chance to not only survive, but thrive in the face of large national competitors, and he hopes the tour will help his company spread that message.
OrderWithMe creates revenue by charging a small fee on top of what it pays suppliers for inventory, but Jenkins says that costs for merchants still ends up being way under what they would pay sourcing the same goods on their own. Plus, the company boasts all-in pricing, meaning that a retailer knows upfront how much stock purchased through the site will cost, including shipping, handling and any tariffs that apply.
As a platform that has the power to level the playing field between multinational chains and independent corner stores, OrderWithMe definitely has transformative promise. And with partners like Rakuten helping spread the word, we could see it upsetting the retail apple cart in major ways sooner, rather than later.