SANTA CLARA, Calif. Saqqara Systems Inc, a provider of electronic commerce software, entered an already-crowded market on Monday (Jan. 31) when it launched a Web site with information on electronic components.
The whomakesit.com site is designed to streamline an engineer's search for electronic components. Saqqara will not charge engineers who use the site to search for parts, nor manufacturers whose names and Web site links appear in the site's search directory. Saqqara expects to make money through banner advertising, sponsorships with manufacturers and fulfillment partners, and by selling application hosting services.
The company may also sell market intelligence it gathers about engineers from searches performed on its site, according to Don Swenson, vice president of marketing for Saqqara Systems.
The whomakesit.com site is based on Saqqara's patented Step Search parametric search engine, which is a part of the company's e-commerce software.
The Web site is able to make high-level comparisons of products from different manufacturers, and includes a "smart directory" of 1,200 manufacturers featuring links to those manufacturers' Web sites.
Saqqara said whomakesit.com will allow engineers to search the most "accurate, complete and timely" product information by taking them to product pages within manufacturers' Web sites for detailed search and parts information.
Swenson said the site's response time will be faster than third-party aggregators, which goes through 4 million part numbers for every search, while whomakesit.com will search just 148 records for each search, he said.
The site's mission is to match buyers and sellers, to drive traffic to manufacturers' Web sites, and to help manufacturers brand and target products to engineers, Swenson said.
Searches can be made using key words or one of 63 product categories. Engineers can select product specifications on a parametric search engine and the see a list of manufacturers with parts that meet those specs, along with a comparison of parts from different companies. An engineer can get further information by choosing a manufacturer and being directed to its Web site.
Saqqara employed a team of engineers to manually identify and create direct links to relevant product pages on manufacturers' Web sites to provide deeper information on its site. An Internet search agent checks the manufacturers' sites each day to make sure the links are correct, and identifies those that need to be changed.
Saqqara plans to have the whomakesit.com site include a service for hosting applications, design tools that could be offered on a per use basis, and further capabilities to search by application or product platform.
The company is planning an April delivery of Commerce Suite, software that will let manufacturers structure product data in an XML-based online catalog; analyze online customer traffic patterns; transfer product data onto CD-ROMs; and provide a configuration tool to assist customers with online buying. Saqqara currently counts AMP, Berg Electronics, AMD, Cypress Semiconductor, Hewlett-Packard, Marshall, Honeywell and General Electric among its customers.
The site enters an e-commerce market already teeming with Web sites dedicated to connecting buyers and sellers of electronic components, including ChipCenter.com, Questlink Technology Inc., and PartMiner Inc. Though each has a different business model, at heart they are competing to be the electronic component search engine of choice for electronics engineers.
Some competitors expressed confusion about whomakesit.com's revenue model.
"Of course anybody who can offer a fast, seamless solution to engineers so they get the information they need deserves a fee for it," said William Barron, chief marketing officer of PartMiner Inc. (New York), a third-party aggregator site which owns the CAPSXpert database of 15 million parts, searchable by part number. "I don't understand the site's business model, " Barron said.
Michael Shultz, president and chief executive officer of Questlink (San Jose, Calif.), said he doesn't think the site will meet engineers' needs.
"Saqqara is a good company and has good technology," he said. "Their business model of creating a site to be a gateway for engineers to the manufacturer is interesting, but does not meet engineers' needs to cross-research, compare and buy products in one place.
"If an engineer needs an op amp, it doesn't solve his problem to go to 25 or 30 different manufacturer Web sites," said Shultz.
Questlink.com serves as a clearinghouse for electronic part information, as well as other information of interest to EEs. The company's NetBuy division offers free sales quotes and sells parts online.
ChipCenter.com offers access to electronic part searches, as well as editorial material of interest to EEs. The company makes money through sponsorships and receives a commission on parts sold through the site, according to chief executive officer Ghirish Mahtre. ChipCenter LLC is owned by Arrow Electronics Inc., Aspect Development Inc., Avnet Inc., CMP Media Inc., and Pioneer-Standard Electronics Inc.
Saqqara is undaunted in its mission. Swenson said it's early to talk about the site's revenue model, but said the cost of maintaining the site "is not overwhelming."
The company also plans to expand beyond the electronics industry. Saqqara will launch similar Web-based services in other vertical markets in the future, said Bradley J. Albright, senior vice president and general manager of Saqqara's Business-to-Business activities. The company also sells its software to customers in the healthcare and mechanical engineering markets, which could be the target of whomakesit.com's further services.