As any company trying to set up operations in China knows, getting things done is a little more difficult than in the western world. In the United States, finding a supplier is relatively easy. You can look for partners at trade shows, industry publications, or put an ad in business directories, among other places. There are the general search engine like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft’s Live Search. There are B2B search engines such as business.com, Zibb, and Thomasnet, and specialized vertical sites like Construction.com.
But in China, it’s typically been much harder to easily source things. If something goes wrong with one of your offshore suppliers, finding a suitable alternative is difficult. The information infrastructure is not as mature, and far fewer companies there have their own web sites, let alone web sites that are optimized for search.
Enter Alibaba. Not the story of the forty thieves, but I suppose there is gold in this story.
Alibaba.com is an online B2B marketplace for global trade, with participating businesses from more than 200 countries. “Think of Alibaba as the online dating service for global business,” says Scott Tong of American Public Media’s Marketplace.
No it’s not new; it launched in 1998. In fact, it’s one of the most popular B2B sites in terms of traffic. Currently, Alibaba.com has an Alexa traffic rank of 164. And it’s not just for Chinese business, either. You can search for just about anything, in any country.
On Tuesday, Alibaba went public. On its initial day of trading, Alibaba stock tripled in value, from $1.74 US to $5.09 US per share. Okay, its initial offering price wasn’t $85 per share like Google’s, but the IPO did raise $1.5 billion for the company. Just to give you a sense of scale, Google raised $1.9 billion in its IPO.
Yahoo holds a 39% stake in Alibaba.com’s parent, Alibaba group, and bought about $100 million of Alibaba shares prior to the IPO.
Magic carpet ride?
Where is all this headed? Well, many investors think Alibaba’s stock price, even at its IPO level, was not rational. Google’s IPO price was reduced to $85 on fears that it was overpriced. On Monday, Google stock reached an all-time high of $725 per share.
Regardless of what the stock price does, Alibaba has nearly 25 million members, field sales and marketing offices in more than 30 countries, and more than 4,400 employees. That’s a big platform from which to do business. If you’re doing B2B globally, it’s another search engine you need to consider, especially now that it had raised a considerable war-chest to help it survive and thrive in the global online marketplace.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.