Regional Startups 3 MIN READ

For businesses located in regional Australia, finding suppliers to connect with can pose an intricate challenge. Sure, there are opportunities within the areas one might traditionally associate with regional businesses, but when it comes to slimmer industries such as web, digital and consultancy the options may not always be there.

A quick Google search is unlikely to reveal the treasure-trove of results that a city business is used to, making it difficult for businesses to discover procurement opportunities. The same issue applies to regional suppliers, where locating businesses to service isn’t always an easy task.

Launching an online platform to knock this issue down is regional startup Localised. The website offers a business-to-business service that provides a space for regional businesses and suppliers to discover and connect for local procurement opportunities.

Founded by James Baird and Theo Williams, the platform looks to modernise the regional economies that Baird said are currently undergoing a shift from working with predominantly traditional manufacturing-type businesses to wider industries.   

Following the launch of his first startup Pundit Connect, a broad service marketplace that connects buyers to a competitive pool of consultants, Baird noticed a trend of local buyers wanting to connect to suppliers within his local area of Geelong.

“We saw this local procurement thread emerging within Pundit Connect, and at the same time I was having a number of discussions with a number of potential partners across regional areas,” Baird said.

Using the knowledge that regional businesses were thirsty for procurement opportunities, the model for Localised was constructed around a factor of ‘discovery’.

When a user loads the site, they’re presented with a dashboard of various industries to select from. Once an account is created, a buyer is able to pick an industry before being shown a list of suppliers to contact. The buyer can then view data about the supplier and contact them by phone, visit their location or organise a meet up to discuss business.

Alternatively, a buyer has the ability to create a procurement brief of what services and goods they require which can then be posted to the site for suppliers to track and respond to.

The process reads much the same for suppliers using the site, however they are instead presented with a dashboard of businesses with procurement needs as well as specific buyer-created briefs.

“Our fundamental proposition is about discovery, whether that’s a buyer in the platform wanting to discover supplies or a supplier in the platform wanting to discover opportunities,” said Baird.

“Ultimately, by making it easier for businesses to discover and connect with each other in those regional economies, it will support the growth of jobs and economic opportunities across regional areas.”

The focus on discovery is what Baird believes sets Localised apart from other procurement websites. While there are other successful B2B services within regional Australia, the Localised platform doesn’t force businesses to jump straight into the contractual stage, instead providing them the freedom to contact and inquire.

Baird said the platform will also provide visibility to businesses who may not be in the spotlight, by providing them a platform to be discovered.

“What we know is that people tend to do business within their own networks and beyond that there’s very little visibility about other opportunities that might exist,” he said.

However, for this to occur, Localised has to reach a certain level of recognition within the regional areas it targets; after all, there’s little room to grow regional supply chains and B2B relationships if the platform has a limited pool of users. There’s also an added problem if the same type of industry joins while others are left scarce.

To prevent this, Localised has achieved key partnerships with the Bendigo Business Council and Grow, who are helping to promote the startup. Since the service is currently catering to three major Victorian regional areas, Baird said these partnerships have been key in helping secure the nearly 100 businesses that have already pre-registered to join the platform.  

“By Christmas, we’ll have the full MVP live across the Bendigo region as well as the Geelong region. They’re focused on supporting the local economies by encouraging more local and social procurement,” said Baird.

Having launched the pilot of the site in September, Localised was able to develop its platform rather quickly thanks to early seed investment carried over from Pundit Connect.

“We were going through a capital raising at the time for a seed investment, so we decided to use that as an opportunity to pivot into local procurement,” Baird explained.

Currently the platform is earning revenue by charging suppliers a $10 monthly fee to use the service, while access for buyers remains free.

“Our model is subscription based. We’re implementing the Netflix mode, where it’s low cost, high value,” said Baird.

Following the official launch of the platform across regional Victoria at Christmas, Baird hopes that success over the next 12 months will allow the business to expand nationally across other regional areas, fulfilling its vision of developing comprehensive supply chains across Australia.

Image: James Baird. Source: Supplied.

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