Making a Bid for the Future

Aug 26, 1999 by Dani Stoehr

A new Bainbridge firm hopes to make contract bidding a cyber-enterprise

For the Bremerton Sun

The world of paperless business has been hovering on the horizon, temptingly close
but never achieved despite advances in technology. Keith Jones, owner of a new Bainbridge
Island company called eBid Systems, is trying to change all that, at least for one
sector of the economy, with a new product called BidServer™. And although he’d like
to see everybody using his paperless bidding system for contracting tomorrow, he’s
realistic enough to know that what is important is getting his message of electronic
project solicitation into the public arena and letting it grow at a natural pace.
“Our goal is to get customers to support the internet, starting with idea that it
is not a “flip the switch” approach, but something that can be phased in over a
period of time,” said Jones, who has a background in environmental engineering and
computers. eBid’s product is simple in concept and primarily targeted at government
agencies.

By using the BidServer™ software, a company or agency will publish the specifics
of a project solicitation – a bridge, highway, building or airport – on the Internet.
Bidders will then have the opportunity to access that material to see if they can
vie for the project. They would also be able to download all the necessary background
information once they decide to do so. “This is not rocket science technology,”
Jones said. “It requires you to have a computer, Internet access and an e-mail account.
Is that really an unreasonable expectation? And just look at the benefits.” The
main advantage of the package, Jones said, is that it saves on the in-house labor
on both sides of the equation. It reduces paperwork, cuts the cost of paper transactions
and reduces time spent in communication between project owners and bidders – such
things as changes to specifications, notification of contract awards, etc. For the
small business, Jones said, BidServer™ provides an opportunity to compete on a level
field with larger companies. “Big companies have dedicated staff spending all their
time looking for opportunities, small business doesn’t have that chance.” It’s also
cost effective for small business involved in the bidding process.

“Before, people were spending their money just to reach a go/no go decision on the
job,” Jones said. “On the Internet, that information is for free.” The package is
available as an installed application on an existing Web site for a one-time fee,
or as part of eBid’s dedicated Web site for a start-up fee and monthly payments.
A company looking to establish the system can be up and running for less than $10,000.
Bidders can use the Web site at no charge, although vendors retain the option of
setting a submission fee. “We’re really just rolling out the product,” Jones said,
“having spent the first part of the year creating it.” He currently is in discussion
with a number of potential clients, including Sound Transit and City of Seattle.
“The key is to get some early adopters, then others will follow on those leads,”
he said. His main competition is the print media that publishes bid announcements.
One such publication, the Commerce Business Daily, is involved in an Internet project.
But that information is available only as a searchable database. “Some projects
need to do print – they’re legally bound – but in time we will be arguing that the
Internet should be recognized as a legal format.” His plan is to promote the value
of posting both in print and on the Internet until such a time as cyber-contracting
takes over – something he sees as a reality in the not-so-distant future. “We need
to let people know this is coming,” Jones said. “We’ve come up with a compelling
value proposition for project owners; if they are willing to take on the task of
re-engineering the way they do bid solicitations, they are going to achieve dramatic
labor and cost savings and come up with a product that benefits the vendor as well.”

About eBid Systems – eBid Systems provides an integrated suite of contract sourcing
and management solutions to industry and public agencies.