Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Calling All Vendors: Government needs your help

As loan volumes continue to fall, more technology vendors are working to extend their functionality to other markets. Now, the US government's Small Business Administration is offering up an opportunity.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is looking for innovative ideas from the lending and business communities on ways to leverage its Web presence to establish a new e-commerce portal to help expand credit availability for businesses and give lenders increased access to new potential small business customers.

SBA's site logs approximately 1.9 million visitors per month. With that goal in mind, the SBA has issued a Request for Information, RFI, from potential vendors on setting up a sustainable online lending portal that would connect small business loan applicants with commercial lenders.

The portal would allow business users to enter relevant information regarding their financing needs and key financial and performance information critical to an underwriter's decision. The portal would then facilitate matching interested lenders with prospective borrowers.

"SBA's mission is to support the nation's economy by helping small businesses start, grow and expand, and a substantial part of that mission is met by our providing financial assistance," said SBA Administrator Steve Preston. "This portal will expand the ability of small businesses to access credit programs and of lenders to access a broader range of potential lenders."

There is one catch. An RFI is not an official solicitation and no contract will be awarded on the basis of this information, according to the SBA. So, just think of it as if you were working for free, which may be better than not working at all. Besides, if the specifications, pricing strategy, and project management ideas you submit get SBA's attention, there may be a bona fide opportunity here.

SBA suggests that interested parties address User Friendliness and Transparency, Market Coverage, Privacy Policy, Pricing Structure, Revenue Sharing, Timeline, and Risks.

I'll add a few they may later determine they are interested in: educational content strategy, development and delivery of co-branded marketing material from within the portal, social networking functionality for member banks (B2B) and consumers (B2C), online community management.

For additional information, visit http://www.fedbizopps.gov/.

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