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xPeerient, connecting IT executives with service providers and one another, launches with nearly $2 million in funding

Posted by Scott Kirsner  October 28, 2010 08:30 AM

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Let's say you're a CIO with a problem: you need a services firm to help you roll out desktop virtualization software to 5,000 employees, or to get the inventory system in your retail stores communicating with your e-commerce site. How do you find one that'll fit the bill? (Assuming that you don't want to hire any of the vendors who wine you and dine you and treat you to leisurely rounds of golf?)

Boston-based xPeerient, launching today, hopes to supply a solution by creating a marketplace where chief information officers and other executives who spend money on technology can explain their needs, and then anonymously screen the service providers who say they can help. The company has raised nearly $1 million in angel funding and another $1 milion from Waltham-based Stage 1 Ventures.

"We think of it as eHarmony for the IT industry," says founder Mark Hall. "The buyer can post a project anonymously at no cost, ask questions of the candidates, and create a short-list."

Hall says that online and print advertising to senior IT buyers just doesn't work anymore: "They've become incredibly desensitized to advertising. So we're trying to use technology to bring the buyer and the seller together at the right time."

About 5000 "partners" (like systems integrators, value-added resellers, and other service providers) are already participating in xPeerient's marketplace. Participation is free initially — they pay only for the opportunity to communicate with a prospective customer once they've made it to the short-list. Hall says the company will charge vendors a fee of "a couple thousand dollars for a $2 million deal, for instance, and the pricing is tiered based on the size of the deal." Hall also says xPeerient can provide value for IT executives by connecting them with one another on the site, so they can share advice with peers who may be embarking on the kind of project they've been through before.

Hall says xPeerient is still a virtual company, with 12 full-time employees but no office. Until late 2008, he was the chief information officer at Framingham-based CXO Media (publisher of CIO Magazine and other titles); he started xPeerient in early 2009, and began beta testing the site over this past summer with about 25 customers. He raised just under $1 million in angel funding for the company, from investors like Roy Rodenstein of Hacker Angels, Dennis Philbin of Lux Research, and Kevin Laracey, founder of edocs (and until recently an investor at Sigma Partners.) The company's Series A investment closed at the end of September, from David Baum at Stage 1. "We didn't want to do an equity round until we got the product built," Hall says.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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