According to Nick Pinkston, the world’s components mostly lay jumbled in an old-school, fragmented environment where the customer in search of the right item ultimately suffers. So while the business of industrial hardware procurement is critical, it is also incomplete.
For Pinkston and longtime collaborator Jeremy Herrman, there’s an obvious solution, though it’s not exactly simple: the hardware industry is in desperate need of its own dedicated, vertical marketplace.
Volition was born in 2019 as a fix, designed to support buyers with a marketplace of vetted suppliers offering transparent pricing and a user-friendly interface. The platform intends to be “the hub that organizes all of the world’s components” and runs on a data processing system that can ingest complex product data and harmonize it into a database.
“We think Silicon Valley has largely forgotten about the industrial world,” Pinkston explains, “and we want to act as a bridge between the latest technology and the companies that make the components that build our world.”
So if Pinkston and Herrman – equipped with entrepreneurial and tech pedigrees – can get this off the ground, will sellers and buyers flock to it? So far, so good. Volition recently completed the core build-out of the platform and spent most of its stealth mode pitching the concept to industry stakeholders, the result of which, says Pinkston, is $200 million in signed commitments from buyers who plan to move their spend once the platform is live.
Now, Volition is ready to net commitments from suppliers — and hopes to sway them by targeting the pain points that often keep respected brands from playing ball with the likes of AmazonBusiness. For example, explains Pinkston, many shy away from opportunities outside of their traditional channels because of the time and cost involved in setup, which costs sellers their money and effort if, for example, they struggle to effectively sell to platform customers. In the case of Volition, suppliers can list their products at no cost and with minimal setup. The seller only pays when a customer purchases their products.
Not to mention, Volition believes its value lies in the fact that it’s been developed from the ground up for the hardware market. Pinkston believes industrial and hardware e-commerce is the most challenging of any industry, and it comes down to the heavy customization and widely varying language used to describe product content. He says that most marketplace platforms have been built to address consumer needs. As an example, there’s no question that something like t-shirt search customization is a far simpler proposition than spec’ing a motor, and Pinkston feels that Volition offers a language-processing advantage that goes beyond anything that exists in the market today.
“General purpose marketplaces are very reliant on search systems, but that doesn’t work when specs are extremely subtle,” explains Pinkston. “I think our user interface on Volition is the only one that actually can do this to scale.”
Volition’s platform was built from scratch when team members determined, after evaluating “basically every off-the-shelf tool,” that the only way to approach this market was from the ground up. They use an end-to-end approach that supports millions of products in a way that Pinkston claims is very tolerant of changes. It operates as a storefront with a variety of search methods that assists users in quickly finding, understanding, utilizing and ordering the right parts for the job. And users can check out all at once with multiple vendors, streamlining the transaction process.
Volition has so far received more than $6 million in seed funding, and company leaders say its effective presentation and intuitive functionality makes it a no-brainer for most of the companies who evaluate it. With 10 million SKUs and 6,000 brands, the challenge is vast but the objective is simple. Says Pinkston, “Our goal is to organize the world’s parts.”
To learn more about how to list products on Volition, visit https://www.govolition.com/suppliers.