The San Antonio-based company connects suppliers and buyers virtually and in person –
By Tara García Mathewson-
The story of My Business Matches starts back in 2008. Jeff Vigil, CEO and founder, saw a business matchmaking event organized by the Small Business Administration. There were a lot of Excel spreadsheets.
Vigil thought the concept was a good one – speed dating, but for businesses. He knew technology could make the whole process a lot smoother, though.
By 2009 Vigil, who had his own web development company at the time, had an application. He did a test-run during a matchmaking event hosted by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Vigil says the recipe wasn’t quite right, but the concept was solid. He used the feedback from event managers, suppliers and buyers and kept tinkering.
Now, My Business Matches has 1.2 million users in more than 100 different countries. It officially launched from San Antonio in 2012 and has continued to improve its platform, leveraging technology to help businesses make the best possible matches and close deals.
In just a few years, My Business Matches has facilitated more than $15 billion in contracts. A two-day event in Paraguay secured $256 million in contracts alone.
Vigil, a Navy veteran, says the hardest thing about matching is not actually connecting a buyer and a supplier, but getting a procurement-ready supplier in front of the right buyer. One of My Business Matches’ unique features is compatibility scoring. Each supplier gets a compatibility score for a particular contract with a given company.
“If I’m a supplier and I get a score of 48, I’m going to want to know why,” Vigil said. “That question is something they’ve never had answered.”
Vigil’s system automatically analyzes information from a supplier with the buyer’s specifications, offering a rundown of unmet requirements – for example, that the buyer was looking for a woman-owned company or one with a certain threshold of revenues. With that information, companies have actionable data. They can partner with a larger business or one that is woman-owned, for example, and go after a deal together.
Another favorite design feature is the ability to host matchmaking events virtually. AT&T is one company that skips physical events and meets potential suppliers online. They do it monthly.
My Business Matches also recently brought together buyers and suppliers from across Korea and Latin America virtually. Despite the time difference and language barriers, Vigil’s platform connected people, opening new doors to businesses on opposite sides of the world.
A new effort, Puerto Rico Open for Business, will capitalize on a similar economic development opportunity. Vigil, who is half Puerto Rican and half Italian, expects to open up global opportunities to Puerto Rican businesses. On a small island, many of these businesses have marketable products and services, but limited access to corporations that need them. Vigil’s portal will create the access.
Vigil sees the virtual matches as a way for companies to save time and money, but it doesn’t take out the human-to-human connection. That’s something he wants to keep at the center of the platform. Individuals will always be able to reach out to others, talk to them and interact with them.
“This company is about humans coming together to do business,” Vigil said.
So far the My Business Matches platform has been available for free. Vigil plans to institute a subscription-based model in 2017, starting packages at $100 per year.
And he is full of ideas for next steps. Already clients come back to him after making deals through My Business Matches looking for recommendations for getting a line of credit or building out their staffs. Vigil’s platform hasn’t yet branched out into those other areas for potential matchmaking, but it will one day, if everything goes as planned.
Looking back, Vigil recognizes that it was encouragement and support from mentors, friends and family that has brought him to where he is today. Plus he has a team that lives and breathes his mission. But it wasn’t always easy. He laughs thinking back to that first matchmaking event with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“There’s no instruction booklet,” he says of making a successful company. “You have to tinker, you have to fail, you have to freak out. But you do it and it grows.”
That has certainly been the case with My Business Matches, anyway.