Reverse Auction for Specialty Chemicals

September 24, 2009

Stephen Koch asks a relevant question with some intriguing possibilities over on the CHMINF-L list:

I just searched Scifinder for the commercial availability of a compound. I got 88 different companies. It really is not very useful. It is hard for me to believe that all these companies actually have the compound. I could spend a day or two trying to find if there was a less expensive source than Aldrich, Fisher or VWR where we usually buy chemicals. Most of the companies don't even list the price and availability on their web site. What I need is a web site, where I would indicate that I want to buy 100g of a compound and then companies would then email me prices and availability. [emphasis added]

Stephen Koch [broken link], SUNY Stony Brook

Reverse Auctions, in which sellers compete for the business of buyers, have been used for some time outside of chemistry. But to my knowledge, no service exists in which multiple specialty chemical suppliers compete in real-time to fulfill orders placed by individual chemists.

There may be reasons no such service exists. It may be that the economics of companies competing for small orders don't work out well. It might be that buyer and seller confidentiality concerns would outweigh the conveniences offered to both parties.

Or maybe there's something here worth exploring.

If you're a chemist - how often would you use such a service and what would it need to offer to be successful?

If you're a chemical supplier, how would a reverse auction fit in with your current business model?