Grab Your E-Partner

When the Internet bubble burst with the Nasdaq dive in April, life changed for almost any startup with ".com" at the end of its name. Investors suddenly wanted more than a Web page "under construction"; they wanted short-, medium- and long-term business plans. Forget virtual reality. How about profit reality?

In the ensuing months, the pace of initial public offerings has slowed to a crawl, tales of sudden bankruptcy are more common than tales of sudden wealth, and many would-be online dreamers have woken up with a headache.

The world of e-rentals is no exception. The funding drought is bound to narrow the playing field by the end of the year, and only a few online rental marketplaces are expected to survive the long haul.

That's why the scramble is intensifying to sign up brick-and-mortar partners, preferably with deep pockets and big names. Partnerships will be critical to building credibility, increasing traffic and creating liquidity.

In just the past month, several alliances have been announced.

- and Primedia, publisher of RER and more than 100 other business and consumer titles. Ironmax's site gains exclusive construction equipment information, including rental rates, auction values and pricing and specification guides.

- Rentmaker and OneBuild, an online construction materials marketplace. Rentmaker joins a larger e-business community, bringing its rental procurement functionality to OneBuild customers.

- and Henderson Auctions. EquipmentAuction will begin broadcasting used heavy equipment auctions via satellite television and the Internet.

- IronPlanet and Caterpillar, Komatsu and Volvo. (See Supply Side, page 102).

In the push to be a part of the online rental future, expect more of these kinds of partnerships and alliances in the coming months.

The number of Spanish-speaking Web users will increase from 7.5 million today to 20 million in 2003, and e-commerce sales will rise from $167 million to $8 billion.

Source: IDC

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