A business designed to save taxpayers money plans to make its new home in Kent.
EASiBuy, a company that offers reverse auction software, plans to bring its company headquarters to Kent, where it will renovate and occupy 265 W. Main Street, which is located on the west end of the West Main Street Bridge.
Ben Koberna, a founder of the software company, said he plans to move nine employees from EASiBuy's Hudson office on Georgetown Road and add 15 more over the next several years.
"Kent is a hub for federal contracts," he said.
He explained locating in Kent would help EASiBuy improve its scoring in acquiring federal contracts.
"Any federal procurement officer can pick up the phone and call me," said Koberna. "Our federal business is expanding quite a bit. They have a much higher volume, and we need to add jobs and people."
To help with its move, Koberna said the company was able to obtain a JobsOhio Revitalization Grant to help renovate the 3,100-square-foot office space, which will feature an open office design since the reverse raffle days often have a "war room" environment. As part of the agreement, EASiBuy agreed to add the 15 jobs.
Koberna knows a thing or two about landing government contracts, although he's usually on the other side of the transaction.
His company leverages its software system to help government entities and some private industries acquire the best deal on goods and services through a reverse auction process, an expansion of the process governments use advertise for bids or proposals.
"Really what we are is an e-procurement business," he said. "We help people buy things, and by people, I mean governments."
Using the city of Los Angeles as an example, Koberna said the government usually advertises for bids (or proposals) and receives a certain number back in return for an item such as traffic lights. The city then vets the bidders and determines whether their responses would meet the demands of the bid. At that point, there may still be a half dozen or more bidders depending on the contract.
That's where EasiBuy comes in.
"We log in the responsive bidders," said Koberna. "At that point, they've already turned in a bid package, and the city has indicated they're qualified."
Once the companies are logged into something that looks like an online spreadsheet, a reverse auction date is set.
"We set the clock for 15 minutes," said Koberna. "On bid day, the vendor logs in and says, 'I'll charge $2.65 for that red light.'"
The spreadsheet ranks the vendors from least to most expensive, and within that 15 minutes companies can continue bidding. The live bidding process is viewable live by all parties, although how much each party sees varies.
"We would send someone to the city of Los Angeles, and they watch this with someone from the city," said Koberna.
The city can see the amounts bid, but until the process ends, they can't identify the companies, and vendors can see their bid, but don't know what other companies are bidding, he explained.
"All they know is the rank; they don't know the other prices and they don't know the other vendors," said Koberna. "That's part of a legal requirement to retain a sealed bid process."
The result of the process is, companies end up competing to win a contract with the lowest possible price they can manage.
In addition to Los Angeles, EASiBuy includes among its clients the Cayman Islands, the city of Hudson, the city of Chicago and seven states, said Koberna.
Beyond getting to the lowest possible price. Koberna said the bidding process helps municipalities catch anomalies in pricing. If for example, one firm’s price is curiously better than its competitors, one might ask why.
"There are also legal reasons why a government might want a third party doing this," he said. "Often, we're brought in because we have significant transparency in the process."
He said sometimes a blind process is best because certain companies may have relationships with government entities, which could become a factor in a process where the government knows who’s bidding what.
He said EASiBuy saves an average of 27% on purchases that go through the reverse raffle process. The company also can conduct regular raffles, but he said that’s not done as often.
He said the company was able to save the Cayman Islands on medicine. During a reverse raffle, Koberna said 60 vendors places 1,037 bids on and saved $3.8 million on as $12 million contract. The savings enabled the government to keep a program distributing free HIV drugs.
"They mentioned this in their equivalent of their state of the union speech," added Koberna.
If companies wish to offer bonuses to companies with minority or veteran employment, Koberna said that can be baked into the scoring, as well.
"We're the only company that does this level of complexity," he said. "We can also do all the line items you can come up with."
For complicated contracts, such as office supplies for the state of New York, Koberna said the company can set up the software to award multiple bids or combine them, depending on the client's wishes.
In addition to running the reverse raffles, EASiBuy tries to facilitate government contracts in other ways. In cases where there are one or a limited number of qualified bidders, Koberna said EASiBuy can help contact other companies and encourage them to bid on projects.
In those cases, the companies are still subject to the municipality’s vetting process, but, assuming the get through that, they could land a contract they wouldn’t have been aware of were it not for the call from EASiBuy, explained Koberna.
Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, email@example.com or @bobgaetjens_rpc.