In 1996, at the request of the local Varian salesmen, I had traveled to Australia to show off the software Jeff and I had written. One of the venues I had gone to was a prestigious teaching hospital...
I provide technical advice to a number of TV series and movies. It is my job to ensure that medical scenes are “technically” accurate within their “artistic impression.” If you are a fan of **** and have watched their high-tech medical scenes, you’ve seen some of my work. I’m presently working on a feature movie . . . I wish to obtain info on specialized equipment and availability for its use in this movie . . .
An eager man in a lab coat interrupted my demonstration to tell a colleague enthusiastically that he had been able to get the specifications for a certain piece of radiotherapy equipment made in the U.S. He was thrilled that he had been able to get this information from across the world while the manufacturers slept. And he was most thrilled that he had been able to get it in a couple of hours.
He had searched many different websites to locate the correct manufacturer. Then he had searched for some time within that manufacturer’s site. But he eventually found what he was looking for much faster than the current method of spending hours calling colleagues to locate a fax number, sending a fax and then waiting until those lazy Americans got out of bed.
I asked him what the product was. By a lucky coincidence, I had that particular product catalogued in our software. In seconds I was able to pull up the same information he had in his hands. They liked that idea and would soon join the thousands of visitors to our website.
After being with us for only a few months, our very talented website designer/marketing guy was helping to expand the catalog from our CD onto the Neoforma website. He developed techniques for directing thousands of new, curious visitors from all over the world to our website every week. An intelligent artist/entrepreneur with a mischievous sense of humor, Todd reveled in the challenge of bringing people to our domain. His road signs were cleverly crafted to convey uniqueness and stimulate curiosity.
Under his influence, our site became the perfect destination for the increasing number of brave souls poking around the Web, seeking information they couldn’t find any other way. Todd’s perseverance and creativity changed everything.
In March of 1997 our online catalog was still relatively small, containing information on only a few thousand products. However, the email inquiries sent by visitors using our website to suppliers were of great and intriguing variety:
**** is a medical device manufacturer currently looking for a new vendor for ****. We purchase roughly 12,000 per year. Please send any information and pricing to . . .
We need to buy 2 million 1 cc disposable syringes with 24 gauge push on needles. C&F price [Middle Eastern country]. Target price US$ 4.40 each.
We are in need of blanket warmers to be used on rats during surgery . . .
The variety of stuff they were looking for went far beyond our initial scope. What an interesting challenge, connecting this community together in some way that made sense to everyone involved!
If everyone benefited from what we created, then it should be easy to come up with a model where the costs were balanced with the gains—especially when single transactions were often worth millions of dollars.
We were definitely onto something good here.