The explosive growth of public cloud services has generated a parallel problem: How can companies, especially small businesses and freelancers without the benefit of a dedicated procurement department, filter the flood of choices available for every type of business software and find the one that's best for them?
Israeli startup Chekkt, which is formally launching Wednesday, is focused on solving this problem with an online marketplace that combines Yelp-like product reviews with special offers from vendors and, down the road, the ability to directly purchase software through the site.
On first glance Chekkt looks a lot like G2 Crowd, an enterprise-software product review site launched early last year. The key difference is Chekkt's planned e-commerce capabilities, as well as original rich media content aimed at making the site more than just a marketplace, said CEO Ori Manor.
"We want to make sure it's interesting to be on Chekkt, and that it's not just a comparison engine or a place to get more references," Manor said.
For example, a page featuring a Web marketing application might embed an interview with a SEO (search-engine-optimization) expert, he said.
Right now, Chekkt has 1,200 vendors listed in its system, but is hoping to add thousands more as soon as possible. "Discoverability is the main feature we present to the world right now," Manor said.
Once it builds up its inventory of vendors, the company plans to roll out a transactional API (application programming interface) for making direct purchases.
Chekkt's system will process the payment, keeping a cut for Chekkt, and help the vendor create a customer account. The customer would then receive their login credentials for the cloud service and proceed from there.
In the meantime, Chekkt gives vendors the ability to provide special offers, such as a coupon code that gives a 50 percent discount on subscription fees.
Where G2 Crowd has an edge over Chekkt right now is in the number of reviews it contains; Chekkt's stockpile is pretty sparse at present, having been built up by beta testers invited to join.
This will change now that Chekkt is broadly seeking users and as vendors encourage their customers to add reviews, Manor said.
To the latter end, however, Chekkt is keenly focused on keeping biased reviews out of its system. "Nobody can pay for a rating," Manor said.
Like G2 Crowd, Chekkt requires reviewers to log in with their LinkedIn or Facebook credentials in order to provide accountability.
Chekkt moderators are notified when a new review comes in, and they scrutinize it for irregularities or red flags.
But it's not clear how much protection that level of vetting provides. For example, a software vendor could ask its sales representatives to log in with their personal Facebook accounts and post glowing product reviews. It's not clear whether Chekkt's dragnet would include running down those posters' occupations, revealing the bias and keeping the reviews out of the system.
Manor conceded the point.
"Like every other review site we're not going to have a 100 percent success rate [in keeping out biased reviews] but we're going to strive toward that," he said.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com