Mansueto Digital, the online unit of Mansueto Ventures, publisher of Inc. and of Fast Company, introduced IncBizNet (www.incbiznet.com) as the inaugural element of a $10 million, multiyear strategy to grow the brands' Web presence.
The site will include an extensive directory of U.S.-based private companies with data regularly provided and updated by the companies (including information on products and services). It offers businesses free services such as a press release newswire, blogging software and access to local community groups for entrepreneurs.
IncBizNet and member companies can create moderated groups based on industry, location or topic, while advertisers can create sponsored groups and discussions.
"We're providing tools so the aggregate result is a great company profile in a Web 2.0 sort of way," said Ed Sussman, president of Mansueto Digital. "The [tools] enable companies to engage in dialogue, and help get the word out. It's also an environment for large advertisers to reach” companies that populate the site."
The network has been prepopulated with companies from this year's Inc. 5,000, a list of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S. However, all U.S.-based, privately held companies are eligible. Senior managers from registered companies—including CEOs, CMOs and PR directors—can participate in the network as well. Mansueto Digital’s goal is to have 1 million private companies participate.
Trade association and business organizations are also being invited to join the network.
American Express OPEN, which targets small-business executives, and cable operator Comcast have signed on as initial sponsors.
"When Inc. told us that they were looking for a partner, we jumped at the opportunity because we believe in bringing small businesses together to help them grow their businesses through connections," said Rosa Alfonso, director of public affairs for American Express OPEN. "At OPENForum.com, we have our own proprietary site that does this as well; but we recognize that we can't reach everyone on our home turf, so we scaled out our efforts through this sponsorship on IncBizNet.com."
American Express and Comcast will have exclusive sponsorships for the first six months that the site is running, Sussman said. "We want to offer a deep level of engagement with members of the community," he said. "We don't want typical display ads, but for advertisers to develop a relationship" with companies that populate the site.
He added that IncBizNet has adapted a page from social networks such as MySpace and Facebook, but with a strong bent toward business.
"We serve a smaller but much more focused [audience], with much higher buying power than the average social network," he said. "We're completely catering to their needs, and there's a very proactive interest [from advertisers] on how they run their business."
Mansueto Digital is planning to launch a similar online network for Fast Company in late November.