Silicon Valley Bank is expanding the online services it offers start-up companies and revamping its Web site dedicated to them.
The Web site, eSource, offers the bank's small-business customers a range of services, including banking, procurement, recruiting, human resources, payroll, marketing, public relations, and location assistance. The site bolsters the bank's strategy of serving emerging-technology companies.
Soon after eSource's launching in September 1999, the bank recognized its value as an "idea lab" for testing new ways of offering services, said Lalitha Swart, executive vice president of Silicon Valley Bank, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif.
The bank is incorporating what it learns into an upgraded site, which will be introduced in early 2001, she said. "I think it is fair to say that we are learning what works and what doesn't. You are constantly changing your business model."
The site will probably get a new domain name, she said.
Silicon Valley Bank hopes to have a Web site with a clear sense of community and more global services, Ms. Swart said, though she kept most details under wraps.
"The bank itself is a very good community of investors, entrepreneurs, and suppliers," she said. "That community element does not really come across on the site. We do want to create that feel to it."
As its customers expand their operations internationally, Silicon Valley Bank intends to have online services available to help them.
"They need help overseas, as well as domestically," Ms. Swart said. "And they have come to us for that kind of introduction, whether it is from the most mundane, 'Help me set up a bank account overseas,' to 'Do you guys know any distributors that could help?' "
Supported by a staff of 25, eSource has attracted thousands of users, many of them new customers at the bank.
Improvements are continual: Last month the bank added e-procurement, which helps customers obtain office supplies and equipment. "We have a very different idea of what e-procurement is all about," Ms. Swart said. "We are not just trying to create another b-to-b marketplace. We are trying to figure out what business problems we can solve for our clients."
For example, the bank allows credit applications on the site and offers workflow tools so that users can track their purchases. "That's a big deal because most young companies don't have a good workflow tool that they can use. It is done on an ad hoc basis," Ms. Swart said.
The bank does not charge service fees on eSource, which remains a money loser and is not being actively marketed. But "in the long term, we think it will create a substantial revenue stream," Ms. Swart said.
Mastering "the psychology of getting people to actively go and engage online" is extremely important, she added.
"We have learned a lot from eSource about what we think will translate into a new site and what won't," she said. "We have discovered what we think could be better."