Bridge 2 Technologies began with the notion that it should be easier for companies to find a diverse set of vendors. The company formed three years ago with the idea of bringing these two groups together in a two-way marketplace.

Today, the company announced the official launch of the Bridge 2 Technologies vendor marketplace with around 500 corporations and 3000 vendors on an AI-fueled platform. It had been in beta for a couple of years.

Founder and CEO Eric Kelly says that he has been working to bring people together for years, but at a diversity conference a few years ago, he became enamored with the idea of creating a digital platform where corporations could find a curated set of diverse vendors.

It’s really about networking and communications. “If Slack and LinkedIn had a baby this is what it would look like,” Kelly told TechCrunch, but the platform was built with a focus on finding diverse vendors. “It really was the development efforts of the large corporations, the diverse companies, the leaders in that industry, saying what are the things that we need to do to actually connect everyone together,” he said.

Kelly said the idea for the platform was born at a one-day conference in New York a few years ago, which brought together corporate leaders and the leaders from diverse companies. It went so well, they wanted a way to keep these groups connected.

“As we talked about it, [the participants] said we don’t have a way of connecting in a meaningful way to find the corporations that are ready to scale, finding the talent. And so I raised my hand and said, ‘OK guys, I’ll build a platform if you help me build the ecosystem.’ And that’s how it started,” Kelly recalled.

While many companies such as government contractors have a mandate to work with a diverse group of vendors, it’s often a challenge to find and vet them. That’s why it was goal for the platform to be highly curated, so that the corporations looking for vendors would be working with a set of companies that have passed some sort of diversity certification from a vendor perspective, and can handle the needs of a large corporation.

“So that’s why it’s invitation-only. So when they go to the platform, they know that company has already been curated either by them or by one of the large certification bodies that they’ve already done business with,” Kelly said.

The plan was originally to launch with just 250 vendors, but they are actually launching today with over 3000. Kelly said they took a very deliberate approach to building the platform, not taking any venture capital, so that they could take their time and get it right before launching.

The AI on the backend helps deliver the right content to the right person or company, while translating and taking care of other tasks that can make the platform easier to use.

While the platform is intended to help companies find diverse vendors, an altruistic goal to be sure, it’s still a for-profit venture, says Kelly. As such, both vendors and corporations pay for the privilege of being on the platform, driving revenue from both sides of the house. Pricing is still being worked out.

Bridge 2 Technologies is making it easier for companies to find diverse vendors by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch