The site has yet to launch, but it will be a marketplace for merchants to sell their goods online — much like eBay or Amazon.
It will be run by two startups — Auctiva and Vendio — that Alibaba acquired in 2010. This launch also follows Alibaba’s $15 million investment in the vintage e-commerce site 1stdibs and its $US200 million investment in Shoprunner, another U.S. company.
One of the huge secrets to Alibaba’s $US100 billion success in its home country is that that it blocks China’s search engine from searching inside two of its most popular web stores, Taobao and Tmall. (To understand that contrast from the norm, Google search “buy ___,” and you’ll see that Google will pull up product listings from sites like Amazon and Ebay. You can’t do that with a Chinese search engine.) By not allowing search engines to display Taobao or Tmall items in search, Alibaba makes consumers start all their searches within each virtual store. It can then rake in cash by selling search ads on Taobao and Tmall — acting more like Google in how it makes money than eBay or Amazon.
Alibaba also makes Taobao completely free to use for both buyers and sellers. Amazon chargers sellers a fee. It will be interesting to see how Amazon responds to 11 Main.
If the new site is successful, this move could also mean a boost for Yahoo!, which owns 20% of the company. Yahoo! plans to sell back 10% of that stake when Alibaba IPOs (and rumours suggest that the company will go public this year).
Here’s what 11 Main looks like right now