Well, it is unfortunate that Germany is being perceived as the startup cloning capital of the world. Like everywhere else there are startups which bluntly clone, which copy and build upon a successful idea or which truely innovate – and there are a lot of them. But as a matter of fact: when it comes to successful ideas it is not so much a question if there is a German counterpart, the question is when and how many of them. Latest adaptee: Jigsaw, latest adaptor: Smartdex, time to adaption: about 18 months.

Smartdex is a new marketplace for trading business contacts which publicly launched yesterday (announcement in German). They use crowdsourcing techniques for building a user-created database of business contacts. A few thousand contacts already have been added whilst the site was beta tested during the last 3 weeks.

screenshot smartdex

The model simplified: all information is entered and updated by the users; the currency of the system are points, one point equals 20 Cents.

As user you get

  • 25 points for signing up.
  • 5 points for adding a new contact.
  • 5 points for updating/correcting a contact.
  • 2 points whenever someone buys a contact you have added; you can use only these points to cash them in.

you loose

  • 5 points when you buy a contact.
  • 5 points if you have entered wrong contact data.
  • 5 points if you have updated a contact with wrong data.
  • 20 Cents for each point you buy; this feature will be added soon.

When it comes to aggregating and selling contact information there obviously are legal and privacy issues involved. They do provide a guideline on what type of contacts are allowed to be added by German law, but they also state in their terms of service that the user who has entered a contact is being held responsible if there are any legal conflicts.

They use the Wikipedia for explaining how the systems works, but imagine a Wikipedia which lets you only read one article for each article you write. Anyway, the business model is brilliant. They get all information entered for free, have no legal risk and an army of contact hungry salespeople will love to pay for qualified business contacts.

This article originally was written for blognation Germany. Since blognation is gone I have reposted it here.