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Buying Metal

Materials Now: RFQs Made Easy

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MCN Editor Dan Markham Software venture from industry veteran simplifies the search process for metal consumers. 

MaterialsNow is a venture that was 50 years in the making.
John Nolan, the company’s co-founder, had been buying and selling metal since the 1970s, working as a middleman connecting mills and consumers of industrial products. 

He retired three years ago when he sold his company, but his zeal for the business remained in place. Moreover, his knowledge and connections within the industry were still a valuable asset.

Since then, he’s put that insight to work in a new software venture, MaterialsNow, which can be found at

“We’ve been working on this specific software for about six months,” says Greg Nolan. “The database that informs it has been worked on since the 1970s. It’s a vetted supplier database that [John’s] been building over the decades.”

The Nolans originally initially set out as a marketplace, the space occupied by Reibus, Felux and others. That didn’t pan out the way the Nolans anticipated.

It required demand side and supply side to be onboarded and actively using the platform. “We pivoted away from that for about a year, doing some consulting in another analog version.” Then, they hit on the venture that would become MaterialsNow. “Instead of  being a middleman, he’d provide them the sourcing to see if they could get a good quote,” Greg Nolan says. 

The new direction streamlines the process for metal buyers, particularly those without existing relationships with certain suppliers. Yet, it doesn’t require active participation from the producers and other suppliers.

Through MaterialsNow, metals (or other industrial goods) purchasers will send a single RFQ with the proper parameters to the software. MaterialsNow will then relay that request to the hundreds of suppliers inside its database. Quotes can then be emailed back to the potential customers from the suppliers. 

“Right now, consumers have to go to Google, go to five or six different supplier websites and submit an RFQ to each one of them through whatever means they offer, website, email, call. It’s all very fragmented,” Greg Nolan says. Then, they have to wait for responses from those five, not aware of the possibility there could be five better ones out there. 

The database and software are designed to specifically target the proper suppliers. Greg Nolan points to a customer looking for titanium products as an example. “You fill out an RFQ for titanium bar and the particular grade. That’s going to go to a different subset of suppliers than one for Titanium 2, Grade 5. We have those parameters built in.”

The result of that is suppliers are only getting requests that are relevant to them, while the buyers are getting quality quotes in return.

MaterialsNow operates by charging the buyers a low monthly subscription fee to participate, while the suppliers pay nothing. The suppliers don’t even have to sign up, as the proper channels for quotations are part of John Nolan’s existing database.  
“Every source we reached out has been positive,” he says. Their openness is understandable. “There’s no cost for the supply side, they just get leads,” Greg Nolan says. 

He acknowledges there is a risk that some metal buyers will walk away once they have located some quality suppliers through use of the MaterialsNow software, but Greg Nolan believes the wide variety of requests that can be made, and the corresponding wide variety of suppliers handling those specific demands, will make it worthwhile for subscribers to continue on. 

Another way MaterialsNow has attempted to distinguish itself is by not limiting its options to one product group, such as carbon steel. In fact, it’s not even limited to just industrial metals, with MaterialsNow capable of putting users in touch with rubber and plastics and ceramics suppliers as well. 

Ultimately, the Nolans believe the software will enhance the buying experience for industrial consumers in three main ways. It cuts down on search time. You find better quality sources to get what you need. And it significantly optimizes receiving and comparing quotes. 

“It’s not a marketplace; it’s software,” Greg Nolan says. “We’re not selling any material. We’re not facilitating any transactions. We’re improving the search process, to give the demand side access to those suppliers.”