Tech Spheres

Discussion of Web 2.0 Business Strategies (SaaS, PaaS, Strategy, Enterprise, Small Business, Flex)

“Closing the Last Mile”: An apps marketplace for small business

Posted by Alex Chriss on November 18, 2008

{Originally posted on The AppGap}

If you’re a small business today, the breadth and quality of software and services available to help you run your business is limited. You just don’t get the same offerings that are available to the Fortune 1,000 crowd. Why is this? It’s just too darn expensive. We hear about infrastructure companies that have a “last mile” problem – as in – I can get the data to the town but getting it into each individual home is too costly.  Well, the same thing is true for the small business community.

Three things scare developers away from serving the small business market:

1) Price sensitivity: The value of a dollar is not created equal – small businesses need to see value and need to see it fast! Offerings will need to be priced accordingly.

2) Making it work with other apps: Software providers selling to the enterprise can send in swat teams to perform backend integration – who can afford to do that for a 5 person business?

3) Customer “reachability”: With roughly 26 million small businesses in the US alone, the market potential is enormous, but how do I reach them without a national TV campaign or shelf space at Staples?

We’ve seen this dilemma played out over the last few years. Millions of Small Businesses wanting more choices that fit their needs. And thousands of developers with expert domain knowledge on how to solve their needs, but no confidence they can do it and make a return on their investment.

Enter the Intuit Partner Platform – matchmaker extraordinaire, we believe. By leveraging the roles we’ve played in serving millions of small businesses with our own technology development over the last 25 years, we’re in a unique position to bring these two groups together. So how does it work?

For Developers: We offer a Platform as a Service that allows them to quickly and easily build a Software as a Service (SaaS) application for specific small business needs. We host the application/service, take care of the billing, user management, and much of the other stuff that makes SaaS expensive for the developer. In addition, we offer the developer one-click data integration with an SMB’s back-office – which is almost always their QuickBooks data. We handle the data synchronization, security and storage of the data, and free up the developer to apply their expertise to solving the customer’s problem. And lastly, we put their app in a marketplace and drive traffic through our marketing channels. We have 25 million employees in our QuickBooks customers and some good experience reaching the SMB market.

For Small Businesses: They get a single marketplace to discover and use a wide array of applications to help their business — and they can be confident that these new apps and their data is on a platform they trust.

So how does this all come together? Here’s an example: yesterday Universal Mind launched an application on the platform that allows small businesses to geographically visualize their customer data (check out this CNET story on the news). The app brings in a company’s customer data from QuickBooks and allows a small business to manipulate the data to glean valuable business intelligence. With map overlays of census data such as median house-hold income, SMB’s can now be far more intelligent in their business decisions. (Where are my best customers coming from? Where should I consider expanding? etc…)

customer explorer

Technology like this was previously unavailable to the small business community. But through the power of Software-as-a-Service, data integration, and customer accessibility, both the small business and the developer win, in our humble opinion.

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2 Responses to ““Closing the Last Mile”: An apps marketplace for small business”

  1. Dan said

    If you would like a tool to manage your small business activities and Projects, you can use this web aplication:

    http://www.Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage and prioritize your Goals (for business but also in other areas of your life), Projects and Tasks. It has a Checklists section, for the routines and repetitive activities that any business has to do. Also, it features a Schedules section and a Calendar, for scheduling you time and activities.

    Some features from GTD are also present, like Contexts and Next Actions.

    And it’s available on the mobile phone too, so you can access it from anywhere.

  2. @Dan – Cool – you should build/launch the app on the Intuit Partner Platform and take advantage of our marketing channels. Could help drive traffic!

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