I alluded yesterday to some stirrings in terms of small business SaaS ecosystems. I didn’t post specifics yesterday as the initiative was somewhat stealth.
In their own words, The Small Business Web aims to;
bring together like-minded, customer-obsessed software companies to integrate our respective products and make life easier for small businesses. While there are many products available for small business owners on the Web, the approach we’re taking is to use each others APIs to provide a high-level of integration between these applications and create a more seamless experience for our customers
Chatting with Sunir Shah, Chief Handshaker from FreshBooks, it seems that the initiative is all about providing a complete set of integrations – all players integrating with each other – rather than simple two way integrations. They believe in doing so they’ve begun to create a complete offering, a “web of SaaS” for SMBs. Think of a best-of-breed suite that is customised to a particular user’s needs.
The initiative members seem pretty bullish about the value to be gained from The Small Business Web – it goes someway to pre-empting the sorts of easy integrations that SaaS has been promising since its inception. It also goes some way to addressing the concerns that led to Martin Kleppmann’s OAccounts initiaitve – that is a simple, easy and consistent way of integrating different small business applications.
Of course there’s always a flip side to this approach – the duplication within the businesses (separate marketing and overhead etc etc) is going to have an impact on the cost of the suite – until now it’s been easy to justify a few USD20 subscriptions per month here and there – however when we look at a suite made up of a number of different applications, that price ticket can grow pretty rapidly – the jury is out on how well businesses will cope with a USD100 or USD200 “suite” of SaaS products – especially when some of the other players are providing close to the functionality of all of the separate offerings, but at a lower total cost.
In response to these concerns I was told that the idea of the web is not that customers will buy all the products. It’s that
there is a real ecosystem forming and customers will pick the software
that plays well with all their other tools over those that are
disconnected. That’s a powerful selling point and it will be interesting to see which other players join the initiaive.
Either way – integration is good, as is enabling efficiencies for small businesses – The Small Business Web is definitely one to watch.