There are two distinct product strategies that SaaS office productivity vendors can take. One is to encourage third parties to build complementary solutions to their own, and in this way create a multi-vendor ecosystem. In the business realm FreshBooks is a perfect example of this strategy. To succeed with this strategy, vendors need to have some killer-feature, some secret sauce to hook customers. The other option is to build a compelling story by having a near-complete solution yourself – Zoho (disclaimer – Zoho sponsors CloudAve) is a good example of this other approach.
Another entrant to the ecosystem space is FastDue. FastDue is by their own description, “a free, online suite of business productivity tools with instant invoicing, interactive billing and collections, and the only live, interactive contract negotiation and execution on the web”. They’re hopeful that by their own "secret sauce" (legal agreement negotiation and execution) that they’ll build a compelling offering.
So what can you do with FastDue?
Invoicing and collection – not unlike other offerings, FastDue has an invoicing, reminder and collection function. Again like other offerings invoices can be customised as required to produce a professional image.
What is novel about FastDue’s offering however is their online contract negotiation system. Customers can use FastDue’s legal and business template agreements or add their own agreements for online execution and storage. (Standard templates include Non-Disclosure Agreement, Non-Circumvent Agreement, Finder’s Agreement, Consulting Agreement, Sale of Goods Agreement, Promissory Note, General Release, Residential Lease, At Will Employment, and Intellectual Property).
As would be expected from a solution that includes contract handling, FastDue has a document repository system to store and access business documents.
Currently FastDue’s core services are free but ad supported. Apparently premium charged services as well as paid advertising-free options are in the works.
Soon to be released are functions for board meeting organization, estimating/quoting and account payment tracking.
Has it got legs?
The online invoicing space is pretty busy. Between bill.com and Freshbooks both SMBs and bigger operations are well served. The chances for FastDue’s success therefore rest on enough customers seeing extra value in being able to negotiate and manage legal agreements online and integrally with their invoicing function – that’s a bit of a long shot in my opinion.
It seems much more logical for the existing invoicing players to either seamlessly integrate an existing online document system within their app, or to build a simple document repository of their own.