Every year, Parallels releases a report about the small business market (SMB) to show its customers some possible directions to take their businesses. This year at Parallels Summit, its annual conference for hosting and services providers, the report is dominated by the cloud.
According to Parallels:
Parallels also used the conference to discuss its version of a cloud marketplace and a new cloud storage offering. I will get deeper into the state of the cloud marketplace in a Google Hangout that I am co-moderating today with Krishnan Subramanian of Rishidot Research. We’ll have Parallels executives there, as well as representatives from the hosting world.
The small business market is expanding but it is still a question how Parallels will compete. The company is heavily marketing its cloud marketplace but the proof of its success is still a question mark. This is a market with major players such as AWS and companies like Standing Cloud and Bitnami, which have made their mark by packaging apps. Bitnami recently helped Microsoft Open Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft, with the launch of VM Depot, “a community-driven catalog of open source virtual machine images for Windows Azure.”
Online tech support company, 24/7 Techies, has raised a $600,000 seed round led by Dave McClure’s 500 Startups to accelerate its offerings for small and medium sized businesses. Other notable investors in the round include Rajan Anandan (VP Google India) and Shailesh Rao (VP Twitter, International Operations). Since launching a dedicated micro SMB offering in April this year, the company says it has more than 100 customers for the new service and is seeing month-over-month growth of 20 percent.
CEO Dilendra Wimalasekere says the funding is largely ear-marked for sales and marketing to ramp up customer acquisition: “It’s going to be predominantly used to ramp up our sales and marketing activity — and also grow some of our information systems, reorganisation and grow the support team.”
24/7 Techies uses an online service model to deliver fully managed, remote tech support for its customers around the clock and around the globe from its location in Sri Lanka — and says it distinguishes itself from other tech service providers (such as Geek Squad, and other locally managed service providers) through cheaper prices but also by offering a more extensive range of services — including “CIO style” consultancy and advisory services for SMBs.
Wimalasekere claims 24/7 Techies’ SMB offering — pricing starts at $99 per month for a micro SMB with one to three employees — can undercut rivals by as much as 50 percent. The company promises customers access to a trained tech support professional within 60 seconds, 24/7, “no exceptions”. Its support services cover more than 100 cloud apps and “any device” — from PCs, to smartphones, tablets and “mission critical servers”. It also claims it has strong customer loyalty — noting it has a Net Promotor Score ”in the 90s”.
24/7 Techies, which currently has 65 staff, was spun out of IT outsourcer Eureka Technology Partners, and initially focused on selling consumer IT support services (still a part of its business). But Wimalasekere tells TechCrunch it noticed that approaching to a fifth of its customers were actually micro SMBs — and realised there was a gap in the market.
Its current focus is on the U.S., Canada, Australia and U.K. markets — around 70 percent of its 8,500+ customers are in the U.S. — but Wimalasekere says it’s looking to expand globally. “We have a few other locations in mind,” he notes.
Further plans to grow the business include broadening its portfolio of SMB services — to offer additional consultancy services, support more cloud apps and bring in additional expertise in areas such as Oracle and Salesforce, he adds.
M.dot, a startup offering small businesses a way to manage their mobile presence, beginning with mobile websites, has launched. The company is backed by $700,000 in seed funding, having recently closed a seed investment round of $600,000 led by Floodgate. The round also saw participation from SV Angel, Sean Jacobsohn, a partner at Emergence Capital, and Harris Barton, the SF 49ers football star-turned-investor. TechCrunch co-founder Keith Teare’s Archimedes Labs is also an investor in M.dot.
Based in Redwood City, and now a team of five, the company thinks of itself as more than just another mobile website creation service. Explains Dominik Balogh, who co-founded M.dot with Serbajlo Pavel, “M.dot is a first step in the segment towards helping small businesses be truly mobile, and manage their mobile presence from an actual mobile device wherever they are.” Mobile website creation is just the beginning and the core of M.dot, he says.
Currently, the service allows business owners to use an iOS app to create their mobile site, choosing from a gallery of included templates to do so. Users can turn on or off the features they need – like photo galleries, a blog, an “About” page and more. They can also tap to add new pages on the fly, and the interface makes it really simple to add key items like Store Hours, a logo, or social sharing buttons, for example. Everything about the app has been designed with a mobile-first mindset, and is optimized for a small screen.
But there are dozens of mobile website creation tools out there, is building a site via an app versus building one on the web really a big differentiator? Balogh insists it is. He says the company won’t have to deal with legacy complications or compatibility issues, which offers them a technological advantage over the competition. Plus, many small business owners may just feel more comfortable using an app than an online service.
As for what’s next, the startup will work on mobile promotion and third-party service integrations, creating distribution channels, and building apps for Android, iPad and possibly the web. For now, M.dot is free. Plans for monetization in the future will involve paying a yearly subscription for a package which includes a site on the M.dot domain and promotion on third-party services. However, details and pricing info regarding those plans are not available right now. You can download the M.dot app for free here in iTunes.
We’re here at Microsoft’s Mountain View, California offices waiting for the kickoff of 500 Startups’ Summer 2012 Demo Day. Today, the fourth batch of startups to pass through the famed Silicon Valley startup accelerator program will show off their stuff to a room full of investors and media.
As a refresher: 500 Startups is an early-stage seed fund and incubator program for startups with an edge when it comes to the “three D’s” — Design, data, and distribution. The program, which was founded by Dave McClure in 2010, invests between $25,000 to $250,000 in each of its startups. 500 Startups has grown over the years from essentially being a one-man-band to a full-on venture capital firm in the process of raising $50 million for its second investment fund, twice the size of its first.
This latest batch is comprised of 27 startups who have been immersed in the 500 Startups program since the session began April 2nd. If we know Dave McClure, there is sure to be lots of fun (and a healthy dose of foul language) ahead. We’ve embedded the live stream in this post so you can catch the action as it happens:
Ryan Lawler and I are on the scene along with TechCrunch TV camera guy/producer/editor extraordinaire John Murillo, so more in-depth coverage is on the way. But for now, here are the facts and figures about this Demo Day:
And here in alphabetical order is the full lineup of the latest 500 Startups class, along with their self-descriptions:
ActivityHero: We take the project management out of parenting by making it easier for parents to find, schedule and coordinate kids after-school activities and summer camps.
Bluefields: Intelligently organising recreational sports, in order to engage the 2.3B strong amateur sports audience.
Bombfell: Bombfell makes dressing well easy for guys. We send monthly shipments of designer clothes that are picked for you by a stylist.
Chalkable: Chalkable is an app store for school and a platform to make those apps work.
Fontacto: Cloud based phone system for SMBs in Mexico & Latam. It’s the Google Voice (for Business) / RingCentral / Grasshopper for Latin America
Glyder: SMB Marketing Done Right. Simple, Beautiful & Mobile.
Groupiter: We make your Dropbox… social! Groupiter adds group conversations to the files you share on Dropbox.
Happy Inspector: Fixing the way we inspect rental housing
Ingresse: Ingresse is Brazil’s first social ticketing company. We allow people to find events they love and event organizers to reach their audience. Anyone can post an event for free and sell out like a pro.
Monogram: Monogram is your personal shopper on the iPad. We help you curate the best fashion products and sales based on your style.
Network (formerly known as CardFlick): The Smarter Way for Professionals to Connect (and Stay in Contact)
PublikDemand: PublikDemand helps consumers launch viral complaints against big companies and use the power of the collective voice to get their problem solved.
Reclip.It: A Personalized Dashboard for Frugal Shoppers
Sqoot: Klout for SMB.
Storypanda: Making reading more collaborative for kids.
Teamly: Teamly helps companies get rid of pointless performance reviews and instead replace them with a real-time alternative to help them manage their employees all year round.
TeliportMe: TeliportMe is the social network for immersive experiences.
TenderTree: TenderTree helps families find a caregiver for the elderly or disabled.
Tie Society: Netflix for ties and more, a try-before-you-buy subscription service for men’s neckwear. When you have to look good, we help you look your best.
Timbuktu Labs: The iPad magazine for you and your children.
TokyoOtakuMode: TokyoOtakuMode builds the world’s largest online Anime & Cosplay community, curates the best Anime content!
Toshl: Super easy personal finance assistant, making finance fun. Importing data from banks worldwide.
Tuckernuck (formerly Uscoop): Tuckernuck is e-commerce for the all-American lifestyle.
TwitMusic: Twitmusic.com lets music artists post their tracks to Twitter & Facebook and access tools to increase their fan base and reach new audiences.
UmbaBox: A curated discovery service for handmade goods.
Wanderable: Honeymoon registries for couples who want experiences, not stuff.
Yogome: Mobile Learning Games Platform for Kids ages 4 – 10
Follow this link: 500 Startups Demo Day: Meet The 27 Newest Dave McClure-Approved Startups
With all the noise being made about how essential startups and small businesses are to economic growth and stability, you’d think that the powers that be would be a little more eager to help these job-generators protect their assets. The truth is, when it comes to security and protection, there are a host of laws and organizations designed to protect individual consumers from fraud, predatory practices, and everything in between. What’s more, while corporations and big businesses may not have quite the same level of protection, their budgets afford them the ability to invest in sophisticated banking and payment solutions. But SMBs? Not so much.
In fact, Gartner estimates that more than 10 percent of small businesses have been the victim of theft and/or fraud, with losses totaling more than $2 billion. That’s because small businesses are more or less forced to rely on a variety of ad hoc and manual processes, paper checks and online bill pay systems, which mean complexity, higher security risks and less control. MineralTree emerged out of stealth mode last November to come to the rescue of small businesses.
With a cloud-based banking and payment solution designed specifically for the 3 million+ companies with revenues between $500K and $50M, MineralTree is on a mission to give these SMBs a simple, streamlined solution that adds a bit of efficiency and security to their payment processes.
MineralTree launched last year with $1.5 million in seed funding and partnerships with big banks like Silicon Valley Bank. This week the startup added to its coffers, announcing that it has raised an additional $6.3 million in venture funding. The new round was led by Fidelity Growth Partners with participation from the startup’s previous investor, .406 Ventures. As a result of the investment, Shyam Kamadolli, Director at Fidelity Growth Partners, will be joining MineralTree’s board of directors.
And, going back to the startup’s early partnership with Silicon Valley Bank — this is an important part of the startup’s value proposition. Banks aren’t psyched on the prospect of disintermediation at the hands of alternative payment processors (cough, PayPal, cough), as many SMBs opt to use those services rather than big bank alternatives.
Banks want to strengthen their relationships with SMBs, especially as they grow into larger organizations and begin dealing with more complex payment needs as a result. That spells cash for the banks. While PayPal and the like own “merchant receiving,” MineralTree focuses on business sending and aims to help banks maintain control over this half of the deal.
MineralTree enhances and helps strengthen banks’ relationships with SMB customers, funding its own operations through partnerships with banks and allowing them to choose the price at which they offer their banking and payment apps to the bank’s SMB customers.
On the flip side, MineralTree offers SMBs security, mobility and visibility into the management of B2B payments via web and iPad apps. The solution is free for SMBs to use and MineralTree integrates into a SMBs’ existing accounting system, like QuickBooks, for example, providing financial and executive management with visibility and control over payment approvals, and the process as a whole.
But why would an SMB want to use MineralTree when they can just use bill pay, you ask? There is definitely still a belief that bill pay is the answer to SMB payments, but, in reality, it’s just not true. First off, SMBs don’t really use bill pay, and if they did, it would kill banks because of the associated expenses. In other words, bill pay is generally free to customers, which means that banks eat the costs.
So, MineralTree essentially offers a logical alternative: A secure, mobile-optimized payment solution that SMBs can actually use (at no cost), while bringing an attractive clientele (and an additional source of revenue) to banks. SMBs get to take advantage of the user experience normally reserved for big businesses and their treasury management solutions.
It could be that Square and PayPal et al are just adding too many attractive features with mobile payment systems and software integrated in-store as part of the day-to-day operations of SMBs for MineralTree to have serious long-term viability. But it’s probably more likely true that B2B payments are still maturing and that SMBs continue to represent a huge underserved opportunity.
By adding value to banks, which are growing prickly over the mention of the PayPals of the world, it seems that the startup is addressing a big market and playing it smart by keeping both sides happy.
For more, find MineralTree here.
See the rest here: MineralTree Grabs $6.3M To Give SMBs A Secure Alternative To Online Banking