[Scroll down for update]One of the difficult things about being a small business is that you’re too small to afford robust integrated systems but your too big to get by with just Outlook for contact management and Quickbooks for bookkeeping. You end up with a mishmash of software and your data is in silos of segregated information.
NetBooks, from the creator of QuickBooks, Ridgely Evers, launches today and provides “true small businesses” with a full suite of tools including – sales management, customer relationship management, vendor relationship management, inventory and production management, shipping, bookkeeping, reporting, and more.
“Small business is a vastly underserved market, because the software industry splits the world into two segments – enterprise and consumer,” said Ridgely Evers, NetBooks CEO and Founder, and himself a small business owner for more than 30 years. “But simply stripping features out of enterprise software and dropping the price doesn’t meet the needs of a small business. They need a solution that is tailored to their unique requirements: similar breadth of functionality, but affordably priced and optimized for ease of use. This is why we created NetBooks.”
What initially comes to mind when thinking of NetBooks are two products: NetSuite and QuickBooks.
NetSuite’s web site does not list its price but in looking at articles on PC World (2003) and Tech Target (2004) the price ranges from $100 per month per users (for a very limited version) to $2,000 – $5,000 per month for a more robust version with all the bells and whistles for two users. QuickbBooks cost from $200 – $3,000 depending on which version you choose. Another product is Intacct – it competes head to head with NetSuite.
NetSuite is an expensive service for many “true small businesses”. It does include a list of robust features, but from what I understand you pay more as you add more modules and support is not included.
We all know that QuickBooks is the leading program for small businesses. However it is software (so could be considered legacy as opposed to the advantage of a hosted application), support costs extra and outside of bookkeeping/accounting features it does not provide CRM, sales management, email marketing and other tools.
An Intuit spokesperson reminded me that Intuit addressed the online market need more than six years ago with its award-winning QuickBooks Online Edition. This product now serves more than 110,000 companies and more than 270,000 users. It’s an important part of our ecosystem of more than 3.6 million customers.
What’s so big about NetBooks.
This last point is important. I can envision NetBooks adding web site creation, email (integrated with CRM and sales), polling/surveys and other services all integrated into the NetBooks ecosystem.
These four points are quite powerful and hard to beat. What is a true small business?
The 5.1 million owner-operated, self-funded companies that employ half of US workers and account for the majority of new job formation. Today they must try to manage their businesses with a disjointed combination of bookkeeping software, spreadsheets, legal pads, sticky notes and paper files. This leads to costly errors, delays in responding to customers, and difficulty making good business decisions. With NetBooks, all of the key business information is stored and shared in one system, dramatically improving productivity, responsiveness and owner control.
NetBook’s press release continues NetBooks is not only bringing complete business management software to the TSB market, but also backing it with an unprecedented level of hands-on support, including – dedicated concierges, each with at least 10 years of experience working with small businesses, to assist with the transition to NetBooks.
NetBooks is priced at $200/month, or about what most business owners pay for their cell phones. This fee covers up to five users plus a bookkeeper and an accountant. Additional users cost just $20/month each. Support is included, along with all current and future product functionality (with the exception of optional fees for services provided by partners). Customers can choose between quarterly and annual billing options.
What are my concerns?
As NetBooks grows will it be able to maintain its focus on customer service?
Is it possible to maintain a 99.999% uptime? If NetBooks service were to go down for several hours, as has happened to Skype, Microsoft and other companies, NetBooks’ small business customers would suffer dearly.
What does all of this mean to you?
If you’re a small business owner, a true small business frustrated at the high monthly cost of “small business hosted applications” and dissatisfied that you have to use 5 different applications to manage they key parts of your business – NetBooks is definitely for you to consider.
One more thing – there’s not many companies whose management has the pedigree of Ridgely Evers and his management team. Many companies are founded by geeks. But there’s few companies whose founder worked with Scott Cook – the dean, godfather, guru and ultimate small business entrepreneur.
Update: Fast Company has a blog post about NetBooks and asking if companies are ready to do business online here.