Now You Can Get Your Google Apps Data Backed Up for Free. Startup Econ 101: When Giving it Away is a Good Deal.

Ouch that’s a longish title. OK, I admit, I am tired, could not decide between two messages and ended up combining them.  Well, let’s see the messages.

The Art of Pricing

The other day I got into a tweet convo with a Startup Entrepreneur whose product I found interesting, at least at first glance.  But he has a problem: the entry point for one user is $20/month – and then the price scales up.  I tried to convince him to drop the entr

y price point to either free, or $1-$2 – something that allows impulse buy.  He defended his pricing on a value basis.  In principle he is right – but there’s the small problem that nobody knows about his product.  In this case “giving away” value would become his marketing, would allow for growth, and he could scale his pricing as aggressively as he wanted. He badly needs enthusiastic users that become his marketing army.

My friend and fellow Enterprise Irregular Charlie Wood (that was my bias disclosure…) understands this…

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve » Zoli Erdos)


Trouble with My Feed

feedburnerI’m experiencing trouble with my Feedburner feed – apologies and I certainly hope to get it fixed soon.

(Oh, and Googlers who read this are most welcome to chip in to helpSmile )


Gmail, Don’t be a Yahoo!

In the 90’s I used to laugh at friends who all used Yahoo! as their personal email service. I did not understand how anyone could put up with the slow speeds of web-mail, and tried to convince them to install a decent email client, like Outlook, which is what most of them used in their corporate jobs.

Then things changed: Outlook grew into a bloated monster, it brought otherwise fairly speedy computers to a grinding halt and finding stuff in the archives of years of email became a gargantuan job. A new web-based email service came to rescue: Gmail was fast, well-organized, included productivity-boosters like labels and conversation-threading, and most importantly, you could not only search but also find old email in seconds! For this former Outlook-fan the switch was a no-brainer – in fact I ended up ditching almost all desktop software, moving online. (Gmail for mail and Zoho for most other tasks).

Life was good, I stayed productive and Gmail grew into a suite of productivity services by Google.  Too bad it’s breaking down – again…

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


Google Apps in a Box. Oh, and an iPad Killer.

What we missed in our Google Apps Marketplace coverage: the Best Poster Award … drumroll.. goes to

box google

And while at it, their video isn’t too shabby, either:

Wait… is that an iPad killer with a great virtual keyboard at 0:46?

ipad killer

Bias alert: I’ve been watching from the humble early days starting here:

through here:

box toilet becoming a successful business.    Just sayin’ 🙂

(Update: my secret retirement plan is collecting royalty from for using Google-in-a-Box )

P.S. On a more serious note, here’s our previous Google Apps Marketplace coverage:

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


Redux: Will Google Enter the Business Applications Market?

I am dusting off an old post I wrote more than two years ago, and while it shows my lazyness, I am doing it in the belief that the ideas I raised back then may soon get an answer … albeit not exactly the way I imagined.  And interestingly enough, just about every company I mentioned may have a role in it.  Or not.  After all, it’s just speculation.  So here’s the old post:

Google’s next killer app will be an accounting system, speculates Read/WriteWeb. While I am doubtful, I enthusiastically agree, it could be the next killer app; in fact don’t stop there, why not add CRM, Procurement, Inventory, HR?

The though of Google moving into business process / transactional system is not entirely new: early this year Nick Carr speculated that Google should buy Intuit, soon to be followed by Phil Wainewright and others: Perhaps Google will buy after all. My take was that it made sense for Google to enter this space, but it did not need to buy an overpriced heavyweight, rather acquire a small company with a good all-in-one product:

Yet unlikely as it sounds the deal would make perfect sense. Google clearly aspires to be a significant player in the enterprise space, and the SMB market is a good stepping stone, in fact more than that, a lucrative market in itself. Bits and pieces in Google’s growing arsenal: Apps for Your Domain, JotSpot, Docs and Sheets …recently there was some speculation that Google might jump into another acquisition (ThinkFree? Zoho?) to be able to offer a more tightly integrated Office. Well, why stop at “Office”, why not go for a complete business solution, offering both the business/transactional system as well as an online office, complemented by a wiki? Such an offering combined with Google’s robust infrastructure could very well be the killer package for the SMB space catapulting Google to the position of dominant small business system provider.

This is probably a good time to disclose that I am an Advisor to a Google competitor, Zoho, yet I am cheering for Google to enter this market. More than a year ago I wrote a highly speculative piece: From Office Suite to Business Suite:

How about transactional business systems? Zoho has a CRM solution – big deal, one might say, the market is saturated with CRM solutions. However, what Zoho has here goes way beyond the scope of traditional CRM: they support Sales Order Management, Procurement, Inventory Management, Invoicing – to this ex-ERP guy it appears Zoho has the makings of a CRM+ERP solution, under the disguise of the CRM label.

Think about it. All they need is the addition Accounting, and Zoho can come up with an unparalleled Small Business Suite, which includes the productivity suite (what we now consider the Office Suite) and all process-driven, transactional systems: something like NetSuite + Microsoft, targeted at SMB’s.

The difficulty for Zoho and other smaller players will be on the Marketing / Sales side. Many of us, SaaS-pundits believe the major shift SaaS brings about isn’t just in delivery/support, but in the way we can reach the “long tail of the market” cost-efficiently, via the Internet. The web-customer is informed, comes to you site, tries the products then buys – or leaves. There’s no room (or budget) for extended sales cycle, site visits, customer lunches, the typical dog-and-pony show. This pull-model seems to be working for smaller services, like Charlie Wood’s Spanning Sync:

So far the model looks to be working. We have yet to spend our first advertising dollar and yet we’re on track to have 10,000 paying subscribers by Thanksgiving.

It may also work for lightweight Enterprise Software:

It’s about customers wanting easy to use, practical, easy to install (or hosted) software that is far less expensive and that does not entail an arduous, painful purchasing process. It’s should be simple, straightforward and easy to buy.

The company, whose President I’ve just quoted, Atlassian, is the market leader in their space, listing the top Fortune 500 as their customers, yet they still have no sales force whatsoever.

However, when it comes to business process software, we’re just too damn conditioned to expect cajoling, hand-holding… the pull-model does not quite seem to work., the “granddaddy” of SaaS has a very traditional enterprise sales army, and even NetSuite, targeting the SMB market came to similar conclusions. Says CEO Zach Nelson:

NetSuite, which also offers free trials, takes, on average, 60 days to close a deal and might run three to five demonstrations of the program before customers are convinced.

European All-in-One SaaS provider 24SevenOffice, which caters for the VSB (Very Small Business) market also sees a hybrid model: automated web-sales for 1-5 employee businesses, but above that they often get involved in some pre-sales consulting, hand-holding. Of course I can quote the opposite: WinWeb’s service is bought, not sold, and so is Zoho CRM. But this model is far from universal.

What happens if Google enters this market? If anyone, they have the clout to create/expand market, change customer behavior. Critics of Google’s Enterprise plans cite their poor support level, and call on them to essentially change their DNA, or fail in the Enterprise market. Well, I say, Google, don’t try to change, take advantage of who you are, and cater for the right market. As consumers we all (?) use Google services – they are great, when they work, **** when they don’t. Service is non-existent – but we’re used to it. Google is a faceless algorithm, not people, and we know that – adjusted our expectations.

Whether it’s Search, Gmail, Docs, Spreadsheets, Wiki, Accounting, CRM, when it comes from Google, we’re conditioned to try-and-buy, without any babysitting. Small businesses don’t subscribe to Gartner, don’t hire Accenture for a feasibility study: their buying decision is very much a consumer-style process. Read a few reviews (ZDNet, not Gartner), test, decide and buy.

The way we’ll all consume software as a service some day.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


Google Replaces Beta Tag With Price Tag on Apps

Just a short note:

Guess who will welcome GooGreed with a big smile?  Zoho.

Update:  TechCrunch has the clarification from Google:

In experimenting with a number of different landing page layouts, the link to Standard Edition was inadvertently dropped from one of the variations. We are in the process of restoring it and you should see it soon. We have no intention of eliminating Google Apps Standard Edition, and are sorry for the confusion.

Related posts:


Promoting SaaS on eBay?

This listing on eBay is hilarious, almost makes me wonder if it’s a true listing or carefully planted advertising for Google Apps (and SaaS in general).  But the seller appears to be real, has been on eBay for ten years…   Here we go, get Microsoft Office w. Outlook for $75, because:

It’s brand new and never been opened.  My boss bought it right before I moved the whole company over to Google Apps.
We never looked back, but here’s your opportunity to live it up, 90’s style, with this great, retro piece of Microsoft 2007 software.

Read more


Macros For Dummies

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that my spreadsheet skills are somewhere at the level of what I learned using Lotus 1-2-3🙂  so the recent addition of Macros and Pivot tables to Zoho Sheet was really not my piece of cake.  Not that I would not recognize the techological feat when both Google and Editgrid said they couldn’t / wouldn’t do it…

Now I have to admit I occasionally tinkered around with Excel macros: not that I know Visual Basic, all I ever did was record the sequence I needed, then tinker with the resulting VB code.  That’s the capability Zoho just announced today: with a few clicks record, edit, re-run your macros, in the original Zoho Sheet or in any others you have access to.  Finally, Macros For Dummies like me 🙂 Here’s a summary video:

To the best of my knowledge no other spreadsheet can do it (other than GrandDaddy Excel)

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DocSyncer Dead. Too Bad.

Cliff Shaw is a serial SaaS entrepreneur who keeps on coming up with really useful services that just don’t make it as a business.

ProtectMyPhotos was my favorite photo backup and synchronization service. Unlike Flickr, Photobucket, Zooomr and just about all the photo site focusing on sharing your photos, this one did not require manual uploads. In fact the best feature was that after initial setup, you could completely forgot about it. Just like Mozy, the general-purpose online backup service, ProtectMyPhotos worked away in the background, non-intrusively, throttling back at times of heavier computer use. With added bells & whistles (online view & edit, sync between online and several offline versions..etc) it was a perfect service – for free, that is. Apparently it failed to attract enough paying customers, so eventually it shut down.

It did not completely die though: Cliff Shaw’s next startup, DocSyncer clearly showed signs of it’s “parent”: the UI was quite similar to ProtectMyPhotos, and they leveraged a lot from the core synchronization engine of the previous product. It looked like a perfectly executed turnaround: the existing technology found new purpose. DocSyncer filled a void left by the web-office providers: it synchronized desktop documents with Google Apps. I was quite certain they would have a short life-span, but this time with a happy ending, Google taking them out. Since the acquisition did not materialize, I can only assume either they could not come to terms or Google is already working on their own solution.

DocSyncer is about to shut down. Quote from the website:

We’ve figured out in a very short amount of time that DocSyncer is a cool tool – but not a business.

I really hate to see it go. No transition to web-based applications is complete unless we can bring our old baggage, i.e. transfer existing desktop documents to the online service. I see evidence of interest day by day, in the 100K or so hits my two “import your history to gmail” guides received. DocSyncer did better then import, it offered true synchronization, but I’d be quite satisfied just to see one-way batch import tools to Google Docs and Zoho, the two leading service providers.

The DocSyncer site says:

Until we meet again, good luck and thank you for the support!

“Meet again”: Cliff does not talk about his next gig yet, but his LinkedIn profile lists him as CEO of Picstreem. His profile also reveals four startup gigs in the past, two of which getting sold. He is a comeback guy, I am looking forward to seeing Picstreem.

In the meantime let’s hope that Google and Zoho will soon offer mass migration, perhaps synchronization.

Update (6/17/08): Wow, it’s amazing how many blogs picked up the story, all without a single bit of accreditation.  Thanks, gals and guys! smile_angry

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