CenterBeam, a start-up promising to be a "virtual Information Technology shop" to small businesses, today announced a new program called MarketPlace to line up Web-based application service provider partners.
The first companies to sign up for MarketPlace - which the company describes as an "online business mall" - are AllBusiness.com, Beyond.com, Bigstep.com, EmployeeService.com, NetAbacus, Onvia.com, UpShot.com, Website Pros and Works.com.
The company's proposition to small businesses: CenterBeam will sell and manage complete networks with PCs, servers, printers and high-speed Internet connectivity for a fixed monthly price of about $165 per user.
CenterBeam is launching the MarketPlace program before it is even up and running with its main business. It has only two customers currently beta-testing the offering, and CenterBeam doesn't expect to offer services outside of California before next year.
Gordon Ronald, CenterBeam's director of strategic relations, said the application service provider (ASP) partnerships are key to the value proposition CenterBeam is offering small businesses.
"It goes back to our mantra of 'making the Internet work for small business,'" Ronald said. "We wouldn't be giving our customers a fair offering if we didn't line up applications for them to use over the CenterBeam infrastructure."
MarketPlace will have "low barriers to entry" for ASP partners initially, Ronald said. At first, the program will require only that an ASP's offerings be truly Web-based and aimed at small companies with 10 to 100 employees. Eventually, CenterBeam will work more closely with ASPs in revenue-sharing arrangements, collaborating on sales, marketing and technical support, Ronald said.
"The value to our ASP partners is that they get a very well-qualified customer," Ronald said. "The challenge is to help our customers understand the velocity behind this category [of Web-based business applications] and to be able to research what's out there."
The initial CenterBeam MarketPlace participants have high hopes of being able to get in front of small-business customers through the program. Laurence Toney, vice president of business development at NetAbacus, a provider of Web-based purchase order applications, said that CenterBeam would become a valuable channel for his company.
"A CenterBeam customer is an ideal candidate to want our service," Toney said. "These are companies who do not want to become an IT shop, so they already have the mindset that matches what NetAbacus offers."