NetBooks, which has recently come out of private beta is filling the saas void in the 2-25 user market. According to an article in the North Bay Business Journal, that represents some 5.1 million US businesses. Founder Ridgley Evers is pitching the service at $200 per month for 5 users plus book-keeper and an accountant. Additional users run $20 a head per month.
Evers was a co-founder at QuickBooks so the comparisons are inevitable but mis-placed. Like other entrants in what Evers calles the 'True Small Business' market, NetBooks is using the growth of interest in saas solutions to address entire business processes. As the company says on its website:
QuickBooks was designed to address the bookkeeping problem. NetBooks was designed to solve the whole business management problem: sales, customers, vendors, production, inventory, shipping, and yes, bookkeeping.
Comparisons are also drawn between NetBooks and NetSuite with some people thinking NetBooks is years too late. I disagree. NetSuite goes for power and is a heck of a lot more expensive. NetBooks goes for enough power but with ease of use as the driver. That form of innovation is just as valid as the general move to saas solutions for the small business sector. Ironically, Evers is a NetSuite customer in another venture.
Attractive though NetBooks looks - the way it seamlessly handles production through to delivery is something for which most small businesses would need multiple products - it has a mountain or two to climb: Sage and Intuit. Everyone I speak with says QuickBooks is the de facto book-keeping system leader while Sage lurks in the background. NetBooks is different. It is a genuine attempt to simplify complexity for the small business operator based on a business process approach where book-keeping is simply a part of what happens. Most recently for example, NetBooks has integrated to UPS Online Shipping, including full pricing information that is pulled seamlessly into shipping orders and out to billing.
The bigger problem for NetBooks will be in finding that type of business advisor who understands the business as a set of processes rather than as a single function like book-keeping or CRM? That's usually the world of the big ticket consultant. But with solutions like NetBooks, there is no way the target market will pay premium prices. That must leave an opening for a new type of consultant. The type who understands that outsourcing processes might represent a useful combined sales business model in a small business saas world where complexity can be significantly reduced and genuine business value delivered. I've not seen many of those recently.