Last month saw the first-ever "Small Business Saturday" (at least according to American Express, the initiative's sponsor). Small business get plenty of attention in terms of their finances, but what about their web application needs? The Small Business Web is "a directory of web apps to help small business bloom and grow." The site was founded about two years ago by FreshBooks (invoicing), MailChimp (email marketing), BatchBlue (customer relationship management), Outright (accounting), and Shoeboxed (receipt management). It now lists dozens of applications across several more categories.
But not just any applications make the cut:
While there are many products available for small business owners on the Web, the approach we're taking is to use each others APIs to provide a high-level of integration between these applications and create a more seamless experience for our customers.
The focus on integration between many light-weight services stands in contrast to other, more centralized enterprise development approaches. For example, this week over 20,000 people will gather to participate in Salesforce.com's 3-day Dreamforce Conference in San Francisco, most of them from the mid-sized to large companies that take advantage of Salesforce's wide range of internally integrated cloud-based enterprise applications.
But significantly, Salesforce is also sponsoring a new, free, one-day event right before Dreamforce called "Cloudstock":
Right now, top-flight developers are innovating at the leading edge of cloud computing using powerful platforms, APIs, and services that you may not even know exist. That’s because the next generation of cloud development is being invented fast and furiously by a slew of companies, big and small [...]
Cloudstock is an entirely new event designed for one purpose: To bring the top cloud developers and the top cloud technologies together under one roof, to learn from each other, collaborate, innovate, and drive the future of cloud computing. This open, meetup style, free event will feature sessions, demo stations, socializing, and a hackathon, all delivered in a hip, developer friendly context.
(ProgrammableWeb is co-hosting the hackathon).
The industrial-scale management tools and massive conferences provided by Salesforce aren't for everyone. Salesforce recognizes this and that there are important developments happening in its industry in these "hip, developer friendly" contexts.
The companies that make up The Small Business Web are great examples and sources of that sort of innovation. As we reported recently, MailChimp (a Small Business Web founder) just launched a new $1 million Integration Fund aimed at fostering innovative connections between MailChimp and other services.
Things like The Small Business Web demonstrate how web-based services can be made more useful by bringing many narrowly focused ones together. As Sunir Shah from FreshBooks (a fellow Small Business Web founder) put it on the company blog in a post about MailChimps new fund:
It’s awesome to see MailChimp putting their money where their API is. The most common question The Small Business Web faces today isn’t should we have an API, but why should I build on yours? Good on MailChimp for boldly answering that question.