Simplifies Online Business Software for SMBs

More small businesses are turning to the cloud for applications to support their business in lieu of seeking an IT resources partner. But finding the right applications in an ocean of possibilities can be challenging., which bills itself as the “business software marketplace,” aims to solve that particular pain.

“They first go to Google, type in ‘CRM software for dentists’ or whatever,” explained Christophe Primault,’s co-founder and managing director. “They get millions of hits, and they’re lost. It doesn’t really help them choose.” launched at the beginning of 2010. The marketplace vets cloud-based applications from vendors and organizes information about them so that customers can find the applications best suited to their needs.

“The idea is to educate small businesses about the cloud and more specifically about how cloud applications can help them be more successful,” Primault said. “The applications we’re featuring on our platform are not necessarily part of the larger vendor app ecosystem.”

To help customers find the right apps, features a recommendation tool — called App Finder — that provides personalized recommendations and a free software evaluation based on business need and type of business. The user then gets a free trial of the applications to help in making a choice. The company also features information on its blog and evaluation center intended to help educate small businesses about cloud applications., bootstrapped by Primault and fellow co-founder Manuel Jaffrin with $1.2 million in venture capital raised in just two months, has so far been a success.

“We’ve got about 75,000 users on a monthly basis,” Primault said. “This has been steadily growing since the launch.”

But to get there, Primault said, has had to learn lessons about the small business market in addition to educating customers. For instance, while is in the business of providing a marketplace for small business owners to buy cloud-based applications, it doesn’t talk much about SMBs, cloud or even Software as a Service (SaaS).

“When it comes to SMBs, what they are most interested in are applications — online software,” he explained. “Small businesses don’t refer to themselves as SMBs. In fact, they don’t really understand all the words and acronyms that we use all the time. They don’t even refer to cloud. They refer to online software. Maybe they’ve started talking about Web apps.”

Primault said that his company has learned to adjust the conversation to something that resonates more with their customers. He says that small business don’t look for “cloud” or “SaaS,” they want “applications that are easy to buy and easy to implement. They’re looking for applications that can support their business without requiring IT resources.”

The small business owners seeking out these applications don’t ask about availability, Primault said. The oft-repeated questions are about integration, privacy and security. Customers, he said, want to know where their data is going and whether they still control it.

Online Software Security

On the privacy and security front, last month partnered with online privacy solutions provider TRUSTe to provide privacy and data management certification services to its vendors.

“Through this partnership, proactively addresses the growing privacy concerns about the collection, storage and management of data in the cloud,” Chris Babel, chief executive officer of TRUSTe, said in a prepared statement.

“TRUSTe designed TRUSTed Cloud to meet specific privacy needs in this rapidly expanding market. By leveraging our online privacy heritage and maintaining a strong focus on transparency and accountability, our mission is to minimize privacy fears around cloud adoption. With the enormous reach of its marketplace, is an ideal partner to help us achieve that goal.”

Through the deal, vendors can opt to have TRUSTe certify their applications with the TRUSTed Cloud Data Privacy Certification. Applications that meet TRUSTe’s standards can show the TRUSTe badge on their applications.

“TRUSTed Cloud allows our business application providers to address privacy around data management upfront, eliminating a key barrier to sales,”’s Jaffrin said. “Knowing that an application is TRUSTe certified — with privacy practices in alignment with all recognized standards — is a huge differentiator for businesses looking to increase their usage of cloud computing.”

There’s a lot of room for growth of certification in the cloud space. Primault said he reckons there are between 10,000 and 15,000 SaaS apps for business out there, and that less than one percent is currently certified.

That said, Primault also said he believes that for most businesses, especially small businesses, data is more secure in the cloud — safeguarded by professionals dedicated to the security of your information — than it would be on-premises.

“We only use cloud services, so we were born in the cloud,” he said. “The cost for me to keep data in house and protect that data would be high. Frankly, by having my data in the cloud, I feel more secure. Your data is probably safer with the vast majority of vendors than if you keep it on your premises. I really believe that’s true.”

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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