I was recently on a panel called Technology and Small Business sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at its annual Small Business Summit. Other participants included Ronald Monford, President and CEO, Mind Over Machines, Inc.; Kevin Hourigan, CEO, Bayshore Solutions and a finalist for the Small Business of the Year Award; Eric Reed, Vice President, Verizon Communications. It was one of the most engaging panels I have participated in. Below is the reporting of my introductory comments. Full coverage of the lively panel discussion written by Ricardo Haven can be found at the Chamber's main blog site.
Bob Mathew went first, and introduced his company, Catalyst Web Services, as one "founded by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs". They offer a web-based suite of core IT applications that cover small business needs such as email, electronic documents and collaboration.
In this area of "Software as a Service" (SaaS), Bob notes that it's been small business that's driving the technology forward, and that for most, it's a great fit.
He goes on to answer his rhetorical question of how this fits in with trends in the global economy with three answers:
1. Geographic dispersion of people. People work from different places, in virtual teams, and partner with other businesses. This trend isn't just international, but local as well with people living in different suburbs.
2. Green. Rising fuel costs are really forcing consideration of alternatives to physical proximity, and while options like telecommuting aren't necessarily for every business (or for every day), new technologies are improving on the limitations of old ones like VPN.
3. Global. Markets are increasingly global, and being web-based means being accessible anywhere, at anytime. For example, they noticed a large increase in business from places like Australia when their system became Mac compatible - not something they really considered would happen.