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With business to consumer markets often being harder to penetrate, its no surprise to see more and more niche startups that solve business problems for other technology companies. I thought I’d share a few of the notable enterprise services I’ve spotted recently that have positioned themselves as business to business solutions for startups.
Error Handling and Monitoring
Sentry is a real time error monitoring solution for your web application that offers complete diagnostics over a variety of different technologies. Interestingly it’s an open source project turned business, initially created by Disqus developer David Cramer who found a need for more adequate error logging, and subsequently built a frontend add-on on top of the existing platform. Incidently the talk David gives on that process is actually well worth a watch).
Anyway – I digress, Sentry offers developers on a variety of platforms the flexibility to add logging easily, and with a variety of third party project management integrations (GitHub, Campfire, HipChat, Grove.io, Bitbucket, JIRA, IRC, Pivotal Tracker, Sprint.ly, and Trello) it is a great way to see a high level view of your application’s health.
Airbrake is a commercial error monitoring solution, similar in many ways to Sentry. Acquired by Exceptional which was subsequently acquired by RackSpace , it’s customer base stands at some 40,000 companies, so it’s been through its paces from a technical perspective.
Interestingly, both Sentry and Airbrake are spin out BTB companies developed to solve internal problems. Exceptional starting life in Dublin at Contrast, and Sentry at Disqus.
Airbrake also works with a number of different languages, including Ruby, .NET, Java, PHP, Python and Node.js, so there is a high chance your development stack will be covered.
Pricing starts at $39 a month.
File Management / Upload
More and more BTB startups are looking at ways to bridge the speed of development gap, and exploring whether they can take some of the programming burden off your own developers. With File Upload occuring in many web apps, these guys have concentrated on solving that particular piece of the programming puzzle, and solving it well.
Transload It is a file encoding solution that allows you to easily unify the formats uploaded by your user base. The demos page perfectly illustrates some of the use case scenarios, but for many developers the transcoding and resizing of video content from one format to another, will be one of the trickier technical challenges that it solves out of the box, without putting any load on your own infrastructure. For exploratory purposes, and limits of up to 1GB, it is completely free, and pricing for Startups starts at $19 a month.
Integrating directly with Amazon S3, InkFilePicker solves the File uploading problem simply and elegantly. It deals with all the dirty work around file management and provides users with a rich interface to submit their files from Dropbox, their computer, Facebook, Google Drive, Box, SkyDrive, Picassa, Instagram a direct URL, and a whole host of others, and with API integration for both Web applications and iOS takes the hassle out of uploading and processing files to the cloud regardless of platform. You can even record video content from your users direct from the interface – a feature that alone would take hours of integration work.
Simply put, Customer.IO is a platform for event-triggered email automation. For each of the steps in your customer journey through your application, Customer.IO provides an easy way to segment and target your audience at appropriate times to encourage both engagement and conversion.
For example, you may want to create a “Welcome email series” that sends email when a user signs up, and after a week reminds them about your service or provides additional educational content to encourage either purchase or engagement.
In a similar vein to Customer.io, Intercom provides a top level view of your customer base. You can see who has signed up and last logged in, and you can segment and send transactional emails directly to certain types of users. Including newsletters, feature launches, or any announcements that you may have about your product.
These can again be scheduled to improve the signup process, so you can market to new users after a certain number of logins, or a certain level of interaction (or inaction).
There are also powerful in-app message options, so you can inform your users of new features at certain steps of the customer journey, directly from within Intercom. Not only that, but interestingly it also provides access to social media profiles of your users, via data correlated from the FullContact API. It’s a nice touch meaning you can also interact with your customers on those platforms as well and marrying your social media marketing directly with the users signing up for your application.
Out of all the solutions mentioned, UserFox’s website is probably the simplest for non technie people to understand. Userfox first launched back in February to solve the problem of user retention — an issue the creators ran into while running their first company, Vimessa.
Almost all startups are going to have to implement payments of some kind. Monthly recurring revenue. Thankfully there is now more and more competition in the world of payments, and we aren’t just limited to the tirad of wrestling with PayPal. Billing can be a royal pain in the ass and it’s not a core feature for most companies. Thankfully, there are a variety of companies in the space that can take that problem off your hands.
Recurly requires some form of merchant bank account to be setup in the first instance, coupled with a suitable Payment Gateway. In the UK, the current selection offered on their platform includes Authorize.NET, BrainTree, Cybersource, Paypal Payments Pro, Sagepay and Wirecard.
That said, you do still need to have your merchant account setup etc to actually start accepting payments, and that can take a few days to get going with.
Regulars around here will already know I’m a big fan of the features that Stripe bring to the table. Notably, the requirement for a merchant account being one of them, and yet thorough support for all major credit cards. Not only that, but for the startup marketplace, the ability to handle recurring billing gracefully is also a major plus, and lets you get your idea off the ground.
There are already a number of open source Stripe solutions available, as well as the officially supported ones. So integrating with whatever platform your developers have chosen won’t take forever.
CheddarGetter offers out of the box PayPal integration, its own payment gateway, account upgrades and metrics and analytics. Developers can use CheddarGetter for free, letting you test and integrate before you make any major commitment. Small start-up companies, the majority of CheddarGetter’s clients, pay $9 per month plus 25 cents per transaction, solely for PayPal integration, with additional credit card subscriptions starting at $79 plus 20 cents per transaction.
As with Stripe, there are already a few open source wrappers available around the CheddarGetter API.
Chargify has some pretty great features that are really simple to implement (like metered / usage billing, and others of similar complexity). For some people that may make it a contender for their startup. Incidently, Recurly also supports this albeit at a different price point. It does need a payment Gateway such as BrainTree however, so worth doing your homework on who you are going to use first.
I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to Analytics services. I’ve blogged previously on some of the alternatives that are out there for Google Analytics. Understanding what is going on inside your application, where people are having trouble, and where you are convincing and converting is important to getting your startup idea off the ground in the first instance. A lot of these solutions provide custom analytics for interactions within your application that are applicable only to your business, and take up the mantle when Google Analytics custom variables fall down.
MixPanel provide a variety of solutions around Analytics. They have both a mobile platform (with recently integrated surveys that look like a native part of your app) and a web analytics solution with a variety of different product offerings from within that. MixPanel Engage for example can be used to send relevant targeted notifications to your users either via email or Push based on the direct interactions they have taken within your application. MixPanel people allows you to explore the interactions of individual users, and the events they have taken. So you can see who has made a purchase previously, and segment by demographics. MixPanel Flow lets you visualise the paths people take through your site.
The Custom Analytics part of the product once integrated is based entirely around your own business rules and logic. So for example, if you are a Travel search service, you can view the activity of people searching for Hotels in Rome, and target them on offers relevant which makes it extremely powerful for marketing purposes.
Keen IO is a cloud API platform that lets developers build complex, large-scale analytics features directly into their web, mobile, or Internet of Things applications. The founders come from the Force.com core platform engineering team and the Google Analytics developer success team
Focusing on providing more flexible than an end-to-end analytics product Keen.IO can be white labelled and provides an Analytics solutions directly to your customers, without needing additional infrastructure, and without significant programming resource. Some of the examples in the documentation of visualisations that can be built out are quite cool. Particularly if you are using Stripe for payments.
As with other applications in the space, Keen.IO has a full API supporting a variety of languages. The pricing is pretty decent as well.
FoxMetrics is a real-time analytics platform that collects and stores data in a simple but yet flexible format that makes it very easy to analyze and report on.
Each event is measured at the person level for each visit. Person-level tracking provides the most realistic usage of any application whether its a web, desktop or mobile application. Therefore, each person has visits and each visit has events. Powerful reports can be created by using the person-level event tracking that we collect, which gives you the ability to better optimize your business analyse KPI’s and accomplish your goals.
Both DailyCred and StormPath develops user access control infrastructure so you don’t have to.
Capturing direct mouse movement and scrolls directly for each user allows you to actually watch your users interact with your application. Both Inspectlet and Mouseflow are letting you see exactly what is going on with users and where they are getting lost.