As Mobile Eats the World, Cloud-Based Apps are Just Getting Started

Cloud-based apps have permeated almost every aspect of our lives as consumers, from note-taking to automatically storing photos we take on our cameras. This is quickly spilling over into the lives of apps that make workplaces and business management more seamless.

Most popular cloud-based business apps right now focus on automating operational tasks that almost every small business has a human looking after—accounting, HR, storage, marketing. Small businesses are the biggest purchasers of cloud-based business apps, and it’s also where Canadian startups are finding success: think Unbounce, Hootsuite and Slack.

What brings them together?

They tap into a $110 billion global opportunity

The one thing all three companies have done well is looking beyond their borders to find success. Most small businesses are going to adopt technology, but they just haven’t yet. They currently pose a $110 billion global opportunity that is set to continue growing over the next few years. According to Intuit’s e-book, “The Appification of Small Business,” small businesses are set to triple their spending on business software, with predictions weighing in at $1,500 per year by 2020.

That’s $125 per month—and ensuring the customer sees the direct connection between money made or saved, as a result of using your app, is the key to increasing that number.

A similar solution from SAP or Oracle costs $9 million and up, not including the cost of your development team to implement and maintain. So the barriers to entry have come down, led by firms that liberated key business functions and made them accessible, mobile and border-free.

Small businesses’ desires are simple for apps; the design solutions are already given to consumer apps: seamless integration, mobile-first and automating the menial jobs so we can focus on the more interesting and pressing matters.

They engage in community-first marketing

For most Canadian startups, those closest to home make up a disproportionately small percentage of their users, so creating and engaging with an online community is important.

Unbounce has an annual Call to Action conference, which draws more than 1,000 of its users and other marketers to Vancouver. Hootsuite has an Ambassador and University program, and Slack, as a technology in and of itself, fosters community as users create Slack channels that transcend companies. For example, the Startup604 Slack channel brings Vancouver’s startup community together.

They prioritize mobile

Mobile is going to eat the world. This isn’t a new trend, but with millions of mobile apps available on the market and more than 140 billion downloads on the App Store alone, many may assume that mobile is saturated, but there is plenty of room for expansion in the market, particularly apps where the end user is a business.

If you’re building business software, and you’re building for a desktop first, you will be behind the curve in no time, especially if you have any hope of competing on a global scale. In an ideal world, I don’t have to return to the office to handle any aspect of my business.

But the simple truth is that many business owners already feel or operate this way. Intuit’s research shows that almost half of small business owners run their business from their mobile device, and often need to be away from their desktop. For a business, mobile means location independence, and mobile also means no IT departments are required to handle the process.

In the months to come, we can expect more companies like Unbounce, Hootsuite and Slack (and Control!) as businesses prioritize functionality and mobility over one-size fits all. It’s worth saying that cloud-based apps may seem the norm to us as consumers — what can’t we put on the cloud these days? — but there remains a massive opportunity for startups building for businesses, which want cloud-based apps with freedom, not legacy enterprise solutions.

Kathryn Loewen is the CEO and founder of Control.