Planting Seeds

Sure enterprise startups are hot right now, but that’s a messy catch all categorization that often poorly describes the nature of a company’s target market. Traditionally, enterprise businesses sold large, multi-hundred thousand or million dollar contracts to large corporations. More recently, it’s become en vogue for those in the category to target the long tail of small and medium businesses.

One startup, SohoOS in particular, however, has taken this to the extreme by focusing exclusively on what it describes as “SOHOs,” or small office, home office micro-businesses with less than five employees – of which there are 25 million in the US alone, and 500 million globally. The strategy has been massively effective for SohoOS, which offers SOHOs free, easy-to-use online business management tools, allowing the company cross 1 million registered businesses this month, while growing at a rate of more than 1,500 new members per day.

In celebration of the milestone, and attempt to solidify its positioning as the definitive home of SOHOs online, the company is changing its name to Planet Soho and announcing partnerships with FedEx Office, Office Depot, Intuit, and GoDaddy.

Planet Soho, as it’s now called, has long been about providing the types of tools and opportunities to the smallest of businesses that are traditionally only available to larger corporations. Today the company extends this offering via its four new integrated services partnerships through which Planet Soho members will get discounted rates on products and services typically reserved for Fortune 500 companies – because collectively, the group has the buying power of one.

  • FedEx Office:  Planet Soho businesses will get a 30% discount at more than 1,700 FedEx Office retail locations across the North America.
  • Office Depot:  Planet Soho businesses will receive special offers and deep discounts, in many cases 25% or more, on products and services in the 1,100 North American Office Depot stores.
  • Intuit: Planet Soho is now a part of Intuit’s Alliance Partner Program, meaning TurboTax available to all members at a 15% discount.
  • Go Daddy: SOHOs who do not have, or are in the process of building, their own website can easily obtain a discounted, unique URL from GoDaddyho do not have, or are in the process of building, their own website

Half of Planet Soho’s 1 million members are located in North America, with the other half located across more than 250 countries worldwide, including most significantly in South Africa and India. The company’s most heavily represented sectors are accounting and finance, computer services, construction, and retail.

SOHOs may be a small, hyper-fragmented market, but it’s an incredibly valuable one that adds an estimated $1.8 trillion annually to the US economy alone. It’s also an incredibly difficult and often cost-ineffective market for many companies to reach via traditional sales and marketing efforts. Planet Soho is among the largest and fastest growing ecosystems in the category, making it an extremely efficient channel for accessing this hard-to-reach constituency. Prior to the partnerships announced today, Planet Soho has already aligned its members with HP, PayPal, Vodophone, D&B, and many other large vendors.

The company recently becan offering a freemium version of its product, through Planet Soho PRO users get access to a library of business documents, increased storage capacity, personalized backups, embeddable lead-gen widgets, a shared job board, website customization, and improved support.

As we state time and time again, plenty of businesses fall under the weight of supporting a large free installed base. Planet Soho has grown massive rather rapidly and now faces the challenge of converting its community of members into paying users. Fortunately for the company, the scale of its micro-business directory holds tremendous monetization value as well, as demonstrated by today’s partnerships.

Planet Soho was founded in Israel in 2009 and relocated to San Francisco in early 2012, when the company raised an $8 million Series A round of financing from Morgenthanler Ventures, Mangrove Capital Partners, Kima Ventures, and thetime.