The first thing you notice about Ron Daniel, co-founder and CEO of SohoOS, a free suite of online tools for small businesses, is his enthusiasm. It’s pretty infectious.
Starry-eyed entrepreneurs who want to change the world have become a tired cliché in startup land, but Daniel feels like the real deal, the “missionary not mercenary” who wants to build something really cool first, and make money later.
His Israeli company, SohoOS, raised money from European fund Mangrove Capital Partners (which previously backed Skype among others) and hyperactive global superangel fund Kima Ventures, so we caught up with Daniel for an exclusive interview.
What does SohoOS do, exactly?
It’s basically an online suite with all the tools you need to manage a small business: project management, invoicing, payments processing, CRM, reports… Interestingly, the company also includes a social network for business owners to share tips and tricks with each other.
And perhaps crucially, SohoOS is free, which sets it apart in the world of software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps, which usually charge a monthly fee. There are no limits to the number of accounts a business can have on the service. And the company commits to keeping the site free forever.
So, how do they make money? Basically through an app store model: companies can buy add-ons and plugins, including from third parties.
Here’s the first thing Daniel told us in our interview: “SohoOS is here to make a difference. I know it may sound a bit over the top, but our vision is change the way small and micro businesses compete.” The goal is to make the high-end tools and management techniques available to big businesses available to all entrepreneurs, he said.
Daniel believes in the future all business management apps will be free. He says “Can you believe 10 years ago email was a product companies paid for?”
SohoOS also has deals with ISPs like Vodafone to distribute the product to their SMB customers.
“Our users today mostly manage their businesses like consumers, not businesses,” he said.