Custom SaaS: NetSuite opens platform for development of unique solutions

NetSuite Inc. aims to turn its business management software service into a platform for developers to create customized programs for small and medium-size businesses. The company, which delivers its software as a service over the Internet, sees customers and developers adding features for niche markets. NetSuite also expects to share in the revenue generated from those products.
By Jim Finkle, Reuters March 6, 2008

NetSuite Inc . aims to turn its business management software service into a platform for developers to create customized management programs for small and medium-size businesses.

The company, which delivers its software as a service over the Internet, sees customers and developers adding features for niche markets. NetSuite also expects

NetSuite sells software that small and medium businesses use to manage their finances and sales activities as well as to run Web stores. It sells a version that is customized with extra features specifically designed for software makers—the same package it uses to manage its business.

“But we don’t know how tractors get traded in. We don’t know how sales people who sell tractors get paid,” Chief Executive Zach Nelson said in an interview.

He is hoping a company that already develops software for farm equipment makers would take NetSuite’s base package and add features for distributing agricultural equipment.

NetSuite will require every software developer to pay a commission to license the software and for using its data centers, which run the programs.

Shares of NetSuite rose 64 cents to $21.63 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The company went public last December at $26 and surged to $45 on hopes it would consolidate its position as the dominant software maker delivering business software to small businesses over the Internet.

It hit a low of $18.41 on February 27, after forecasting that sales growth will slow this year.

The 10-year old company has yet to report a quarterly profit. Last year it lost $24.9 million, but revenues climbed 62 percent to $109 million.

AMR Research Analyst Bruce Richardson said the platform-style model makes sense. “NetSuite is saying, ‘We don’t have the time to develop all this. We’re not sure we have the sales resources,”‘ Richardson said.

One early participant is Daston Corp , a contractor that does consulting and technology work for government agencies and built a package to run its business using the NetSuite platform.

It replaced four programs that didn’t communicate with each other very well, cutting Daston’s annual IT spending by at least $150,000, said Daston VP Greg Callon.

Daston has started marketing the product to other government contractors.

Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann said NetSuite, which is adding 65 jobs this year to its sales force of 135, needs the help. It has 5,600 active customers.

“They need a lot of people with subject matter expertise who are a lot closer to the customer,” Wettemann said.