This story warms the cockles of my heart, not only as a kiwi but a wanna-be Web millionnare ;-) AfterMail, a company from my hometown Wellington New Zealand, recently sold their web mail software to US company Quest for $14.7 million upfront and another $30 million in cash if it meets performance targets. That's US dollars folks! US$45 Million for a Web mail solution, made by a little New Zealand startup.
"The idea is deceptively simple – an email management tool that lets companies quickly search their archives to find messages to or from a certain customer, on a certain date, with a certain attachment or with specific or unwanted content, such as pornography.
Instead of storing it all on a company's already crammed servers, store it on a dedicated server and allow customers to access it through a Web browser.
That's basically what Wellington start-up AfterMail does."
Browsing Rod Drury's blog (one of the founders of AfterMail), it's interesting to see how he picks up on opportunities in the Web market just by observing his own work habits and extrapolating from there. For example take a look at his post entitled The changing nature of work, which as a fellow Wellingtonian working on the Web for clients on the other side of the world -- I can definitely relate to! In a follow-up post, Rod notes the opportunities:
"Another big change is nature of my work has moved so that Virtual Collaboration is becoming a larger part of my day. I (verb) email, Skype, IM, Web demo, Conference call etc. (noun) Partners, Staff, Customers, Analysts, etc.
Virtual Collaboration is bigger than just communication as information gained through interaction needs to be stored and be accessible. So each communication interaction adds value to the shared information.
[...] So rather than an all encompassing piece of software, like some new bits in Office 12, I think the opportunity is a methodology and some glue over the standard components we use now."
I know most of my readers are US-based, but I think AfterMail is a great example of how would-be Web entrepreneurs can build very successful niche businesses by spotting what is seemingly a simple (but overlooked or underserved) gap in the market - and filling it. It doesn't need to be a sexy Web 2.0 business. As AfterMail demonstrated, and as Rod noted in his recent posts, there are loads of potentially profitable opportunities for web-based software that can meet current market needs.