In 2010, it felt like the flurry of new startups and Web tools only accelerated, with more and more products popping up every week. For business owners, it's not always easy to stay on top of it all, let alone take each of these new offerings for a spin to see if they're worth using.
As 2011 approaches, ReadWriteWeb takes a look back at 10 of the last year's most useful or promising Web tools for small and medium-sized businesses.
Billed as the Mint.com for small businesses, InDinero launched in early July and is a real-time financial dashboard for companies. The Y Combinator-backed startup is led by 20-year-old Jessica Mah, who got the idea for InDinero while she was selling items on eBay in middle school.
"I had no idea how much money I was actually making," Mah told us in July. Mah, who is obviously some kind of super-genius, graduated from UC Berkley's computer science program this year at the age of 19 and promptly began putting the finishing touches on the Web app, which closely resembles Mint.com.
InDinero is free for up to 50 transactions per month, $29.95 for up to 500, and $99.95 for an unlimited number of monthly transactions.
Rapportivemay not have been designed specifically for small businesses, but it sure makes life for pretty much any business owner easier. The Gmail plugin creates a widget that sits to the right of any open email message and culls data from the Web to tell you exactly who firstname.lastname@example.org really is.
Depending on how readily available such details are, Rapportive will pull an avatar image, name, job title, recent tweets and links to any active social networking profiles the person may have. You can even connect with somebody on LinkedIn via Rapportive, without leaving Gmail.
Square may not be the only solution for taking credit card payments via mobile devices, but it certainly garnered the most buzz this year and has helped put mobile payments within reach of small businesses everywhere.
No longer is there a barrier for even the smallest of businesses to begin accepting credit cards where ever they may be: at a trade show, convention hall or in a store or cafe.
For SMBs and enterprise customers of Google Apps, an enormous number of new tools were made available this year, including Analytics, Places, Blogger, Picasa, Custom Search, Website Optimizer and Google Checkout, among many others.
Chartbeat and customers flocking to services like Woopra, Optify, Clicky and ClickTale, it's hard to deny the emerging importance of real-time data to businesses of all sizes, a trend that undoubtedly continue into 2011 and beyond.2010 was a big year for the real-time Web in general, and naturally we saw the use of real-time analytics tools start to approach mainstream status. With such big name publishers as Gawker, Fast Company and the New York Times signing on with
On our ReadWriteBiz channel, we discussed how real-time analytics can benefit small businesses and covered one company that increased traffic by 300% using real-time data.
Flowtown really started to take off this year, raising $750,000 in funding and amassing over 15,000 customers.Launched in late 2009, social email marketing tool
Flowtown lets you import a list of email contacts and find out more information about each person via any social networking profiles they may have. Flowtown shows who's on Facebook, Twitter (including their Klout score) and LinkedIn and even includes details from Flickr or Amazon wish lists.
For businesses, this offers a whole new level of social insight into what was once just a list of email addresses collecting dust in a CSV file or database somewhere.
Apple's breakthrough tablet computer was a huge hit among consumers this year, especially for things like reading and gaming. And while that was largely how the device was marketed, we also started to see it used for business purposes, especially in the financial services and technology industries.
Currently, there are over 1,750 iPad apps in the "Business" section of the App Store, and that doesn't even include the 1,640 apps found under "Productivity." Apple's Keynote, Pages and Numbers apps are all in the top 10 top-grossing apps in the store, and others like Remote Desktop Lite, Documents To Go, Box.net and PrintCentral have proven quite popular.
Another business function fulfilled by the iPad this year has been attending online meetings. GoToMeeting, WebEx and Fuze Meeting all have solid applications that make attending conference calls and meetings easy and, oddly, sort of enjoyable.
Businesses have an enormous amount of online data to keep track of. Between Web analytics, social media metrics, email subscribers, CRM, customer support stats and project management, companies have at least half a dozen dashboards to log into and pull data from.
Geckoboard is an all-in-one dashboard for displaying all this data and more in one location, offering a comprehensive snapshot of one's business at a glance. It's designed in such a way that it can easily be displayed on a computer monitor, mobile device or large screen TV around the office. The Web app has some growing to do, particularly in terms of the breadth of data sources it supports, but considering it was just launched late this year, it's quite promising.
Mindflash is an online training system lets trainers build courses using PDFs, PowerPoint, Word docs and videos, and then invite trainees, who are later quizzed on their progress. It comes equipped with trainee progress reports, which show in real-time how each person is doing and who may need additional training.
The appeal for small businesses is two-fold: It automates many training-relating tasks, freeing up time and energy for other projects, and comes with a very affordable price tag. Mindflash is free to use for organizations with 10 or fewer trainees, and then ranges from $79 to $399 per month, depending on the number of trainees.
Spreadable encourages sharing of content by letting site owners create an embdeddable, all-in-one sharing widget from which visitors can email a link to friends or post it to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a host of other popular social networking sites. Of course, at the end of the day, any content has to be genuinely interesting or useful to people in order to really take off, but Spreadable is one tool that can help enable its proliferation.
Spreadable comes to us from the Grasshopper Group, the team that developed the Grasshopper virtual phone system and Chargify platform for recurring billing. It's currently in beta and available for free.
What did we leave off this list that you would have included? Let us know in the comments.