Monday, January 20, 2014

Gem Launches Free Cloud Accounting Plan for SMBs

Sholto MacPherson for BoxIT writes: Gem Launches Free Cloud Accounting Plan for SMBs

Gem Accounts
A new year, another cloud accounting program hits the market. But Gem Accounts stands out for two reasons; it claims to have as many or more features than mature desktop programs, and it has a very generous free plan for small businesses.
Few people would have heard of Gem Accounts although its parent company, SimPro, has made a name for itself as a supplier of job management software for trades contractors.
Despite pitching a free plan to SMBs, Gem Accounts is aiming higher at businesses too large for MYOB or Xero.
“The idea with Gem was to hit the mid-tier market with one that could handle scale and transaction volumes and have a fully fleshed out stock and inventory solution,” says Jonathan Eastgate, CTO for Gem and the SimPro Group.
What does a “fully fleshed” stock and inventory include? Handling weight on stock items, dispatch and receipting of stock, different payment terms and fees, different cheque printing for the US, integrated payroll and complete order control, Eastgate says. It also includes multi-language, multi-currency and tax support.
The basic plan includes every feature of the paid plans except for multi-company tracking and reporting. The number of transactions (accounts receivable and payable) are restricted to 150 a month in the free plan, 1500 a month in the SME plan ($59/month) and are unlimited in the MME plan ($129/month). Bank feeds supplied by Yodlee will be included in the paid plans for free.
(Prices are in Australian dollars. US companies pay $199/month for the MME plan.)
Apart from a more heavily featured inventory, Gem also includes the ability to download all data. Eastgate argues that other programs such as Xero either give a limited set of data or in a read-only or unfriendly format.
“If you’re running on any other accounting product you can only get a subset of your data out by exporting to CSV,” Eastgate says. “With Gem we give you the entire data set – every piece of data in your system. you can use that for data mining or a separate report system or take a backup of your own system.”
Gem Accounts’ ideal customer is in mild manufacturing and assembly, a key market for cloud-based enterprise resource planning program NetSuite.
Distribution is another target market which has responded well to the strong stock and inventory features.Many customers have moved from NetSuite to Gem in the US – Eastgate claims the program was adding 10 customers a day in December.
Gem poached a sales executive for its North American office in San Francisco from Accumatica, a NetSuite competitor.
“In the US it got noticed and we got traction very quickly,” Eastgate says. SimPro is directing its investment mainly to the US as a result, he adds.
Gem claims to have over 700 companies on the MME plan. The free and SME plans were released in late December.
How did a cloud accounting program come to the market with so many features when established desktop software vendors are still building their own cloud programs?   Gem was built in 18 months by three programmers working full time, Eastgate says. SimPro had frequently recommended Gem to large trades and services companies looking for a more complex accounting program when it decided to acquire 30 percent of Gem and pour money into marketing and sales.
Gem has relocated its headquarters from Melbourne to SimPro’s head office in Queensland. The program is already on sale in Singapore and will move further into Asia in the next 12 months, Eastgate says. (SimPro has subsidiaries in New Zealand and the UK, and is looking at opening a US office.)
How can a company afford to give away accounting software? Gem was never designed for the small business market but accountants selling Gem wanted to recommend one program to large and small clients, Eastgate says. In the end it was easier to give the software away for free and focus on making money from mid-market customers.
“The processing cost of a $5 subscription is not even worth it. The best way to support small business is to give them something for free and not charge them for every small feature,” Eastgate says. Then when the business grows, the accountant is not faced with transferring data from one cloud accounting program to another.
Integrations include SimPro (in testing) and eBay and PayPal are coming. A number of other payroll services in Canada and the US are also on the cards. Eastgate is working on one feature that will let a business select a group of stock and fire it to the eBay store to clear.
Sholto Macpherson is a business technology journalist specialising in cloud software. He lives and works in Sydney, Australia.


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