Airframe Is Open for Business

Let it not be said that business lacks choice for on-demand enterprise software. Industry veteran and Octane Software Cofounder Robert Gryphon has formally launched Airframe Business Software, a Web-based provider of CRM, human resources, and back-office functionality. Depending on the modules selected, Airframe charges customers between $70 and $155 per user per month. Airframe currently requires 12-month contracts with a one-month money-back guarantee and a three-month "500 percent ROI" guarantee, although the company says it will soon launch more flexible, utilities-style payment terms. Despite the consolidation of CRM providers at the high end and the rush by both established players and startups to the revitalized on-demand CRM market, Airframe has little to fear if it remains focused, says Chris Selland, vice president of sell-side research at Aberdeen Group. "There's still a pretty open market to say 'we're a small business solution,' because the small business market is still very underpenetrated, and with human resources and asset management, [Airframe] is clearly positioned as a small business solution." The company's approach is similar to NetSuite, which also provides on-demand front- and back-office capabilities. Gryphon, now CEO of Airframe, says the time is still right for new CRM solutions. "When you see a market that's consolidating, that's an opportunity for smaller companies to start up and do something new. This has happened generation after generation with software companies--it's not a recent thing." Lessons Gryphon learned at Scopus and Octane helped set the tone for Airframe's approach to the market, as he saw Scopus, once the market leader, beaten by less-expensive startups, and later took business from more established players in Octane's early days. "It's partly about price and partly about immediate use. We want to go in, get a foothold in an organization, do relatively smaller deals, and grow within those. We can go in, and have gone in, and sold Airframe at the department level in larger enterprises where they have Siebel in other departments," Gryphon says. The service promises to be customizable "by qualified partners" in an attempt to stack up not only to packaged solutions but also to on-demand providers like Salesforce.com, which have published specifications for interacting with other software components. As to Airframe's ROI guarantee, which also commits to improving "job performance" by 5 percent, it remains to be seen how seriously customers will challenge those claims. "They're not going to be able to go into a court of law and say, 'I only got 494 percent!'" Selland says. "But it lowers the perceived risk considerably for the customer, since [he's] not out $500,000 and a year of [his] life" if the CRM technology fails to live up to expectations. Related articles: The Siren Call of the Midmarket
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