Big Bucks From Tiny Computing Startups

Call them lifestyle businesses. Peopleless enterprises. Solo entrepreneurs. They are becoming increasingly common as the Internet matures, software as a service is more reliable, outsourcing becomes more commonplace, and customers and user communities begin to shoulder more of the work of keeping operations going.

Such companies get big results by thinking small — from an organizational perspective, that is. From a revenue perspective, they’re quite ambitious.

“We’re seeing them everywhere — they almost don’t feel like businesses, because there’s no there there — these are people working from anywhere and in any time zone, and who are grossing from $250,000 up to $5 million or $6 million,” said Paul Kedrosky, at the Kauffman Foundation, who has written extensively about peopleless businesses. “Generally, these are people for whom the interesting part is the delivery of the product or service, not the management of other people,” he said.

“The no-employee business springs from the notion that there are two spheres: a manager/contributor sphere and a passion sphere,” said Terri Lonier, founder of WorkingSolo.com. There are many people who love to live in their passion sphere. They really don’t want to build a big business by hiring lots of other people — although that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t think big in terms of dollars.”

InformationWeek profiled one-person companies that are currently reaping more than $1 million in revenue annually.
These businesses have a number of things in common. First, all of them use the Web to leverage their limited financial and personnel resources for everything from marketing and sales to sourcing raw materials and products to customer service and support.

Second, they depend on high-speed Internet connectivity and mobile applications to work from anywhere and create virtual teams and partnerships that can be either permanent or brought together on an ad hoc basis. Finally, they depend heavily on their customer bases/user communities to pitch in and help with essential operations.

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