Virtual businesses are on the rise. In the types of industries I am involved in (information technology and Internet businesses), they are even commonplace.
For instance, I run Small Business Trends as a virtual business. What I mean by virtual business is that “place” is more or less irrelevant. Nothing in the way of particular facilities are required to run the business. I myself work from home or from wherever I have to be on the road. My office is really a state of mind — as long as I have my gear and can get an Internet connection and make phone calls, I can work in my virtual office. The others who work with the company are independent contractors who work from their homes or offices in remote locations.
The real sign that virtual businesses have taken off is when they develop other businesses around them to serve their particular needs. In other words, when there is money to be made by serving the particular requirements of virtual businesses, then you know it is a significant force.
Penelope Trunk writes in a recent article in the Boston Globe that “… a whole economy has developed in which virtual companies do business with other virtual companies.” (Visit Penelope’s excellent blog, too.)
You have only to look at some of the players serving virtual businesses to realize there is big money in virtual businesses. A perfect case in point is eBay. You could almost say eBay is built on serving virtual businesses.
EBay provides a marketplace for 750,000 businesses that sell online, the majority of which are virtual businesses or home-based businesses. Its PayPal unit enables countless businesses to operate virtually by streamlining their accounts payables and receivables, and even their eCommerce functions. For instance, with PayPal you can purchase needed business services and goods electronically, and issue invoices and get paid for them completely electronically. You also can use PayPal as a plug-and-play shopping cart for processing online eCommerce transactions. And Skype, also owned by eBay, allows virtual business team members to communicate easily and for free.
I know there are many other companies out there that serve virtual businesses. What are some others? I’m collecting examples and would love to hear from you if you have a product or service designed to specifically meet the needs of virtual businesses. Please leave a comment with examples.