SaaS applications often address broad business functions such as accounting and finance, analytics and business intelligence, collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), e-commerce, enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resources (HR) and security. Most companies require these functions, and the leading SaaS providers in each area -- most notably Salesforce in CRM -- have prospered as a result.
However, one size of software does not necessarily fit all potential customers which is why horizontal SaaS vendors often open up their applications to third-party customisation via APIs. However, if you're a healthcare provider, for example, you're unlikely to relish the effort and expense of customising a series of cloud services to fit your particular line of business. And if you're seeking mission-critical vertical-market functionality, you're going to require a specialist software vendor with deep expertise in your field.
These are some of the reasons why an increasing number of SaaS applications address the key business issues for particular vertical markets -- a sector known as the 'industry cloud'. This opportunity hasn't gone unnoticed by software giants such as Salesforce, which now offers customised implementations of its CRM solution for a range of verticals: banking, communications, consumer goods, government, healthcare, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, media, nonprofit, retail, travel & hospitality and wealth management.
But what's happening at the other end of the scale, in the world of startups?