eBusiness for free? Net startup Peakhour launches

The free services are basic components of the ASP's still limited portfolio and include Web site hosting and e-mail management. Even when the free period expires, these services will be available to customers for only around $20 per month, claims Peakhour CEO David Harrington.

While the company is claiming to be an ASP player, the current offerings from Peakhour resemble those provided by many Internet service providers. Currently on offer are Web site hosting, business e-mail account hosting, protected file space provision, monthly site traffic reports, domain registration and an IP-address changing service.

According to the company's Web site (http://www.peakhour.com.au), integrated messaging (voicemail, e-mail, fax), Web site builders, e-commerce store builders, vertical business directories, financial tools, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, Human Resource tools, online media buying, banner exchange and file backup are all planned.

Hosted credit card fulfillment software will be available within six weeks, according to Harrington.

Peakhour will target these services exclusively at the SME market. Harrington anticipates the company will host data and software services for 10,000, or 2 per cent, of Australia's approximately 500,000 small businesses by the end of the year. The company has already recruited more than 200 resellers to help achieve this goal. At launch, Peakhour has "about 20" customers, according to a company spokesperson.

Peakhour was formed with $12 million in financing from private investors and venture capitalist firms from an initial round of funding. The company is now in its second round of venture capital raising and employs 50 staff. Harrington claims Peakhour currently has no plans to pursue a public float.

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