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Unified Office Delivers for Small Enterprises

Internet start-up Unified Office plans to deliver a range of enhanced technologies, services and content to help businesses with fewer than 125 employees operate more efficiently through its Internet Operating Platform (IOP).

Unified Office believes that the ability to utilize the Internet as an operating platform is essential for small businesses and plans to make its operating environment available to small businesses and ASPs desiring to service that market.

"We focus on the carrier and those who will be using the product," Michael Castleman, co-founder and chief executive officer, said. "While the small business market is the natural constituency for our model, our marketing efforts will be driven by the carrier's channel. There is nothing stopping this technology from being deployed into the larger market."

As an IOP, Unified Office acts as a channel. Small businesses and their providers can chose from a menu of necessary applications, solutions, services and products. The client accesses the services through a standard Web browser.

Unified Office has developed, from an ASP point, a call processing software. "We provide this to the carrier industry," Castleman explained. "In turn, they give it to their customers. Anything related to provisioning and administering the solution will be available through the Web."

The framework Unified Office constructed is an environment in which it can aggregate other channels. "The value is being assigned to the carrier because they own the channel," Castleman said. "Anything that enhances the relationship between the carrier and customer betters our standpoint."

"At the end of the day, there are tons of people developing ASPs," said Castleman. "But as a business model, making an ASP a destination is inherently flawed. For subscribed services to work, you can't be the destination."

Michael's brother, Mark Castleman, vice president, products and technology, began developing the idea of Unified Office. "We expanded the original concept beyond the call processing arena," he said. "Our primary focus is on channeling through the carrier industry. We aggregate and channel the essential business operating services through the carrier channels."

Unified Office is a comprehensive IOP providing communication solutions that are self-directed, self-administered and supported through a localized network of providers. consists of 19 employees, with plans to double that by year-end. To date, $3 million has been raised, and the company is currently in the process of raising a venture round. "In spite of all the turmoil in the financial arena, our back is not up against the wall," said Michael.

Unified Office feels it has an experienced management team. "We believe there is less risk with our model, team and the industry we are applying our concept to," Michael said.

The company is rolling out elements of its technology suite to the LSP market now. With hopes of being in 40 to 50 markets by the year-end, Unified Office plans to roll out carrier grade solution late third quarter of this year.

When asked about its relationship with other ASPs, Michael pointed out that Unified Office represents a channel development strategy for other ASPs. "We offer a specific channel strategy allowing an ASP to bundles their services," he said. "We can deliver, but they won't necessarily be branded."

Unified Office realizes that ASPS recognize the high cost of customer acquisition. "We don't see ourselves as a B2B or a C2B. We see ourselves as a services enablement services provider," said Michael. "We are trying to drive value through the existing supply chain, not trying to create a new market."



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