The type of SaaS businesses that interest me the most as an indie hacker and a fan of the Stair Step Approach are the ones that plug into growing B2B platforms.
These platforms generally make it easier to find customers, create more focussed products, and build trust.
Shopify, Slack, and Salesforce are examples of B2B products with more mature and well known marketplaces, but there are a whole bunch more. They range from more fully featured marketplaces that have integrated user reviews and payment handling, to more basic "integration directories."
Out of the 100+ marketplaces and integration directories I found, 68 stood out to me as the ones worth considering as an indie hacker. The ones that have user reviews built in have a (*) next to their names.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Salesforce is one of the first ever SaaS products and has arguably the most developed B2B app marketplace. Listings include user reviews, live chat, pricing details, and more.
Hubspot has a suite of products including a CRM, site builder, form builder, and much more. Their app marketplace has user reviews, app install numbers, videos, and pricing details.
Pipedrive isn't quite as popular as Hubspot or Salesforce, but with over 95,000 companies using them, they're still pretty massive. Their app marketplace listings include ratings, reviews, and optional videos.
As with many of the above, Zoho offers a CRM as well as a suite of tools for businesses. Their marketplace listings include user reviews, pricing details, and optional videos,
Zendesk has a reasonably mature app marketplace where the listings include user reviews, price details, and videos.
Freshdesk is part of a suite of products under the "Freshworks" brand. Their marketplace seems quite mature and includes helpful features like search, but the listings don't include user reviews or pricing details.
Intercom isn't exactly a support tool, but I wasn't sure which category to include it in as the product does many things. They're best known for their live chat widget. The Intercom marketplace listings do include pricing details and optional videos, but don't have user reviews.
HelpScout isn't quite as big as Zendesk or Freshdesk, but is fairly popular amongst startups, who are generally more willing to try out new apps. Their app directory is quite basic and doesn't include things like user reviews or pricing details.
Front is an email collaboration tool that's commonly used for customer support. Like HelpScout, their app directory is fairly basic.
LiveAgent is another suite of customer support tools. Their integration directory is a more simple one, similar to Front and HelpScout.
Crisp is a live chat platform that recently (2022) added a marketplace.
Github is the most popular code hosting platform. The marketplace doesn't include user reviews, but it does have other useful features, like payments.
Heroku is a hosting and "cloud application" platform. The marketplace doesn't include user reviews, but is fairly advanced as customers can install apps right from the marketplace and I believe they can also pay for apps through Heroku.
Atlassian creates a bunch of super-popular tools targeted towards developers and product teams. These include Jira, Bitbucket, Confluence, and more. This marketplace is fully featured and includes user reviews, installation numbers, direct installation, direct payments, and more.
Cloudflare is a super popular suite of tools, the most popular of which is their CDN. Their marketplace does include user reviews and ratings as well as a cool feature that lets you preview apps without having to download/install anything.
AWS is a suite of developer tools from Amazon. Their marketplace does include user reviews, pricing data, and more.
Google Cloud is the developer services offering from Google. Their marketplace includes pricing information, but there are no user reviews or ratings.
Azure is Microsoft's web tools offering for developers. Their app marketplace seems quite advanced as it includes user reviews, pricing details, and optional videos.
DigitalOcean is a cloud hosting platform (which I am using to host this very website). This is a more basic marketplace that doesn't include reviews, pricing etc.
Vercel is a hosting platform primarily for static sites. This is a pretty basic app marketplace, although it does let users install apps directly through Vercel.
Auth0 make it easy for developers to add authentication services to their products (authentication as a service) and they have an integration marketplace.
Shopify is an e-commerce platform and has one of the most mature app marketplaces. The marketplace listings include user reviews, payments, videos, and more. App makers can even use paid ads within the marketplace to get in front of more potential customers. This is a marketplace with plenty of opportunity and plenty of competition.
Wordpress powers a huge percentage of all websites. It's the most popular website builder (or content management system). Their plugin marketplace has user reviews, download numbers, and more. Most plugins are free, and most of the paid ones charge one time fees. This is another marketplace with plenty of opportunity and plenty of competition.
Squarespace is another popular website builder. If you listen to podcasts, you'll likely have heard one of their ads. Their marketplace is quite tiny and less advanced then a lot of the above. It doesn't have user reviews, but does have pricing information.
Webflow is a website builder targeting no-code makers and designers. It seems to be growing rapidly, but their marketplace is still super basic.
Wix is another website builder which is mostly used by small businesses. Their marketplace includes user reviews, videos, pricing details, and more.
Magento is an e-commerce website builder that's generally used to build more advanced/custom online stores than Shopify. Their marketplace is advanced and includes user reviews, Q&A sections, and more.
WooCommerce is the e-commerce builder from Wordpress. I think WooCommerce plugins are kinda Wordpress plugins that are packaged specifically for WooCommerce, but there is a separate marketplace for WooCommerce plugins that has reviews, pricing, etc. I assume there's also more willingness to pay for WooCommerce plugins because it's more likely that websites built with it are earning revenue.
BigCommerce is another big player in the e-commerce space. Their marketplace includes payments, user reviews, videos, and more.
Volusion is another e-commerce website builder. I don't really hear of it much so I have no idea how big it is, but they do have a basic plugin marketplace that does include pricing details.
Marketo is a marketing automation platform. Their marketplace is quite advanced and includes user reviews, videos, and more.
MailChimp is one of the most well known email service providers. The marketplace is one of the more basic ones.
Segment is a "Customer Data Platform" that makes it easier to share data between various cloud products. Their marketplace, which they call an "integrations catalog" is exactly that, more of a catalog than a marketplace with reviews and what not.
Drip is an email service provider focussed on e-commerce. Their integration marketplace is another example of a more basic one. The listings don't have user reviews or pricing details.
Another email service provider with a simple "apps and integrations" directory.
Figma is the hottest collaborative design tool of the moment. Their "Plugins" directory is fairly simple, but they do show install numbers which give you an idea of the scale the plugins can achieve. Most are free, but I've come across a couple of paid plugins that are earning decent revenue.
While Figma has taken a lot of attention away from Sketch, it's still a very popular design tool. Their plugin directory is super basic, but I do know most Sketch users do use plugins and many are happy to pay (usually small amounts) for them.
Adobe create a bunch of tools, but the ones I'm most familiar with are the design tools under the brand "Adobe Creative Cloud" (I'm obviously also aware of their PDF products). Their marketplace is quite fully featured and does include user reviews, but from what I can tell, most plugins are free.
Framer is another popular design tool. It has a marketplace for "packages" which include components as well as plugin type things. It's a fairly basic marketplace with no user reviews, but it does show install numbers.
Here are a whole bunch of other B2B products that include app/plugin/extension marketplaces that I couldn't place into any of the above categories. A lot of them fit into some sort of "productivity" or "collaboration" category.
Zoom is a wildly popular video call/conferencing service. They recently launched "Zapps" which are apps that enhance the zoom experience. As their marketplace is brand new, and isn't fully launched yet. I have no clue how popular Zapps will become, but I'd bet there are some great opportunities here.
Slack is a live chat app for teams. Their app marketplace doesn't include user reviews, but it is fairly mature. Most Slack teams use a few apps and there are features built into the Slack service that helps people discover apps. As with Shopify, this is a marketplace with plenty of opportunity and plenty of competition.
Microsoft Teams is the live chat product from Microsoft. It's very quickly become super popular with large companies and enterprises.
Microsoft AppSource is the marketplace for add-ons and apps for a suite of Microsoft products such as Office 365, Dynamics 365, and Power BI. This is a serious marketplace with ratings, reviews, pricing, videos, and more.
G Suite or Google Workspace is a set of business tools from Google, including email, word processing, spreadsheets etc. The marketplace includes user ratings, install numbers, and more. Personally, I wouldn't put too much trust into any of the Google marketplaces as they have a history of being less friendly to their app developers when compared to other B2B app marketplaces.
Airtable is a powerful spreadsheet type tool with a newer marketplace. The marketplace is fairly basic at the moment, but it's very new and I imagine it will become more advanced in the future.
Zapier is an automation tool that lets you connect various products so they can work better together. Their marketplace doesn't include user reviews or usage numbers, but lets customers discover apps through workflows and guides.
Integormat is an automation tool similar to Zapier. Their app directory is also fairly basic, but it does let you visualise how the apps can be used together really well.
Bubble is a no-code app and website builder that's growing in popularity. Their plugin marketplace does include user reviews and pricing details.
RapidAPI is different to most of the other products mentioned here as the main part of the product is the marketplace itself. It's an API marketplace that makes it easier for developers to integrate and pay for many APIs. The marketplace doesn't have reviews, but listings have an area for discussions, popularity ratings, and more comparable features.
SurveyMonkey is a super popular form and survey builder. They have a fairly basic app directory.
Typeform is a form builder that made the multi-step, more conversational style of form more popular. They have a basic app directory.
JotForm is another form builder. Their marketplace is fairly simple, but there are plenty of opportunities for simple apps that can enhance forms.
Monday is a project management and team collaboration tool. Their app marketplace doesn't have user reviews, but does have pricing details and install numbers.
Asana is another popular project management and team collaboration tool. Their app marketplace is fairly basic.
Trello is one of the most popular project management and team collaboration tools. Their "Power-up" marketplace is fairly basic, but is popular and does include install numbers.
Stripe is a super popular payment processor. Their marketplace is currently pretty basic (no ratings/reviews, price details etc), but you can build quite extensive apps on the platform.
ServiceNow is a "workflow tool for enterprise." Honestly, I have no idea what they do. They do, however, have a fully featured marketplace with user reviews and pricing details.
Ring Central powers messaging, video, and phone communication for 400,000+ companies (generally large, enterprise companies it seems). Their marketplace is fairly basic.
Coda is one of the new types of flexible docs tools, similar to Notion. They have a small marketplace for what they call "Packs," which are essentially integrations/plugins.
Dropbox is a popular file storage and collaboration service. They have a pretty basic marketplace for integrations.
Box is another file storage and collaboration service which is more popular with larger, enterprise companies. They also have a simple marketplace for apps.
DocuSign is a super poplar electronic signature service. They have a basic integration marketplace.
Eventbrite is an event hosting and management platform. Their app marketplace has user reviews and ratings.
Freshbooks is account software. Their marketplace is a fairly basic one.
QuickBooks has a suite of tools for small businesses, but are best known for their accounting software. They have a fully featured marketplace that includes user reviews, pricing information, and FAQ sections.
Xero also makes accounting software and has a fully featured marketplace with user reviews.
Hootsuite makes popular social media management tools. Their marketplace doesn't have user reviews, but does have pricing information.
Mindbody makes a suite of tools that help wellness companies with marketing, bookings, payments, and more. Their marketplace has user reviews and is quite fully featured.
ConnectWise makes IT management software and is used by many in house IT departments or outsourced IT service companies.
My top picks
As an Indie Hacker, some of the things I'm considering when exploring which platforms to build on top of are:
- How many people use the platforms?
- How much do people pay for the product that the platform is built on (to get an idea of how much they might be willing to pay for extensions and apps)?
- How competitive is the platform?
- Is the product the platform is built on used for many use cases or just a narrow few?
- Is the platform growing quickly?
- Do I have any interest in working with and helping the type of people who use the platform?
- Do I need to jump through a too many hoops to build on the platform? Are the docs decent?
- Is it likely for an app I build on the platform to get enough distribution through the platform alone?
Newer marketplaces on growing platforms are the most interesting to me, especially for tools that are used for a wide range of use cases.
Airtable is used for a whole bunch of reasons and will never be perfect for every use case, so I would guess that there will be lots of opportunities there over the next few years.
Zoom is also an interesting one, mainly because of how popular it has become since the world had to go more remote.
Of the more mature marketplaces, HubSpot, SalesForce, Slack, QuickBooks, and Zendesk, are interesting to me, mainly because people who use those tools seem to be very willing to use and pay for apps. Intercom is also one I'd experiment with.
My main realisation after doing this research is that there are way more B2B app marketplaces than I expected.
I don't actually have any experience building apps on top of any of these platforms, but I'll likely dabble with it at some point this year. If I missed any marketplaces that you think I should have included, please let me know.
It would also be awesome to hear from you if you have any experiences building on any of these platforms that you'd be willing to share (email@example.com or Twitter).
* These are the marketplaces that have built in user reviews
Jan. 19, 2021