The Skype in the Workspace homepage.
Skype recently announced a new service, Skype in the Workspace. The online communications firm - which was bought by Microsoft in 2011 - reckons its platform is an ideal way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to find potential partners and suppliers.
Signing up is easy and takes less than five minutes. You just need to enter a little information about yourself and your business. You can then create opportunities for people to connect with you by saying what subject you want to talk about. Alternatively, you can search for interesting opportunities yourself.
It seems a bit like online dating for business - you search for what you're looking for, and then you can use Skype to chat to people who offer it. Being able to make instant contact is a big part of the service's appeal, because it encourages new connections and communication.
Indeed, Skype believes firms can use the service to demonstrate products to a wider audience. Users can also book appointments with potential customers or suppliers, and keep track of these with a meeting notification service. When an opportunity is over, users can instantly give testimonials on the product or service offered.
At least, that's the theory. At the moment, Skype in the Workspace seems somewhat sparsely populated. My search for 'accountant' returned one result, while 'lawyer' returned three, all located in the US. Searches for things like 'web development', 'marketing' or 'design' return lots more possibilities, although the quality varies quite considerably.
It's early days for Skype in the Workspace yet, and businesses who've had success in finding partners and customers through channels like Twitter and Facebook might well appreciate it as another string to their bow.
The international dimension is interesting too. Alison Coward is owner of the London creative collaboration agency, Bracket, and reckons the service has extended her reach considerably.
She says: "With Skype in the workspace, I am visible to quality leads without even leaving the office. With no travel time to contend with, it’s also now far more feasible for me to grow my business outside of the UK into Europe and the US."
It's too early to say whether Skype in the Workspace is really going to take off. My gut feeling is it's more likely to become a niche channel than a broad tool like Facebook. But as it only takes a couple of minutes to create an opportunity, what's to stop you trying it?