Collaboration tools are abundant these days, but each one seems to be taking a unique approach to the mobile space. Some are specifically about chatting, while others focus on content creation. But none have taken the all-in-one approach, until now. Enter Pingpad — the latest contender for top productivity app.
Started by a team of entrepreneurs that includes the founders of enterprise social network Socialtext, Pingpad is launching today on the Web, iOS, and Android devices. Simply put, it’s a tool that offers real-time messaging and chatting through the use of a Wiki-like product.
Chief executive Ross Mayfield told VentureBeat that the company’s goal is to help with social productivity, and it’s starting with a self-titled app that you can use for both chatting and tasks. The idea is to help you get stuff done “no matter whether you’re at home or at work.”
“There’s a big shift because of mobile and social,” Mayfield said. “There are new platforms, devices, and user expectations. What was lacking is something that served the need for communicating, collaborating, and coordinating.”
During its private beta round of testing, Pingpad discovered that users were leveraging the app to handle tasks in a variety of environments, including in the academic world. Mayfield told us that college students used the app to coordinate their activities, including taking class notes, and coordinating with roommates, student clubs, and other extracurricular activities.
With Pingpad, you can quickly create a note and then invite others to participate (invitations are sent by email or text message). Contacts will then have to create an account in order to use the service. From there, they’ll see the notes that they’ve received access to — similar to what you’d find with Google Docs.
Collaborative feedback is denoted by color. Along the right-hand side of the screen are the initials of anyone who has contributed to a particular note, along with a designated color. The content they provide is highlighted accordingly so you’ll know who has added what. There’s also a corresponding chat area where you can have side discussions relating to the note.
Although Pingpad works across all platforms, there are still some differences between them. Specifically, notes can be exported into a text format through the Web, but not in the mobile versions. Additionally, the Android app lets you share notes to other apps on your phone, while also importing content from other apps into Pingpad.
What Pingpad aims to do is streamline the entire process so that people won’t have to bounce from app to app just to be productive in their daily lives. Yes, you can jot notes on Evernote or Quip using a mobile device, but the actual messaging part is difficult, plus their network effect isn’t as big as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. And if you use those tools, you’re going to find it difficult to compose notes or documents. Pingpad appears to be positioning itself as the best of both worlds.
But here’s the thing: Is the time right for such a tool? Is this what people are genuinely looking for? Google apparently tried something like this in 2006 with its acquisition of Wiki collaboration service JotSpot (which was eventually rolled into the creation of Google Sites). Let’s also not forget that Slack seems to have done pretty well in the marketplace.
“We will be the company where collaboration starts,” Mayfield responded. “Right now, we have a differentiated thing in the market. It’s oriented around consumers. The combination of chat, tasks, and notes is unique. Not as hyper-specialized as single-purpose apps but it’s going to be a thing I can use for a lot of different things.”
“I see … the enterprise moving to a place where the firewall is around the individual and the device,” Mayfield continued. “How that individual trusts exposing content and information to people will be delegated to [themselves]. By designing first and foremost to individuals inside and out of work, that’s increasingly where the enterprise is going because of the availability of consumer apps and choices.”
Pingpad was started by Mayfield, his Socialtext cofounder Peter Kaminski, and David Spector. It has raised over $1 million from 500 Startups, CrunchFund, Floodgate Ventures, Correlation Ventures, Kima Ventures, Greylock Partners, and several angel investors.