Last week, we promised more on Socialtext.
Socialtext’s chief executive, Ross Mayfield, says there aren’t enough good ways for employees at large companies to form groups on the fly, to collaborate on group projects, and then to solicit and compile feedback from others within the larger organization.
So the Palo Alto wiki and social software company, which raised $3.1 million in April, has scored more backing from the software giant, SAP, to help unleash a new corporate application to realize that mission, Mayfield told us over lunch yesterday. SAP’s endorsement is a coup for Socialtext, which wants to see its application rooted deeply and seamlessly within corporate Intranets (and is up against companies like cross-town rival JotSpot, also backed by venture capital). SAP supplied $850,000, and Utah-based University Venture Fund provided $50,000 in this latest round.
SAP, one of the biggest “enterprise” application vendors, apparently has high hopes for Socialtext: Shai Agassi, one of the rising stars on SAP’s board, has taken a personal interest in the…
company and has provided feedback on some ways Socialtext can proceed. The 37-year-old Israeli joined SAP in 2001 after SAP’s acquisition of his company, software maker TopTier. Mayfield says Agassi’s experience with portal software makes him a perfect sounding board, because Socialtext is an alternative approach to internal corporate communication. We also mentioned that Mayfield has an “open source” initiative up his sleeve; there will be more later, he tells us. But part of it, the Wikiwyg, is already well known.
Mayfield had an interesting take on the embarrassing experiment at the LA Times when it tried to use wikis for writing editorials earlier this year. The public nature of the LA Times project is slightly off-point from Mayfield’s core corporate focus. But had the Times developed the product more prudently, allowing in a few interested users in a test mode, perhaps behind a firewall, it could have generated a trusted community that would have had a stake in participating and editing, Mayfield explains. And perhaps this group of buy-in readers, once developed, would have quickly editing out the offensive pornographic references that eventually caused a quick backlash against the project. And if the community failed to edit out the porn reference quickly enough, and members of the greater readership protested, the Times could have simply wiped its hands of responsibility, saying it was the job of the interested community to keep up the site. It may have also argued that the wiki should be maintained precisely because there was an interested community that supported it. But instead, it was just the LA Times vs. everybody else — and it died.