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hipchat cartoonHipChat is a startup aiming to improve group chatting and instant messaging in the workplace. And it just raised angel funding from backers with an impressive background in chat, albeit on the consumer side — Sandy Jen and Elaine Wherry, who cofounded instant messaging startup Meebo.

It might not seem like there’s much opportunity for a new player in business communication, especially if they’re offering something as basic as a chat room. But HipChat cofounder Pete Curley said the product comes from real frustration. New microblogging tools like “Twitter for business” Yammer have their place, he said, but they don’t replace the immediacy of instant messaging. That need can be filled by AIM, but Curley noted that using a consumer product in the office can be an awkward fit, especially when large teams try to work together.

The closest match to what the HipChat team came up with is probably Campfire, the chat room application from 37Signals. Like Campfire, the basic HipChat interface is a plain gray chatroom. But while Campfire is based in the Web browser, HipChat is available as both a downloadable desktop application and on the Web. Users can receive alerts whenever someone wants to talk to them, avoiding the situation where a chat ends up buried among dozens of tabs in your browser (as happened all-too-often when VentureBeat was using Campfire).

Other features include file-sharing, one-on-one messaging, and chats sent to your phone via SMS text messaging. HipChat says it’s currently used by “thousands” of companies.

To fund the company, Jen and Wherry both invested the $25,000 they received as part of the Founders Fund Tech Fellows Program. Founders Fund matched their investment, bringing the total funding to $100,000.



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