Real-time task and productivity app Begin is launching today on Slack. The app was made for teams that spend most of their time in chat apps like Slack, and it touts simplicity as part of its strategy to reach mass adoption.
With Begin, you can assign a task using the @ mention for the Begin bot and the name of the person on your team you want to assign a task to, followed by the task title and date. For example, you could say “@begin @emil set design standards next Thursday.”
Begin was created by former Engadget cofounder Ryan Block and Begin CTO Brian LeRoux, a pair who have teamed up in the past to make services for enterprise chat apps like HipChat and Basecamp’s Campfire.
“They [chat apps] all kind of share a very common thread, which is that it made communicating in real time really easy, but it made actually knowing who’s doing what and having accountability around action on the team extremely difficult,” Block said.
To give each team member a dedicated way to see their assignments, Begin is today launching a web version and accompanying Mac app. Android and iOS smartphones apps are in the works.
The first thing you see on the Begin app home screen are any assignments you need to get done today. That’s followed by a stream of assignments distributed across the team. The app lists tasks being assigned to all team members in public channels in order to offer greater transparency.
Begin joins a crowded field. Other well-known names in the Slack App Store’s productivity section include Trello, Asana, Wunderlist, and Todoist.
Block says Begin will attempt to distinguish itself and reach an audience beyond tech first adopters by remaining strikingly simple.
“There’s never a mystery about what you need to be working on,” he said. “If the tasks are in Slack channels and tasks your team sees, everyone knows what everyone else is working on. You don’t have to be asking for status updates, and of course when things get completed that gets reflected back out into Slack.”
Reminders or templatized tasks may be added in the future, but Begin wants to avoid adding features to maintain a low learning curve, LeRoux said.
“Longer-term, we’d love for this AI to be trained on you and your team and suggest things you could be working on from things you’ve already expressed you want to work on,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to be there anytime too soon, but nobody is going to get there by relying heavily on UI. This is going to come from a place of natural language as the primary input mechanism.”
The company declined to state how much funding it has raised to date but said investors include General Catalyst, OATV, Slack Fund, and SV Angel.
Begin was created in 2015, has five employees, and is based in San Francisco.