There were a lot of interesting ideas presented at this week’s 500 Startups demo day, but among the 27 companies in the accelerator program, San Francisco-based Groupiter arrives just as a similar New York-based startup, Marqueed, comes out of stealth. Both companies are tackling a problem that has plagued creative professionals since the advent of the digital interface: communication and collaboration within shared files.
Anyone who has ever been a part of a design project understands it’s a painful process. One minor tweak to a company logo can require hundreds of revisions stuck in email or scattered across online storage files. These many revisions, each manually edited within a separate software program, only multiply when unavoidable miscommunication occurs via chat, email, or phone. It’s absolute chaos and no technology has simplified it, in part because everything to date has been project management software that added another layer of process and led right back into email.
“What took designers a long time to accomplish — mocking up changes in Photoshop, saving and uploading it to a shared file, then communicating those changes over chat or email — you can now do in less than five minutes,” says Marqueed’s founder and CEO John Karian.
Groupiter and Marqueed have taken the social layer of Yammer, added a visual interface, and integrated it with collaborative file sharing, in Groupiter’s case Dropbox and for Marqueed, Google Drive. Marqueed’s Dropbox integration is a few weeks away and Groupiter aims to eventually serve Google Drive, launching instead with a mobile app.
Marqueed is in public beta and available on the Chrome web store, its primary customer acquisition channel so far. Groupiter is accepting invites for its public beta sometime in the fall. Each will initially be free. Marqueed plans to move to a tiered subscription model, but says it will always offer a free version.
Both companies are founded by creative professionals. Groupiter’s Chris Dyball is a Getty photographer veteran whose connections helped land big name private beta users at Warner, Sony, and Hulu. Karian of Marqueed built his career in animation and design, and his wife’s work as a photo-retoucher shaped one of its most interesting features, which allows users to annotate and draw within the app while chatting about what they’re doing to an image.
Karian says he’s seeing early demand for Marqueed from Web and graphic designers, but also fashion designers communicating with overseas manufacturers or interior decorators using it to present options to clients. Considering how many creative teams these days work remotely, it seems like a big enough market to attract investors and new players.