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Office 2.0 Spotlighted Startups

The product announcements came fast a furious at the third annual Office 2.0 conference, which wrapped up last week in San Francisco. The event featured a product showcase, dubbed the Office 2.0 Launchpad, to throw a spotlight on startup companies of five employees or less.

Ismael Ghalimi, chief organizer and soul of the event, called the Launchpad "a breakout event with the power to shape the Office 2.0 landscape." Ghalimi is the CEO and co-founder of Intalio, a Redwood City, Calif.-based open-source BPMS vendor. Ghalimi's definition of "Office 2.0" is one of the most succinct: it's an ''Office productivity environment enabled by online services used through a Web browser."

The emphasis (if not exactly the theme) of this year's Office 2.0 event was collaborative Web technologies. The 17 companies presenting their Office 2.0 solutions at Launchpad event largely reflected that emphasis. They included:

  • billFLO: Developed by Anoowa, a San Francisco Bay Area-based company founded last June to "revolutionize the age-old process of invoicing," billFLO is designed simply to eliminate paper invoices. The product is aimed at companies of all sizes. A free beta is available now for download.
  • Diagramic: Data visualization company Diagramic demoed its "famous" Forbes 400 Interactive Map at this year's show. The company said it is all about "connecting the dots" with an online application for creating project diagrams.
  • Enleiten: This Minneapolis-based startup is offering an easy-to-use tool for tracking open projects, keeping track of user responses to requests, and streamlining daily work schedules. The product is based on the principles outlined in David Allen's book "Getting Things Done." (Allen was a keynote speaker at this year's show.)
  • Itensil: This San Francisco-based, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) company aims to automate "roughly repetitive" work that constitutes most knowledge-intensive process. It's Business Lifecycle Manager "charts as course between collaboration and BPM" by combining collaboration with process, data and rules, according to Forrester Research.
  • JobBlogs: This collaborative workspace application takes aim at "universal projects challenges." It's a merging of the blog idea and CRM into what the company calls "a private, versatile hub where sales, support, operations and customers team-up and stay coordinated."
  • Less Everything: This Jacksonville, Fla.-based team of Ruby on Rails developers was on hand to show the early version of a productivity and communications suite of products designed to "take away the pain of accounting, time tracking and project management for small businesses and freelancers." The company was co-founded by Allan Branch and Steve Bristol; the latter is best-known for his accounting program, Less Accounting.
  • MindMeister: As the name implies, MindMeister is a mind-mapping company. Its Web-based solution is designed to deliver all the standard features of a classic mind-mapping tool online. The company gave away giving away free Premium licenses for one year to all attendees.
  • Mousecloud: This distributed startup (offices in Berkeley and Austin) demoed its real-time client/team feedback solution at the show. Mousecloud describes the solution as something like "a virtual overhead projector where everyone can participate remotely."
  • MyBooo: Dubbed "cloud computing for dummies," the MyBooo Web platform is designed to merge local and online applications. The BoooDrive is available now; BoooSync for syncing your desktop to the Web platform and iBoooDrive for iPhone users are coming soon.
  • OBM: This open-source alternative to Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes was developed in 1998, so it doesn't really fit the start-up profile. It's a collaborative e-mail and groupware solution built with a range of open source technologies.
  • Oprius: A SaaS sales tool, Oprius is designed to provide a simple tools bundle "without all the fat of traditional systems," the Victoria, B.C.-based company says. Aimed at the salespeople, the tools in the Oprius bundle comprise a lead capture app, automated sales and marketing calendars, and an integrated e-mail client that automatically attaches the user's outgoing and incoming e-mails to their contacts history.
  • Plutext: This open source project aims to enable real-time collaborative editing of Word documents in Word. There's a Word add-in, a Java library for manipulating .docx files and a cross-platform editor.
  • Postful: Just when you thought we were all going paperless, this year-old startup arrives with a Web-based system for penning and sending actual letters and postcards. The system allows you to generate letters and postcards using e-mail, Web forms or API calls. It supports html documents, PDFs, digital photos and Office Docs, among other formats.
  • Presdo: Found by Eric Ly, co-founder of LinkedIn, Presdo provides a super-simple online scheduler that got some attention at the show. It uses a natural language algorithm to allow users to create events with phrases like "lunch of Jeff" or "meeting with Becky." You then pick a location and send the invite with suggested times and dates.
  • TeamWork Live: A Web-based project management and collaboration tool, TeamWork Live is a hosted solution with no client software. It's designed for managing projects, tracking tasks, centralizing communication, sharing documents and files, and collaborating with clients and remote teams.
  • Wrike: An integrated online project management solution, Wrike was developed by the Silicon Valley-based company of the same name. It's aimed at small and midsize companies who want to manage their businesses via e-mail and the Web.
  • ZoooS: This Nevada-based, year-old company develops and distributes thin client software that runs on standard Web browsers. Its applications range from a file manager to a vector graphics editor, a word processor to a SQL DB manager. The company's focus is business-to-business. ZoooS gave attendees a preview of its upcoming ZoooS Office, which is an Ajax port of OpenOffice.org 3.0.

It wasn't among the startups, but Adobe Systems unveiled its new Genesis project at the show. Available now in a private pilot program, the AIR-based desktop client is designed to allow users to create and manage custom workspaces by combining enterprise applications, Web sites and documents. Matthias Zeller, Adobe's group product manager for corporate development, took the stage on Friday morning to give sleepy attendees a very early preview of the new SaaS collaboration services. Written in Flex, Genesis will provide a platform for sharing workspaces and real-time collaboration using IM, VOIP, video, screen sharing, and whiteboarding, Zeller said.

"We are still in the middle of development," Zeller added. "What I'm showing is a mixture of prototype and proof-of-concept, but already with real code."

This year's conference was kicked off earlier in the week with a keynote by the aforementioned author David Allen, whose book, "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity," laid out productivity practices that have become a way of life in many organizations. Just say "GTD" and you'll elicit nods and smiles from fans.

Another keynoter at the show was Google's Matthew Glotzback. Glotzback touched on his company's newly unveiled Web browser, Chrome, which was grabbing headlines in every medium last week. A devoted Mac user, Glotzback complained (as did the blogosphere) that he had to borrow a friend's PC to try it out himself. He demoed the new browser during his talk, emphasizing its speed and responsiveness. "I live exclusively in the browser," he told attendees. "I don't really care which browser I use. I care that it's really fast and that it works really well with Web applications…. The whole point of this [release of Chrome] is to push the state of the art forward…. And by open sourcing it, hopefully everybody will do this. I love the fact that Mozilla is also working on optimizations in the JavaScript engine to make it work really fast."

The three-day Office 2.0 conference drew an estimated 500 attendees. Its corporate sponsors included the likely (Google, Zoho, Salesforce.com) and the unexpected (GE, Wachovia, Fenwick & West).

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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