Dispatch, a New York City-based startup that helps people share and discuss their files in the cloud, launched its platform in public beta this week. The company’s productivity tool was created at TechCrunch Disrupt’s Hackathon in 2011, and aims to help teams consolidate their files into one place to discuss, add comments, and review.
Originally billed as a “Finder for the cloud,” the company launched the current version of Dispatch in private beta in May 2012. Co-founder Alex Godin said the goal of Dispatch is to allow people to bring everything they’re working on into one place, so they can keep team members updated. Users create dispatches, or groups of files, that team members can then add notes to and discuss. He said it could be mockups, documents related to a presentation, or any group of files from Dropbox and Google Docs.
“We think there’s a huge opportunity to bring those services together and add value, and we’re doing that with Dispatch by letting people have better conversations about the stuff they’re working on,” Godin said in an interview. “If we can organize the content around a project, we can make you more productive, and that’s our goal.”
Take the example of someone working on new mockups for a website. They can upload their designs, any copy they want to include, and also link to sites they like around the web. Dispatch users can upload files or add them from Dropbox and Google Docs, and add content from any link on the web. Dropbox updates are reflected within a dispatch, and team members can get customized notifications when their dispatches are updated, and reply to comments via email.
Right now Godin and his team are working on adding other integrations, including Google Drive, Evernote, Trello, and a list of other services. Based on feedback since the beta launch, the team added the ability to add notes to a dispatch, and changed the email notifications. Eventually Dispatch will offer paid premium features, but during the beta it’s free for all users. And while it’s web-only right now, Godin said mobile apps are on the roadmap. “It’ll always be free to get started, but at a certain point, it’ll be a no-brainer to pay money for it.”
As for other project management tools like Basecamp, Godin said they often focused on an entire project, and all the functionality someone would need to manage it from start to finish. “We think there’s a lot of value to being very lightweight,” he said. “The biggest alternative to Dispatch is email, but email is really messy for this type of stuff.”
Godin said the company’s target audience is creative professionals and agencies who do a lot of design work, but he said there have been other use cases like students collaborating to write an ebook. The company participated in startup accelerator TechStars’ summer 2011 program, and raised $965,000 in funding in November 2011, and Godin says that funding has been used to build out their team.
Productivity and collaboration apps are a dime a dozen these days, with everything from Cage to Basecamp helping people manage their files and projects. And of course there’s always the question of whether the average user will sign up for a tool like Dispatch instead of just using email, regardless of how inefficient it can be. Godin said he believes providing a space to manage and discuss cloud-based documents will prove to be a useful add-on for users. “Once you’re using Dispatch, it doesn’t make sense to use Google Docs without Dispatch, to use Dropbox without Dispatch, and to work in the cloud without Dispatch,” Godin said. “Because we work great with email, it’s really not a lot of work for someone on your team to sign up.”