Seattle-based Thinkfuse launched in public beta recently to give companies a way to give status updates to coworkers, stakeholders and investors. The email-based service allows companies to get weekly updates from employees about what they’re working on, and the service is being used by over 500 companies including GetAround, Kiip, and DuckDuckGo, with over 6,000 users in total.
Thinkfuse co-founders Brandon Bloom and Steve Krenzel were inspired to start Thinkfuse after using an internal system called Snippets at Google. The Snippets system allowed teams to opt in to receive a weekly email that asked team members to report on what they did that week, and what they would be working on the next week. It was then distributed to the whole team so everyone was on the same page about workload and priorities. ”It introduced this whole new layer of collaboration,” co-founder and CEO Aydin Ghajar said. “We took that and really expanded on it, and have been focused on developing a system to provide the benefits of an online collaboration platform, but to meet users where they’re at, which is in their inbox.”
Companies can use Thinkfuse to get weekly email updates from employees on what they’re working on, or to send company updates to stakeholders and investors. Managers can set the date, time and frequency (daily, weekly, or monthly) they want the reports sent out. “We give them a simple place to store that, and we also create a community of people they’re talking with,” he said. The updates are organized by location, team or role. Basic accounts are free, with an account focused on managers for $20 per month, and custom pricing for enterprise-level companies.
Ghajar said the most common use case is a manager using it for their team. The product has three privacy settings – manager only, team-wide, and company-wide. Employees get reminders on a weekly basis, or whatever time schedule a manager has set up, and are provided with a template in order to fill out their info. A reminder is also sent if a report is late. Submitted reports are stored online, and team members can discuss and add comments.
While the tool is in the social enterprise space, Ghajar is quick to differentiate it from internal communications tools like Yammer, and project management tools like Basecamp. He said they plan to integrate Yammer and other enterprise tools like GitHub and Salesforce. Though they will be adding the ability to track specific work items, they don’t want to get into project management. “We’re really about helping people track what been slated to get done, what actually got done, what didn’t and why,” he said. “We’re workflow focused, and we want to create a system that’s much less noisy than the typical social network.”
Though the tool would seem to be a replacement for weekly status meetings, Ghajar said they’re not trying to replace in-person meetings. ”We’re not trying to replace them, we’re trying to track what’s been committed to and what gets done going forward,” he said. As it stands, Thinkfuse has competitors like Socialcast that also provide digest updates of activity on a regular basis, but the company will be adding functionality so that users can see when they have recurring meetings, track deliverables, and publish an agenda prior to the meeting.
The company was part of the TechStars startup accelerator in 2010, and launched in private beta at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC in 2011. They raised $500,000 in angel funding in March 2011, and beyond the paid accounts, Ghajar said they will be experimenting with additional monetization plans over the next year. Right now Ghajar said there are many small companies using Thinkfuse, though there are a couple Fortune 500 companies using it for their teams. They’ll be looking to add more enterprise-level settings including data retention policies and security settings.
Since the service is a more feature-rich version of Google’s internal Snippets feature, and it’s founded by former Googlers, it could be an acquisition target down the road (Ghajar wouldn’t comment on any Google aspirations specifically, but said he “would hope they would be an acquisition target for a lot of companies”). But as it stands, Thinkfuse fills a pretty specific need, and it will need to form partnerships and add functionality in order to become a multi-faceted offering rather than a feature.