Huddle, With a Fresh $24M, Puts a Predictive Spin on File Sharing
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what working in an enterprise is like, and that is why the biggest collaboration tool everyone uses is e-mail.”
Mitchell says Huddle is “what SharePoint would have been if Microsoft had been starting today,” meaning, for one thing, that it’s cloud-based, so it doesn’t require an internal data center or an IT team to set it up or keep it running. This also means that the service costs about one-tenth as much as SharePoint, which allows Huddle to spread much more quickly; teams as small as 25 people can set up Huddle and start sharing documents almost instantly, Mitchell says. “There are three reasons people buy Huddle, and one is that they want to set up a collaborative solution fast,” he told me. “They’ve gone to their IT guy, who says ‘I can give you SharePoint in a month,’ and with Huddle you get 90 percent of what you get with SharePoint in five minutes.”
The other two reasons: mobile access (Huddle has apps for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices) and file sharing across corporate firewalls. Companies collaborating with outside firms—like Dunnhumby—often have difficulty opening up their intranets or SharePoint installation to external users. Within Huddle, companies can set up “huddles” or secure workspaces and invite everyone involved in a project, whether they’re inside our outside the firewall.
All of that, though, was before the introduction of Huddle Sync. Now the company emphasizes “intelligence”—meaning automatic synchronization—as its main advantage over SharePoint and other file sharing options.
In a broadband, always-on world, it’s easy to grab a document off a remote server—the issue is that you might not even know it exists. “Once you get to a certain scale, great content is being produced inside your business that you may not even know about,” says McLoughlin. “You might be a sales guy and you may not know about the newest white paper because you haven’t been explicitly notified. Huddle Sync will bring it down to your device and expose it and say ‘Here are the things we know you are going to want to know about.’”
While Huddle could have kept running its business off existing revenues indefinitely, “growing the business requires money, and frankly we are in a market where the other companies have a lot of cash,” McLoughlin says; hence the recent Series C round. Huddle will use some of the cash to double in size from its current 100 employees to 200 by the end of the year, he says. A lot of the hiring will take place in the San Francisco co-headquarters, which was set up last year after the firm recognized that some 40 percent of its business was coming from U.S. companies.
So, is file sharing and synchronization ultimately a product or a feature? “I think that Steve was probably being a bit dismissive when he said that,” McLoughlin says. “If it’s a feature, it’s a very, very key feature.” Huddle doesn’t see iCloud, Google Drive, or Microsoft’s SkyDrive as big threats, he says, since features built into consumer operating systems generally don’t meet the security needs of enterprises. And the trends—with venture money still pouring into file-sharing startups, and big companies like VMware building their own systems—show that the market is asking for better technology.