The business chat space is heating up right now. Slack’s explosive growth in popularity just shows how prime the space is for disruption, but it’s not the only company making waves in the business messaging space.
ChatGrape, a European startup, hopes to take on heavyweights like Slack, HipChat and Flowdock with its own spin on business chat. The company is relatively new — only founded in January 2014 — but said it looked at the market and “realized that all the existing tools really are just better looking versions of a 20 year old IRC chat standard, with very little actual, meaningful innovations having taken place.”
It’s easy to say that, but Slack’s huge growth and unique integration feature set proves that taking IRC and improving on it significantly can yield incredible results. ChatGrape says it’s doing something even more unique than what Slack did to kill email.
Slack’s fast growth via Marc Andressen
Leo Fasbender, Chief Operating Officer and co-founder at ChatGrape told me that the service hopes to eliminate the “look-up factor.” The look-up factor is that time you lose whenever you’re interrupted by someone or the need to find information; it’s a well documented phenomenon that affects basically everyone working in an office.
Fasbender said that studies have shown the average office worker spends 33 percent of their time searching and gathering information from disparate services like Trello, Google Drive or Github. ChatGrape addresses this by not only integrating to receive notifications from external services, but also take action on them without leaving the stream.
Unlike Slack or Flowdock, ChatGrape’s search engine indexes integrations as well, so you can quickly look up files or references without ever leaving the chat stream and drop them in directly.
ChatGrape is also working on something called “chat intelligence” which will launch in 2015 and use natural language processing to recognize dates, questions, assignments and to-dos without additional user interaction.
This chat intelligence feature will allow you to take integrations to the next level. For example, if you said “@Owen, I need you to get this article done by Tuesday at 5pm” the service will automatically be able to add a task and timestamp to your task manager. This feature alone saves you from jumping over to your task app to add it.
Even Fasbender himself understands that many chat services are offering almost the same thing, telling me that “if it was just about chat, it wouldn’t matter whether you use Skype, MSN, Facebook Chat, Whatsapp or Basecamp, it’ll always take the same amount of time to, for instance, locate a file in your Google Drive, and then copy-and-paste it back to share it.”
Instead, ChatGrape wants to show businesses just how much time it can save staff and the productivity gains that come from that. That alone is a powerful sell.
Right, now ChatGrape is in an “early access” phase so it’s free to use, but there is a wait list. When that phase ends sometime in early 2015, ChatGrape will be free to use with as many users as you like if you use less than three integrations; for those with more integrations, it’ll cost $10 per user after that per month, but features unlimited integrations and other features like faster support. The company also offers a deal to bootstrapped startups for just $1 per user per month.
Today, the company is launching version 2.0 of its service that features a new design and is launching its first iPhone app on the iOS store alongside the new interface. The mobile app features the very same great autocomplete and search functionality the company touts, right from your phone, where the “look-up” savings are even greater.
ChatGrape has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with the likes of Slack, considering the huge lead it has on the company and just how much users seem to love Slack, but it’s got a unique spin on messaging that could win businesses over that want to further increase productivity.