Fewer meetings, more productivity: Can enterprise messaging apps help your team?

Flock CEO argues that businesses needs better collaboration tools.

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Flock's Bhavin Turakhia: "Good software should follow the principle of, 'don't make the user think'."

Image: Flock

Helping teams communicate and share information better has been a challenge that many different enterprise messaging apps have tried to solve, from Slack and Microsoft's Yammer, to Cisco's Spark and Facebook's Workplace.

Another new entrant to this space is Flock, which boasts customers Whirlpool, Tim Hortons, and Victorinox. ZDNet recently spoke to the company CEO, Bhavin Turakhia, to find out more about its competitive advantages and plans for the future.

ZDNet: What are your plans for Flock?

Bhavin Turakhia: The objective of Flock is to fundamentally change and significantly enhance the way in which teams and enterprises communicate. We have built a Team Messenger that is available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, with a large number of apps and integrations which enhance productivity and activity at work.

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We have done a number of surveys recently and we now have close to 25,000 teams across the globe that have tried our system. We have 50,000 active users at any given time along with thousands of active teams.

According to those surveys, productivity in the teams using it has increased by 40 to 100 percent. They also say that it has increased transparency within the teams and has changed the team culture.

In addition Flock also increased mobile communications and improved team bonding. Team members are more self-sufficient as well.

I think that team communication has not seen much of a change for decades, but over the last two or three years there have been multiple contenders in this space. We see great potential in this market.

We are able to increase productivity within teams by 30 to 60 percent and so the potential across the globe is substantial.

How much money have you personally invested in Flock?

I have initially put $20m into Flock out of my own personal capital, and we have recently committed another $25m to support us while we are pursuing marketing and growth goals.

How do you see yourselves competing against Slack and other competitors?

The nature of this market means that there are bound to be competitors in different positions. Slack existed a few years before we did and that's both in terms of their products existence and conceptualisation, so they are a bit ahead. But in terms of product, there are quite a few capabilities and features where we stand out.

We think that when compared with Slack, we have much better ease-of-use and speed. There are about four macro ways in which Flock is significantly better than Slack.

We are more affordable certainly. Our pricing plans are 50 percent cheaper. [Editor's Note: Slack is initially free and then the Standard plan is £5.25 per active user, per month. The Plus plan is £9.75. Flock is free to begin with then the Pro Plan is $3 per user per month and the Enterprise version is POA.]

We are significantly faster in terms of loading time, in terms of actually using the app and the responsiveness is much higher.

We think the software is easier to us. Most users of Slack, especially the early adopters from non-tech companies, find Slack confusing, especially in the way they have to deal with hashes, and the look and feel of the interface requires them to be a little bit more tech-savvy.

We think that our apps in Flock are much richer and that teams will find it easier to work with because it has team features that are much richer.

In terms of things like Notes and Reminders, we think our software is much richer and offers a better user experience.

The last point is that we are, I believe, the only team messenger that is multilingual and we are available in Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and other languages.

When you set up Flock, how did you view the market area you were going into and how you might contribute to it?

Firstly I would say that, speaking personally, I have always been particularly finicky about productivity. I have done my own experiments using multiple monitors at the same time and in terms of writing using multiple tools at the same time.

Finding the most productive way of doing things and the most productive products and techniques has been my personal passion.

The second point is that I try to create a special culture in the company and it has been the same in all of the companies that I have founded. It is an area I feel passionate about.

If you look at all organisational communication (and enterprise communication as well) in the last two decades, after emails there have been no substantial change or innovation in the tools that are available to us for communication.

Yet our tools and our work have become infinitely more collaborative and our tools have become significantly more social in nature, because of the devices that are being used. But the underlying software still remains tied to telephoning, emails, and meetings.

I felt that there were a lot of things that could be achieved in a much faster way than using tools like Messenger, that would significantly reduce the number of meetings, the reports that were being signed off, and enhance productivity in many different ways.

That is the premise on which we started off. Then we developed the first version, which became an internal application that we could use ourselves and continually develop.

One of the ways forward for this kind of software is for it to be as intuitive as possible. What's your thinking on that?

Good software should follow the principle of, 'don't make the user think'. I fundamentally believe that good software has to be invisible. The moment that the software becomes visible is when the user has to [do some] thinking [about] what to do next.

Many of those principles apply to the way that we have designed Flock in terms of look and feel, and the user interface. It's important that it just works. It's very intuitive.

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Flock interface: a copy of shared to-do apps.

Image: Flock

You have had some successes with winning customers. Can you point to any that you are particularly pleased with?

We have many: VMware, Tim Horton's, Whirlpool, Ricoh, Victrionix, and Accenture are some of them.

You have just invested another $25m into the company. How will you used that?

The initial $20m was largely deployed to get the product to the initial product market phase, building out the platform, and the messaging. The $25m that I have committed now will largely be used for marketing and growth.

Is the aim to increase your presence worldwide?

Absolutely. In just the last six months, we have built a presence in Russia and Spain, and before that the UK. The US already had a certain presence and the aim is to expand all of those markets.

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