My favorite Portland based startup company is Lunarr, which has created a unique collaboration service that combines a wiki-like front with email. This allows messaging between one or more collaborators on a document or what Lunarr likes to call a "flip" side.
Hideshi Hamaguchi, one of the co-founders of Lunarr, recently visited with his team,to show me a preview of the beta version of the service.
The user-interface of the alpha version was already very minimalist, with just a few tabs at the top and no branding at all. Mr Hamaguchi said that Lunarr has managed to simplify its user interface even further while at the same time adding functionality--an impressive claim.
The solution was to get rid of the tabs at the top of the page and add a single "dog-ear" on the top right of the page to show that there is a back side to the document. And there is just one line at the bottom of the page that has three choices on the left "upload file - import web - use template."
I was impressed. That is very close to what I consider must be the simplest user interface of all: a blank web page with just a cursor blinking in the middle of it.
Unknown unconstrained uses...
Since I first wrote about Lunarr in September 2007, it has acquired about 1200 users. I asked how are people using this service? [Please see: A Once in a Blue Moon Company with a Unique Collaborative App]
"We don't really know," said Mr Hamaguchi. Why not take a peek at what people are doing I asked? "We have very strict data privacy regulations we would never do that," he said.
Interesting and fascinating. A company that doesn't know how people are using its service seems to be a recipie for disaster. Yet I think it is a fascinating approach because its users could discover totally new ways of using the tool without being constrained by the way it is being used by others.
Patience can pay...
What is also interesting is that Lunarr is patient. It is completely self-funded by cofounder Toru Takasuka, one of Japan's most succesful and richest entrepreneurs. It can wait and develop Lunarr at its own pace, it doesn't have to have a revenue model immediately.
It doesn't have VCs or other investors pressuring Lunarr's team to rush into commercializing the business. It's an interesting approach that many Silicon Valley startups must envy.
Lunarr remains private by invitation only. I have a few invites left if you are interested in trying it out. Send me your email address tom at siliconvalleywatcher.com. I'll give priority to my Facebook friends so please send me a Facebook invite, it lets me know something about my readers.
And if you are a Lunarr user, I'd love to find out what you Lunarrtics are up to :-)