I read this morning that Foldera, an online organizational tool that virtually no one has seen, has already had 400,000 people sign up for access to the public beta whenever it is finally made available. That's a remarkable number and it supports my contention that there are fundamentally broken aspects of work that people are eager to address.
Foldera, more than most of the organizational plays I've encountered to date, is focusing on a core set of things that are brokenSearching for "Foldera" on Google this morning returns a purported 133,000 hits. Yahoo! claims to have "about 122,000". A Windows Live search reports a more realistic 20,656. Aside from the fact that search engines are still generating junk numbers (some more than others), there's a more meaningful phenomenon taking place here. I'm seeing a level of buzz that, even in the current Web 2.0 bubble (you now the one that may or may not be a bubble), is difficult to miss, admire, and wonder about.
Of course, the barriers to entry at this point are low. All these 400,000 people have done is leave an e-mail address hoping to be notified that they can peer behind the curtain and get a sense of what's going on. I've regularly had the opportunity to play with pre-release software and services and, after writing about my experiences, am generally inundated with requests for invites - a trend the Googlers have institutionalized and others have gleefully adopted. Remember Gmail? Orkut? How about Windows Live Messenger? 'Nuff said.
Trend or no trend, 400K is a big number. And when I review the list of promised Foldera features in an attempt to figure out just what is driving this unprecedented level of curiosity, I have a notion.
Here's what I think. Foldera, more than most of the organizational plays I've encountered to date, is focusing on a core set of things that are broken that have formerly been best addressed by using Outlook on your PC - particularly in an Exchange Server of SharePoint environment. Consider this list of things Foldera promises to help you manage:
Now reflect on the way Foldera intimates it will allow you to manage these information objects and resources. Pay attention to the verbiage - it's clear, compelling, and well articulated - hitting the "pain points" marketing wonks are fond of describing as their target:
Organize: Foldera instantly sorts and files your sent and received email, instant message dialogs, tasks, documents, and calendar events into Activity Folders on a project by project basis while you work. This means that you will never have to manually sort and file your information into old-fashioned folders ever again.
Communicate: Foldera makes it possible for you to exploit email and instant messaging within the context of a single business project or activity. Every exchange of information and every communication you make in the execution of an activity is grouped together, live in one centralized place.
Share: Foldera captures each email, instant message dialogue, document, task and event as a unique object within its associated folder. These objects can be reopened, shared, edited, copied, moved and saved at will.
There's more of this on the Foldera site. A lot more.
In some ways, this has all the trappings of one more big check that, when presented for redemption, will be returned for insufficient funds. There are, to be sure, naysayers out there who have had promises "bounce" too often to buy into well-written copy backed by nothing more than vapor. This exchange on Schadenfreude between the author, who describes him(?)self as "a fat, pot-bellied twat (round corners); incoherent both in mind and expression, who seems to focus on all the wrongs things in life" and Richard Lusk, founder of Foldera is a classic example.
And there are celebrants - those who have either actually seen the service or who, sight unseen, have bought into the vision thing in joyously unrestrained kool-aid gulping enthusiasm. Me? I remain safely in the middle on this one. There's certainly some substance behind this effort. The company has secured Series B funding to the tune of $8.5 million. And it has published a very favorable write-up from Michael Sampson of Shared Spaces Research. This review, convinces me that the eventual offering will have substance. I respect Michael's work and appreciate his defense of this sort of company-sponsored reportage. If he says Foldera breaks new ground and will provide previously unavailable collaboration capabilities. I am completely comfortable believing there's more behind the curtain than special effects smoke and mirrors.
The proof has yet to be delivered but Foldera's "vision thing" hits pretty close to the mark based on what I see as an unfulfilled need in the market to provide a no-cost-of-entry, scalable fix for much of what has broken in our work.