Hive -- another attempt to resolve the email conundrum

Another day, another entrant into the "we solve the email productivity gap problem" club

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Hive. A great name for a startup with an interesting history.

Hive is a new startup founded by a couple of experienced guys. John Furneaux is the ex-global head of customer success at Huddle while Eric Typaldos was previously employed by the White House as a technical architect for the Office of Management and Budget and is an Oracle platform architect.

The two founders were frustrated with the lack of basic tools available to run their project and decided to solve that problem. They built an early version for themselves and, in a story that mirrors so many startups before, Hive proved popular to others too and they moved the business from San Francisco to New York to take advantage of the stronger enterprise market.

The company is a graduate of the AngelPad program in 2015 and has just announced a $1.4m seed investment from a number of funds and individual angel investors led by New York’s Tribeca Venture Partners. Since graduating from AngelPad, Hive has found 250 companies to use the product, and those customers are using Hive to run their team operations. The customer spread spans business as small as they come through to relative giants such as Pinterest and Deloitte.

Anyway, Hive's approach is to marry the different aspects of what working together entails -- it does this by embracing the three streams of actions (think tasks, project steps etc), messages (the conversations that occur in relation to work) and files (be they stored in Google, Box or somewhere else). Hive is a kind of a hub for tasks and aims to help teams complete their processes as speedily and effectively as possible. In terms of creating how that process looks and works, it can be set up by the team or taken from a best-in-class library, but Hive also uses machine learning to suggest new possibilities.

  • First, the process is triggered by a manager (or automatically through Hive’s integrations by another tool like Salesforce).
  • Second, Hive automatically sends out each action that needs to be done, to the right person, at the right time.
  • Third, the person actually doing the action has all the tools they need to complete the action in front of them on their one-page Hive dashboard.

I spent some time talking with Furneaux about where he thought the sweet spot is for what Hive is doing -- after all, there are a huge number of initiatives designed to replace email (Slack being, of course, the most attention-grabbing). And went it comes to file sharing and collaboration, there is (or so it would seem) a vendor product for every business on the planet. Furneaux believes that existing approaches are interesting but fundamentally flawed in their dogmatic view around email being the villain in a modern workplace.

As he sees it, email has two incredibly powerful qualities: firstly, users can assign an action, send a message and attach a file in one message. And secondly, it can be answered immediately or later. Two seemingly simple traits but ones which other attempts to subvert the status quo have failed with. At the same time, we're starting to see a backlash against the intensity of the "always on"chat tools. In particular, Slack has come in for some recent criticism as some see it as an increasingly noisy interruption to their working day.

So what is the 'must-have' for a tool looking to beat email as a great productivity (vs just chat) tool? According to Furneaux, it must be effortless to request action, to send a message and to attach content and at the same time it must be able to deal with asynchronous requests and needs. Conveniently, that is the space that Hive plays within.

The Hive founders certainly have the pedigree in the space. And investors seem convinced. It will be interesting to watch this company progress.

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