It's been a little while since a new player in the files sharing and synchronization space reached out to me. There are two possible explanations for that. The optimist in me would suggest it is down to people realizing that the space is crowded beyond measure and that there is little point of ponying up and doing essentially the same thing under a different logo. The skeptic in me would suggest that it's only because I've become increasingly curmudgeonly about the vendors in the space, and PR flacks have decided to stay well away.
Whatever the reason Andy Rosen, the co-founder of Sendergram, bucked the trend recently and reached out to tell me about the solution that he and his partner, Bjorn, have created. Sendergram is, in Rosen's words "a file sending and receiving solution with real time activity, tracking, discussion and notification streams." Following the mantra of embracing an entire workflow, Sendergram records and tracks an entire communication, the files sent and all recipient activity on the blockchain.
It is not, as Rosen explained, an email or file sharing replacement. Sendergram fully integrates with both. It centralizes a user email and file sharing accounts into one place for sending and receiving files from multiple accounts.
(As a complete aside, Rosen has perhaps the best life story of any tech founder ever -- the guy was a rock 'n' roll photographer in the late 70's and early 80's in London and recently had an exhibition of some incredible historical music images.)
In a refreshingly frank email conversation, Rosen opened up about the genesis of Sendergram and the year they have spent developing the product. As Rosen sees it, building a software project with a small team (of two) is similar to driving drunk down the 405 freeway, with your eyes shut, hoping that if you just keep going you won’t crash and you will get to your destination. I like Rosen's honestly, even if a traditional PR person would be horrified by his candor.
Rosen is a Brit transplanted to Los Angeles; his co-founder a German. Between the two of them, some crazy timezones and (one suspects) a lot of coffee, the two have worked together for around a decade and built a number of products -- a humongous DAM platform, a healthcare DAM platform, an online casting service for feature films, software to help politicians market themselves, a survey solution similar to Survey Monkey and a bunch more. The pair's tagline is “A product built with German precision and British disruption skills.”
Born out of complexity the pair set out to build a simple solution for what they see as a universal problem -- a way to simply send, discuss and track files. The conundrum is that email is not an efficient file sending solution while file sharing services are not built for communication. Email and file sharing solutions work well for short brief communication and for the quick exchange of files. Both fail when the conversation is for a longer duration and includes discussions with multiple recipients and attachments. Sendergram is, therefore, simple in its ambition -- to ease the sending, receipt and discussion around files.
"Sendergam builds context and detailed activity streams around each file and each recipient while sourcing files from multiple storage sources. File sharing, email and Slack types don't do the one simple thing I need most days, which is a way to send, review and discuss files efficiently," states Rosen.
Not content with fulfilling the send/receive/discuss needs, the pair also decided, at the 11th hour, to add blockchain into the mix for verification and tracking -- nothing like a bit of scope creep to keep developers on their toes! The product is now in private beta. And ready for people to trial.
I love the Sendergram founders' personal stories, but I just can't get hooked on their product story. There are some interesting approaches here, but none which seems unique -- cross provider support is nice, but companies like CloudHQ (and a host of others) do it too. The blockchain stuff is interesting, but nothing that isn't replicable by other parties. The ability to comment alongside shared files? It was vaguely exciting when Dropbox introduced it but not so much now.
Rosen was at pains to explain the value that he sees in Sendergram based on his experience selling his photography, he also explained that Sendergram today is just the first release and that "where we are going will further differentiate us." Things like dedicated services around “sending” and associated workflows, document/file authentication, contract signing, invoicing, payment processing etc.
It all sounds good, but not enough to win me over. I wanted to believe, if for no other reason than due to sentimentality based on the fact that I lived in the same part of London where Rosen began his photography career while squatting in a house in the 70's. But even that wasn't enough. I wish the best of British luck (and German, I guess) to Sendergram and hope, for their sakes, that my assessment is wrong.