GraphEffect launches Shift, scores Facebook platform superstar to build out enterprise collaboration nirvana
As social and collaborative as the consumer Web has grown in recent years, the same advancements have not extended to the business world. LinkedIn, for all its success, still looks like a product conceived in another decade and is severely limited in its ability to improve the daily productivity of professionals. Yammer and Asana are great, but they are unnecessarily siloed within single organizations. If one were to design the definitive business social network today, it would look more like Facebook, with elements of Asana, and the iTunes App Store baked in.
Today, social advertising company GraphEffect launched Shift.com and the Shift platform API to deliver this reimagined enterprise social platform. Shift was born out of a cross-organizational collaboration platform developed for internal use at GraphEffect and launched to the public in August. The product generated a ravenous early response within the advertising and marketing industry, including from beta brand partners American Express, Toyota, Estee Lauder, Clorox, and Samsung.
Shift offers a workspace that mirrors the way individuals and organizations actually communicate and collaborate. As I wrote when I first saw the product:
Seeking to optimize the various conversations that go on among teams, GraphEffect divides the collaboration environment into a global activity feed, team, or project specific feeds, a “Sidebar” for private conversations, a personal “Inbox,” and a “Follow Ups” section for task management…While this may seem like it could be complicated or excessive, the user interface and practical workflow is a thing of beauty. In fact, it’s so intuitive that…the platform would make sense in almost any industry.
More importantly, the product offers teams across multiple organizations a venue to collaborate. Rather than having multiple identities within programs like Yammer, Asana, Salesforce, and the like, Shift aims to be the persistent online identity of the enterprise Web that extends beyond these individual silos. Taking this a step further, Shift users have their own profiles, meaning that when they change companies, their teams may change but they can take their contacts and the majority of their activities with them.
With the company’s open platform API, third party apps can easily integrate with the platform. Like the way Facebook allows apps like music players and news readers to become more social, Shift will allow developers to engage in the collaborative workflow. The GraphEffect social advertising toolset itself is now an application on the platform and launches alongside several alpha partners.
At launch, the Shift platform will include mobile demand side ad platform Gradient X, SMB order management software Lettuce, search engine management app Kenshoo, recruiting software The Resumator, application development environment HYFN, and project tracking system Phacility. The company plans to announce a similar list of beta partners in a matter of weeks.
In perhaps the biggest statement of commitment to building Shift into a ubiquitous enterprise platform, the company announced the addition of former Facebook Preferred Marketing Developers (PMD) partner manager Adam Gerston as its VP of Strategic Partnerships. Gerston was an integral member of the team led development of PMD from inception to one of Facebook’s largest revenue drivers, which he describes as bringing in more than $1 billion per year. [Update: A Facebook spokesperson has since disputed this figure, saying, "Facebook has not broken out PMD revenue but I can tell you that is false."]
Gerston comes with some serious experience and an equally impressive rolodex. His first major coup, was convincing GraphEffect competitor Kenshoo to be one of Shift’s alpha partners. To Kenshoo’s credit, Gerston says that they saw the value immediately, but his stunning success in this partnership has gone a long way in persuading outside observers of Shifts value.
Once it onboards the hundreds of organizations and thousands of individual users awaiting access to the platform, a task which will take a matter of days, the next order of business is to continue integration of leading enterprise software tools. The upcoming product roadmap includes a heavy focus on rolling out a mobile version of Shift, which is expected in a matter of weeks, while adding additional functionality and refinements to the core product.
The rapid ascent and bottom-up viral path of tools like Yammer and Box.net demonstrate that the enterprise is receptive to new solutions. That said, the large organizations that will benefit most from Shift are also notoriously the most slow moving and resistant to change.
The company has an enormous task ahead of it to build awareness of Shift and convincing developers to devote their attention to the platform. That said, Gerston’s addition is a strong first step toward realizing the lofty goal of becoming the only browser tab that professionals needs to persistently have open during the workday.
Since raising a $12 million Series A round in June, GraphEffect has swelled to 52 employees in Los Angeles and New York, with new addition Gerston set to open a five to ten person Palo Alto office.
Shift is currently free to users and to development partners, although it’s likely that at some point in the future both groups will get a chance to compensate the company for providing the collaboration platform. The company’s social advertising business is profitable and continues to grow at a healthy rate.
The real opportunity, according to CEO James Borow, is to “build 10 GraphEffects on top of Shift.”