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There has never been a better time to be a creative professional. The tools available today make gathering inspiration, expressing ideas, and sharing your work with millions easier than ever before. One of the more interesting segments within this category is that of visual collaboration. Rather than making a single individual more creative and prolific, the latest generation of software is making it possible for entire teams to collaborate using a wide variety of media.

Mural.ly, which has previously allowed individuals to create dynamic pinboards of photos, websites, files, and documents from sources like YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest, Google Maps, Google Images, Google Drive, and Dropbox, today threw its hat into the collaboration ring. Based on feedback from thousands of its beta users across industries, the company designed an interface that is deliberately less structured than other collaboration products and more focused on creativity.

“Most collaboration software out there is too structured: text, tables, and image uploads in a structured format that is not very suitable for imagination,” co-founder and CEO Mariano Suarez Battan says. “They need something easy and flexible to use to help them stay in the flow and let their ideas grow like in their designer war rooms.”

In the new product, multiple users can add and manipulate content to Murals simultaneously. Murals are also zoomable, allowing “big picture” and micro focus. The company introduced a new comment layer enabling team members to discuss changes or new ideas, including directing comments at specific individuals through “@mentions.” In conjunction with these new communication features, comes an improved email notification system that aims to illustrate the changes being made visually, while still avoiding email overload.

Perhaps the biggest change is that users can now create private, or “indoor,” murals for those confidential projects, restricting access to only approved collaborators – as opposed to public, or “outdoor,” murals. These indoor murals will be part of a yet to be finalized paid premium product aimed at businesses. Other features available to paid users include organizing murals in rooms, integrated invitations, and connection to premium storage. The premium product will be free to use for schools in the case of open, public projects, and at a discounted rate for private rooms. Pricing for businesses will be announced in a matter of weeks.

Mural.ly got an overall performance tune up as well. The rebuilt product relies on HTML5, Node.js, and Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform to push the performance limits of the browser. The latest update also added SSL encryption. The product is currently accessible through the desktop Web, and through its mobile optimized site. The company anticipates introducing a native iPad app focused on content uploading in the near future.

Since launching in September 2012, Mural.ly has attracted thousands of beta users, including web product teams, game designers, visual designers, advertising agencies, visual thinking specialists, writers, videographers. The company raised a $775,000 Seed round led by Intel Capital, with participation from 500 Startups and Alta Ventures. Founded in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the 500 Startups company now bases a significant portion of its operations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It would be easy to write Mural.ly off as a Pinterest spin off, but there a large audience for specialized creative tools such as this. The success of Gobbler’s custom cloud storage product for creative professionals and The IdeaLists creative services marketplace, among countless others, illustrate the degree to which innovation is being rewarded in the space. Now Battan has the challenge of getting Mural.ly in front of as many users in this category as possible and making the premium product so compelling that people are willing to pay for it. 

[Image source: eduardo kobra via Design Boom]