Given PandoDaily’s well-documented turmoil with cloud collaboration tools, I was excited to check out Dispatch, a New York company that launched its browser-based collaboration tools out of TechCrunch Disrupt last fall. The company launched a major overhaul and redesign this week.
I invited a few colleagues and we began messaging in the app. We agreed that it was great-looking — super clean, speedy, and for some reason the tiny red dot that separates each thread is a huge relief to my eyes. It’s also easy to join with a one-click Google account signup. And the tools are dead simple to start using. The “@ message” tagging function is great for alerting someone to an important message. The threaded topical “Dispatches” are good for organizing comments around issues or stories.
But Dispatch was not ideal for our very specific needs. We need realtime updates, private messaging, and “liking” (which we use to passively acknowledge that we’ve seen a comment). Dispatch is desktop-only for now, but a mobile app is crucial for us since the whole team is on-the-go. We don’t need much in the way of file sharing from Box, Google Drive, Dropbox, or Evernote. Worst of all, Dispatch sent an email for every relevant update on the site. For an app that’s supposed to eliminate email, this is somewhat frustrating. (For the record, Yammer does the same thing; I’ve had to create a separate Yam Spam filter for all the noise.) Regardless, we’re not Dispatch’s ideal use case.
And luckily for Dispatch, the site has found plenty of teams that are. The project was born out of a TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. It officially launched six months ago; since then the site has seen a steady growth in sign-ups — between 600 and 1,000 a week – and an even steadier rate of return usage. The redesign, which launches today, is a result of studying that usage.
“Now we understand where we sit with our audience,” co-founder Jesse Lamb says. Where Dispatch sits is firmly within the confines of the creative class, including many agencies. Often small teams within large agencies use the tool for collaboration. It’s more lightweight than a project management tool like Basecamp, which deals with timelines and dates. “Instead of being about the things that describe your work, it’s about your work itself,” Lamb says of Dispatch collaboration. Most Dispatches start out as notes and links but eventually files from Evernote and Dropbox are used more heavily.
And as for that pesky email problem, Lamb says the company has been working hard to make the email alert system smarter. If Team Pando had stuck around long enough, we would have seen the alerts throttle down after we began using the site regularly. A fair chunk of users keep Dispatch open all day in the same way they’d keep a Gmail tab open, he says, and they have no reason to receive emails. Dispatch changes around the way the entire site works to include a more realtime alert system on the site.
Eventually Dispatch plans to monetize with premium versions, not unlike some of the tools it integrates with, such as Dropbox and Google Apps. For now, its small team has $965,000 from a long list of angel investors including TechStars, which graduated the company in 2011, to make sure it is solving the problems its users want solved. “Once we get that right, this is straightforward to monetize,” Lamb says.