Witches-Brew

Sharing on the Web is more than posting a link to Twitter or sharing a photo on Facebook. It’s passing documents along to co-workers, sharing Web pages related to the latest project, and making sure everyone has access to important files. Where before those things might have been passed around via thumb drives, an intranet, or — if we feel like getting crazy — sheets of paper, now we use tools like Dropbox or Yammer to make sure everyone on a team has access to what they need.

LiveHive (formerly CaptureToCloud), a San Jose-based startup backed by Acero Capital and a number of angel investors, aims to make that process a little easier. The company is launching its eponymous service today in its efforts to build a business-ready sharing tool inspired by sites like Pinterest and Facebook.

“There are lots of different types of content that we deal with nowadays. And it’s not just files — in our daily lives we deal with Web pages and links and other types of content as well,” says LiveHive CEO Ramon Nunez. LiveHive, then, is meant to be a place where people share notes, Web pages, documents, and other content with their team members.

The service, like many others that have launched, updated, or just felt like getting a facelift since Pinterest’s debut, is dominated by large images and thumbnails. Users are able to scroll through each piece of content with a CoverFlow-inspired horizontal view, and many documents are opened directly within the service. Anyone familiar with Pinterest, Facebook, or basic Web pages should be able to use LiveHive.

Users will also be able to annotate and edit Web pages and documents via a built-in HTML editor, which could come in handy when the important bits of a document need to be highlighted or further explained. Google Drive and Dropbox are built into LiveHive, and some documents — such as Microsoft Word files — will open in Google Drive’s document editor.

LiveHive checks all of the right boxes, but it feels very much like a version 1.0 product. The interface leaves a lot to be desired and, at times, feels like a combination of Pinterest and Facebook built by a system administrator. Everything works, and it’s clear that the LiveHive team wants to build something that marries enterprise functionality with consumer design, but it simply isn’t there yet.

Unfortunately, since LiveHive’s plan is to appeal to the individual and then spread to a larger team, its design is much more important than, say, Yammer or Chatter’s. We’ve used both solutions at PandoDaily not because we want to but because we have to, and are forced to live with the Arial-covered, blue-and-gray services under pain of death. (Or something like that.)

LiveHive doesn’t benefit from the same fear. Growing user by user means each and every person who looks at and tests the service comes away feeling like it is indispensable, and right now it’s hard to see many individuals making that decision.

But, then, LiveHive is freshly-launched and will likely continue to evolve. The company is clear on its vision and has identified the problem it wants to solve — a lack of design-conscious business tools — but fallen short in its execution. For people who don’t care about what a service looks like or have to get every new tool approved by management before its use, that might not be a problem. But for everyone else, LiveHive is perhaps best thought of as a wait-and-see.