Messy Office

Leave it to a pair of management consultants to take a look at the current crop of mobile task management products in the market and see nothing but inefficiency. That’s exactly the realization led Gneo founders Tatum and Anthony Keane to end their careers at the UK incarnations of Deloitte and Touche and Accenture. The problem, according to the founders, is that all existing solution focused more on organizing tasks than on prioritizing them and getting the most high priority, high value task done.

“Most people don’t have enough time each day to get everything done, but the existing productivity tools don’t help people to prioritize effectively,” Tatum Keane says. “Gneo is unconventional in that it’s not about getting everything done. It’s about getting the ‘right things’ done.”

When the Keanes launched their minimum viable product a year ago, they did so under the name “Any To Do.” And while the first version was less beautiful and focused less on prioritization than the pair would have liked, it proved to be very popular, generating more than 250,000 downloads. The app uses a freemium model under which free users can upload an unlimited number of tasks, but are limited to “completing” no more than ten. One in ten users have upgraded to the paid version at $5.99 for iPhone and $8.99 for iPad, according to the company, meaning it’s generated year one revenue of somewhere between $150,000 and $225,000.

Yesterday, the company presented at the Boost VC Demo Day, marking its graduation from the summer accelerator session. They announced the name change to Gneo and debuted the entirely redesigned version two of their product.

Gneo for iOS is extremely well designed, allowing users to manage an unlimited number of tasks, prioritize them according to a four-quadrant “Important vs Urgent” matrix (how consulting-ish of them), and view these tasks within your calendar without ever leaving the app. The company is fond of pointing to the famous quote by President Eisenhower, who said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

Tasks can also be organized into multiple “notebooks,” such as work and personal, or those relating to individual projects. Users can set reminders, include notes, attach files, add tags to organize tasks, and set task locations using the Foursquare API. Gneo, like Any To Do before it, integrates with Evernote, allowing users to store and access notes in the cloud, as well as to view to-do lists from the Web. (There is no Web version of Gneo currently, but one is in the works according to the company.)

No word yet on pricing – the app is awaiting App Store approval and will be available in the coming week(s) – but expect a similar freemium model. Existing users of Any To Do will get a free upgrade to the new app.

Any To Do was most popular among professional men between the ages of 35 to 55, according Tatum Keane. Judging by its design and functionality, Gneo should find a similar audience, although it would be useful for a wide range of consumers. The company claims that it generates more than twice the engagement and retention rates of any competing app in its category, according to Flurry metrics.

The app is competing on the consumer front with popular (and typically paid) task management platforms like Remember The Milk, Astrid, ToodleDo, Wunderlist, Omnifocus, and others. There’s a wide range of feature sets and a large variance in productivity philosophy across these competing platforms, but none that offers the ruthless and visual prioritization focus of Gneo. For people looking for a solution to this problem in particular, it should prove popular.

The big challenge I see with Gneo is monetization. If Any To Do was any indication, the company won’t have much trouble getting a reasonable number of people to pay for their app. But $150,000 to $225,000 worth of revenue per year, a sustainable business does not make. And apps that charge a one time download fee – even if the occasional paid update is tossed in – have limited ability to continue monetizing their most loyal and satisfied users.

Gneo should take a page out of Remember The Milk’s book and adopt a yearly subscription model for access to its Pro version. $5.99 is already a hefty price point for an iOS app, meaning the company has likely weeded out most people who are unsure of whether they’re willing to pay for the product. In that scenario, there is little risk in shifting to a $9.99 or $19.99 annual subscription model instead.

The company has been bootstrapped to date, with the exception of the limited financing from the Boost accelerator – which largely went to relocating the team from Ireland. As is standard within the industry, yesterday’s Demo Day appears to mark the beginning of the company’s Seed fundraising efforts.

The biggest challenge facing Gneo today is anonymity. Despite Any To Do’s popularity, it was far from a household name. With the new branding, the company and app are starting from zero in terms of awareness – save for existing users who will upgrade to the new version and potentially recommend it to their friends.

The to-do list and task management category is an incredibly crowded market, full of poorly designed (and often free) products aimed at the lowest common denominator. While this is clearly not Gneo’s target market, the company will need to help its potential customers sift through this noise to find their solution. It’s a difficult task with no clear silver bullet solution.

Gneo is in a popular category without a clear dominant player. The fact that the company has managed to build a loyal audience for early versions of its product and is coming out today with a far superior version of that product bodes well for its chances of growing its user base going forward.

And yet, there are business questions that remain to be answered which will go a long way toward determining Gneo’s ultimate success. The company’s former consultant founder surely understand cashflow statements better than most and won’t be surprised by much in this regard. The question that remains to be answered is whether they can concoct a monetization scheme that turns Gneo into a long term cash cow.

[Image via HuffPo]

  1. Gneo is a suite of mobile and desktop applications where individuals and teams can bring their To-Dos together and prioritize all the things they need to get done.

    We are focusing on mobile first and our iOS app Gneo was selected as Editors' Choice on the App Store

    1. Boost VC
      Incubator