Socialwok plans to make small-to-medium sized companies a lot more social in the way that they work. Developed by the team at Singapore-based Voiceroute, Socialwok is an on-demand enterprise social platform that lets organizations collaborate more effectively within and outside of their business processes and manage social media interactions with the world better.
Voiceroute itself was started in mid-2007 by a group of friends with lots of who built a simple-to-install, entirely open-source unified communications IP-PBX suite (IP telephony, mobile, unified messaging, basic contact center) called the Druid Unified Communications Server (UCS) for organizations. Founded by CEO Yong Ming Guang, COO Vikram Rangnekar and CTO Navin Kumar, Voiceroute has attracted some 390 paying customers worldwide, including the Building Construction Authority of Singapore.
Making Enterprises More Social
The idea for Socialwok came about on the observation that, as Ming puts it, “if social networks like Facebook and Twitter were so effective in helping us communicate with our friends, then why should we continue to depend on the inefficiencies of CC or BCC emails to collaborate at work with colleagues?”
The key benefit of Socialwok, Ming believes, is that it allows organizations to harness the ease and power of rich media and feeds to improve collaboration and communication. Think Facebook + Twitter for business – the ability to easily share information, discuss ideas and thereby helping to bring products to markets faster. “With Socialwok, organizations can do this not only within the company but also with their customers and suppliers. No more unread emails and miscommunication,” says Ming. “It will also help to improve the transparency and accountability of business processes.”
“We are targeting small-to-medium knowledge intensive organizations and businesses globally. Verticals include law, finance, technology software, education and government,” says Ming. Since Socialwok‘s unveiling on 16 May at UnConference Singapore 2009 (where I met them), it has seen hundreds of organizations worldwide – from small IT shops to large MNCs – signing up. This isn’t much of a surprise: the software-as-a-service (SaaS) enterprise solution doesn’t require installation of any software, no upfront license fees nor annual maintenance fees, making it perfect for small businesses.
“We created Socialwok (to be) focused on increasing the operational and online marketing productivity of organizations, (which helps businesses) save and make more money without the hassle and inefficiencies of traditional collaboration software.” This, Mings says, is even more critical in times of recession, with an environment of slower growth and caution by businesses and investors.
Challenges and Opportunities
One key challenge for Socialwok, Ming admits, would be to drive a high level of adoption within an organization for using such enterprise social solutions. He’s probably right – not many companies would be totally comfortable with the social tools, such as instant messaging and collaborative information sharing, that their employees would suddenly be empowered with through such a solution. He’s counting on leveraging social media marketing to get the word out to the small-to-medium enterprise market and encourage the adoption of such tools. Ming says they’ve gotten a reasonable amount of success through social media marketing on Facebook, Twitter, blogs as well as strategic marketing to key tech evangelists.
Like most web applications in its space, Socialwok plans to grow an ecosystem of third-party developers and professional services around its offerings as part of its roadmap for growth. It’s still a question if developers would be keen to create interesting applications on its platform, considering that the allure and potentially larger reach of consumer platforms over an enterprise one.
Ming seems optimistic on the customer adoption front. A lot of Socialwok‘s UI technology was created and borrowed from Voiceroute‘s Druid, he says, hence a lot of Druid’s enterprise customers are potential customers for Socialwok.
Voiceroute was bootstrapped from the start with money from the founders. An internal angel round in 2007 was raised and and its operations are currently sustained with revenues from Druid. Socialwok is currently participating in Enterprise 2.0 LaunchPad.
“A startup is a team sport. Choose your team very carefully,” Ming says, sharing his experience in a startup over the last two years. “The team has to be passionate about the mission and other members (in the team), and always have an eye on the ball. This has to be sustained in good times and bad.”
“Difficult and painful decisions will have to be made, (so) be strategic about it.”
“Plan for a marathon. Have fun during the journey.”