Buying Yammer For $1.2 Billion Still Won't Protect Microsoft From This Disruptive Startup

andy mcloughlin

While Microsoft is off spending $1.2 billion to bake social features into its enterprise services, file-sharing service Huddle — which already does that — is growing its enterprise revenue by 800 per cent year-over-year.

And now Huddle is aiming to jump even further ahead of Microsoft and other file-sharing services with a new update released this week that will make collaborating online even more smoothly.

The new update includes a revamped way for rendering documents and files that can be viewed on any device — whether it’s your phone, tablet, another computer or anything else.

That’s important for employees that don’t always have access to the original file, but still need to work with their other employees to get things just right. That could be perfecting a presentation or making sure everyone is briefed ahead of a meeting.

We caught up with co-founder Andy McLoughlin to find out why Huddle considered this update so significant. Here’s what we learned:

  • Huddle was working on these features even before Microsoft announced it would buy Yammer for $1.2 billion. Still, the huge purchase was a big signal that major software companies are now realising how important social is.
  • The biggest new feature is rendering. When you upload a document to Google Docs and other services, it often isn’t displayed like it looks in its original form. Huddle spent extra time making sure that it works smoothly.
  • Huddle is seeing huge growth in its revenue. Enterprise revenues were up 800 per cent, as was mentioned earlier.

Here’s a lightly-edited transcript of the interview:

BUSINESS INSIDER: What prompted you guys to roll out this new update? Did it have anything to do with Microsoft buying Yammer?

AM: We don’t believe in doing one update every year. We have a rolling program of updates, but this one is a good one. It’s timely with what’s going on in the market, with SharePoint buying Yammer. That was a confession from the software giant Microsoft that the way people work is changing. SharePoint and Office 365 by themselves are about creating content, but people don’t want to email files any more. They want to have that conversation in the app. Collaboration is inherently very social, you’re sharing and commenting on things. What we’ve been releasing, we’ve made that even stronger in the new app. We’ve really stacked it consumer social features, we’ve also spent a lot of time working on how users interact with content.

huddle update

BI: So what’s new, then?

AM: The main thing is a really high-quality previewing and rendering of files in the browser. One of the big problems was online viewing of files. The quality was always kind of crappy, you can render document in Google Docs, but it looks terrible — it never looks like the original. We spent a huge amount of time building a rendering engine that’s almost perfect. On the go, on my laptop or away from the office, I can be viewing the contents of Huddle without needing the latest version of Office. It looks exactly how you’d expect it to look.

With the new social features, I can kick off a conversation that feels very natural. Software companies like Microsoft have realised social is a very important feature. Our view is social is a feature, not a product, and we’re looking to make sure people can track within Huddle the same way they track within consumer social tools. I think the final thing is that all of this is being held inside our system as well, documents aren’t being passed through an external service to render, everything is happening on our service. When you deal with the government that’s a really important thing. It’s great for small businesses, for security.

BI: We’re guessing that’s a good thing. Was this in response to Yammer?

AM: All this gives you the ability to have a conversation around your files and really all this being underpinned by the intelligence the guys cooked up a couple months ago, making sure the right info is being pushed to the right people at the right time. 

This has been ongoing since before the Yammer acquisition was announced. That signaled that all these companies are on the same track. Social is important but the real value comes in for businesses when social is being used to leverage content that’s already there. Social is helping real work get done, Microsoft realised that, it’s gonna take them a long time to bake that into their existing products. I think it’s a really smart move but I wouldn’t expect to see this kind of functionality in share point any time soon.

BI: How’s the business doing?

AM: It’s growing great. we’re seeing 800 per cent growth in our enterprise revenues this year. That is a real indication of not only how big this market is, but how quick it’s moving, and also where Huddle is and the types of companies that we’re serving.

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