UPDATE: Ryan Damico, who we interviewed, asked us to clarify a few things he said in our interview with him. We’ve included updates and clarifications from him in-line below.LinkedIn is about to overhaul the way recruiters find new employees — and one feature comes courtesy of Crocodoc, a Y Combinator startup.
Crocodoc, which at one point provided a way to host and view documents online for consumers, is changing its focus to enterprise-grade document hosting for companies like LinkedIn.
(Damico later clarified, saying it “powers PDF and Word resume viewing in an upcoming extension of LinkedIn’s Recruiter product” — removing the need to download the file and leave the site to view it.)
We caught up with co-founder Ryan Damico to find out what Crocodoc is working on now. Here’s what we found out:
- The founding team of four came out of MIT, and originally spent their time on consumer technology. Most entrepreneurs want to start a consumer-oriented company, because there are tons of potential users.
- But most of the interest for Crocodoc came from large companies who wanted to include the embedding technology in their services. It started with Yammer, an enterprise social network, that wanted to give users a way to read and collaborate on documents online.
- Larger companies have an incentive to embed documents online, and they pay better than consumers. The longer you can keep users on a site like LinkedIn, the better.
Here’s a lightly-edited transcription of the interview:
BUSINESS INSIDER: Tell me a little bit about Crocodoc. How did things get started?
RYAN DAMICO: The company started about five or six years ago when we met at MIT. We worked for a few years on WebNotes, the idea we used when we applied to Y Combinator. We got in and moved from Boston to San Francisco about two and a half years ago. We pivoted in the middle of the first class to the first version of what would become Crocodoc — a tool built on Flash (a web-based programming language that powers most streaming videos today). It was a way for individual users to view documents, virtual post-it notes, online and collaborate with their peers.
We eventually decided the app needed to be written in HTML5, a programming language that works well with mobile devices. We spent a long time with that — we launched the new Crocodoc on HTML5 a year ago. But we were getting inundated with partners who wanted to embed Crocodoc’s viewing technology into their web apps.
Yammer was our first customer. When users upload documents to Yammer, like a PDF, they can view those right within Yammer. They can add comments, mock-ups, and highlights in real time and collaborate. That was an eye-opening use case for us. We’ve gotten inquiries from other companies like Dropbox and SAP.
Our new focus is on an enterprise-grade product, specific for other companies to embed into their services. We’ve raised a number of angel rounds in the past, the total is roughly $1 million to date.
BI: Can you tell me more about the founding team?
RD: We did all meet at MIT, some of us were in undergrad, some of us were in grad school. We all have backgrounds in computer science. We spent a long time building a deep-seated expertise in documents. Our first products, a browser toolbar that would let people highlight web pages, we built as a web-based PDF viewer in Flash. We’ve been working on documents for a long time, drilling down to how documents work. We’ve been working at this for quite a long time, we’re a very technical team. Three guys, with the exception of myself are developing. We’re all in our twenties, I’m 29 — I focus on business development.
BI: Why did you want to focus on enterprise?
RD: Our consumer product is still here, we’re calling it Crocodoc Personal now. Our new enterprise product, we just call it Crocodoc, it’s the flagship product. We have many more customers, and we have a large number of medium or small-size companies. It’s big in some of the other verticals like e-learning — you can imagine it would be useful when students are uploading assignments and teachers need to reach them. About 7 million students and teachers are using it via Edmodo.
BI: What about security? Do you have an option that lets companies host documents on their servers?
RD: That’s one of the areas we spent a lot of time developing for this release. Crocodoc encrypts all the documents sent to it. We have a whole range of options in terms of security and deployment. Smaller companies use our web-based offering, which is hosted in Amazon’s cloud servers. Larger companies can work with us to do custom integration and store documents on their own servers.
(Damico asked us to clarify, saying “LinkedIn is using us in an upcoming upgrade to their recruiter product, which is used by companies all over the world to find the best talent. They will be using Crocodoc to display resumes directly on their site in HTML.)
BI: What kind of metrics did you use when you decided to jump to enterprise?
RD: What we saw was that while we still have a large user base for our consumer product, the demand for embedding Crocodoc as a component for other applications was unbelievable. When we look at our ultimate goal, which is to change the way people interact with documents, especially online, the opportunity to reach a larger number of users really comes from having customers like Dropbox and LinkedIn and Yammer and SAP, who all have a tremendous reach. We’re very happy with that so far.
BI: So what happens next?
RD: We’re gonna be hiring very aggressively, scaling up so to say. We’re working with other great companies like ones we’ve announced. Every customer of that magnitude that we work with, kind of the problems they’re solving, that’s huge to us.
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