Bret Taylor, a well known and highly respected engineer who helped create Google Maps and later co-founded FriendFeed before becoming the chief technology officer of Facebook (s fb), has a new company — Quip. He co-founded the company with Kevin Gibbs, who worked on Google’s (s goog) data center technology and helped develop the autocomplete search functionality for Google Search.
The San Francisco-based company is building what the two founders call a modern word processor, built for a post-social, post-mobile and touch-centric era. According to Silicon Valley sources, the company has quietly raised $15 million primarily from Benchmark Capital. In a blog post describing the new offering, Taylor and Gibbs wrote:
Despite the magnitude of this shift, the software that we use to get work done has not evolved over the past thirty years. With the exception of some additional color and and a stack of toolbars at the top of the screen, it doesn’t look different from the software that probably came bundled with your current laptop. We still use the same metaphors and the same workflow that we used when shoulder pads and leg warmers were cool.
The features these products have accrued over thirty years have made it difficult for most of us to switch to new products, but they have also made it almost impossible for the products to truly change. When we decided to build Quip, it was based on the premise that the shift to tablets and phones is so fundamental and so all-encompassing that it dwarfs the sum of all of these features in importance.
Quip combines documents and messages into a single thread. It makes it relatively easy to tip via the mobile devices, yet it doesn’t forget the desktop past.
The conversation includes all the activity in the document: messages, document edits, and who’s viewed your changes — everything that’s happened since the document was created. Staying up to date is easy: just open the thread on any device, and you can quickly see the messages and edits since you’ve last visited. Quip is available today. To create an account on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, install the app. We also have an Android app in the works. Quip is free for personal use and a subscription-based service for businesses. If you want to try Quip at your business, just install the app — it’s free to try, and that’s the best way to decide whether the product works well for your team.
Quip lives in the cloud and given the provenance of its founders, I am quite certain that they have built a scalable service. Quip’s major and primary emphasis is on mobile, collaboration and touch-driven interactivity and yet being dead simple. The best way to describe it is Evernote plus Google Docs plus SocialCast/Yammer.
Gibbs and Taylor in a conversation outlined their firm belief that the shift to mobile is akin to the shift from mainframe to personal computing. Just as that shift created an opportunity for new companies to win over the computer users in need for productivity applications, mobile too offers a chance for upstarts like Quip to break the chokehold on productivity apps.
Taylor and Gibbs said that mobile is fundamentally a different platform and as a result you cannot simply port your apps. Instead you have to build a brand new experience that takes into account limitations and quirkiness of networks, the touch behaviors and even push notifications to create a collaborative experience.
The application takes a cue from collaboration technologies that first came to fore with EtherPad, a startup acquired by Google in 2009 to power Google Wave. Quip seems to have turned the utilitarian approach of EtherPad into an Apple-like product. In fact, if Apple had to rethink Keynote for the iPad age, it should pretty much look and behave like Quip. Being a collaboration nerd, it didn’t take me long to get going. For others, it might take a wee-bit of patience to get started and you might stumble your way around, but it won’t take long. From an end user standpoint, it doesn’t take much to make one realize that Quip is the Jane Bennet to Google Docs’ Mary Bennet.