eXpresso is an online collaboration tool around Excel spreadsheets. While a bit late to the game, they have plans to expand to other productivity tools as well. They will be announcing a new $2 million round of financing from Novus and Rocket Ventures on Monday, with the target of raising another $2 million soon. This is on top another couple million they’ve made off the sale of their original product, Smart DB, to Rocket Software (no relation to the venture group). The money will be put towards expanding their current Excel product and building a online Powerpoint application due out next Summer as well.
However, eXpresso isn’t the usual AJAX online spreadsheet competitor. Rather, it’s a series of collaboration tools and back-end database secret sauce wrapped around Microsoft’s own online spreadsheet editor, Microsoft Excel Web Component. This avoids a lot of the compatibility issues faced by other editors when they try to import Excel documents on to their platforms. The company seems oddly positioned by leaning heavily on Microsoft’s technology, but CEO George Langan assures me that they can continue to develop the component without Microsoft’s support and have a great deal of patented IP in the database system they run on. Microsoft has abandoned the technology themselves, announcing an end to development of the Office Web Components. Instead, they are focusing on developing new technologies around Microsoft Sharepoint.
The spreadsheet editor works smoothly, provides a familiar interface, and exposes a great deal of Excel’s desktop functionality online. You can edit cells, add formulas, sort, filter, and format. Google and Zoho have been aggressively adding a lot of these features themselves, but support auto-fill and charts as well. They also offer more applications. You can create a new file from within the program or sync one directly from Excel using their plug-in. eXpresso also offers file permissions (down to cell ranges), enables real time chat, and file management (version control, spreadsheet comparison). It’s currently free in beta, but will cost $10 or less per seat when it’s finally released into production.