The service, available as an iPhone app and later on Android, allows users to invite people into managed, group conversations. It is similar to GroupMe, the mobile messaging service that has become popular for texting with groups of people. With Cotap, a customer invites one or more people who exchange messages via SMS or by email if they do not have an account. When joining the Cotap service, co-workers are added to a shared company address book so people can communicate without having to make “friends” with other co-workers.
Founded by Jim Patterson, Yammer’s former chief product officer, the service employs a similar model to the enterprise social network that sold to Microsoft for $1.2 billion. Cotap is free but requires a contract if the company wants to adopt the platform.
The model obviously worked for Yammer, but it was confrontational. Yammer made it an all-or-nothing proposition: Pay up for control over the service or don’t, and employees will continue to get access to the service with permission or not.
Cotap wants to take a more conciliatory approach to help IT see the value in the service. Patterson said its premium features will include data export, data retention and monitoring. If a company doesn’t buy, its users can continue to use the basic service for free, which is the same model as Yammer and Box.
Patterson said Cotap will focus more on selling value to companies rather than ownership of the data. “Long term, we don’t see Cotap as an IT tool, so our primary premium features won’t be IT tools,” he said. “We see the long-term value of Cotap being around employee engagement, which is the priority of C-level execs or HR.”