Look out Yammer – Podio emerges with full business social network

When Danish entrepreneur Tommy Ahlers sold his ‘social phonebook’ ZYB to Vodafone in 2008 for €31 million and joined the company, it didn’t seem like he would stay forever at such a slow-moving corporate entity. And sure enough he has now left. But ever the restless entrepreneur he’s decided against lying on a beach somewhere and careered headlong into a new startup which is poised to come out of stealth mode.

Ahlers has now invested in, and become the CEO, of Podio, a hot new startup out of his home town of Copenhagen. I’d heard excited whisperings of the company when I was in the city recently, and indeed, Podio has been around for one and a half years as a boostrapped project, but with big ideas. It’s now open via invitations – either from Podio or from existing users – and it’s pretty awesome.

Podioʼs ʻsocial work platformʼ is best described as a Facebook for companies, but that doesn’t really do it justice. We’re talking a full work platform with messaging, calendars, tasks and contact management – not just another project management space. Perhaps the closest comparison is with Yammer where you are presented with a feed of information about what is going on inside your company. So it’s fascinating that today Yammer has announced plans to create a full social network for the enterprise as well. Interesting times.

I know there are several startups out there offering social platforms for work and collaboration, among them Trampoline Systems and Huddle (which now has $10m in the bank), but having seen Podio, I have to say it’s one of the best of these type I’ve seen yet, and that is no exaggeration.

It gives users the ability to build their own ‘apps’ without any technical knowledge, and allows for almost endless customisation. Over 2,000 apps have already been built by users, which include CRM systems, meeting planners, process facilitation, recruiting, contract drafting and employee feedback. There’s even an app store where users can use apps created by others, or share their own apps for others to use.

Podio is building a multinational German, French, UK and Danish team at the Copenhagen base which now number 12. Thomas Madsen-Mygdal is Chairman.

Over the next few months Podio will be releasing the platform, opening an API, mobile apps and is looking to expand in several countries. But although there is an enterprise play here, Podio is also looking to grow virally, direct to small companies, not unlike Basecamp.