If you’ve been part of a small- or medium-sized business or organization recently, you’ve dealt with “the spreadsheet.” It’s that document that’s tacked up on the wall (or shared via email) where all the group’s important login names and passwords are kept — the team’s Twitter, DropBox, LexisNexis subscription, et cetera.
It’s a mess to maintain in itself, of course, but the real problems come when people leave the team. Right away, an admin must go one by one through shared apps such as Yammer and WordPress and disable access to the group version. As for the spreadsheet? Well, here’s hoping nobody copied the information to take with them (and take the official Twitter account for one last joyride.)
It’s awful, but it’s the status quo. The good news is that a brand new company has created something much, much better.
Meldium, a company that’s set to graduate next month from Silicon Valley startup incubator Y Combinator, has created a way for small- to medium-sized businesses and teams to securely share access to all the apps they use.
Using it is simple: Once an admin has created a Meldium account for a particular group, all that’s required for team members to use it is the download of a browser extension, available in either Chrome or Firefox. From there, Meldium acts as a layer that signs in users to company apps without individuals ever having to actually type in passwords.
Meldium, which was co-founded by Anton Vaynshtok, Bradley Buda, and Boris Jabes, currently enables automatic logins for some 150 independent apps, including Github, Salesforce, Box, MailChimp, Google Apps, and many others. It has a classic freemium pricing structure. Teams with fewer than five people and 10 apps or less can use it for free; Meldium charges $29/month for up to 20 users and 20 apps, $79/month for 100 users and 50 apps, $199/month for up to 250 users and unlimited apps.
What makes it work
There are two key elements that make Meldium work. First is a model the team has developed that essentially finds common ground among the scores of various software-as-a-service applications. This lets Meldium deal with all of them through its one single interface, and the company is confident that it can scale out to virtually any existing app that is used by organizations today. “Figuring out that model is one thing we did early on that has paid a lot of dividends as we’ve grown,” Buda says.
The second is a split infrastructure security system, which lets key data such as passwords be entered in by an admin and used for login purposes, but not extracted back out by rank and file users. “With this cryptography, the only thing that can come back out is the logged in account, not the credentials themselves,” Buda says.
Seeing the service in action, the real genius of Meldium is not just in how easy it becomes for users to sign into shared apps, but also in how easy it is for an admin to disable access to those shared apps if necessary. Actually, it’s remarkable how easy the whole service is to use, period. You don’t have to be an IT expert to administer a Meldium account for your group — it’s an intuitive, practically fool-proof process that’s accessible for non-technical people.
A solid start, and a YC boost
Meldium’s three co-founders tell me that they conceived of, bootstrapped, and built the service together starting last summer in Seattle. Alums of companies such as Amazon and Microsoft with some time at startups as well, they’re on the older side in terms of Y Combinator founders and have more industry experience under their belts. They were inspired to build Meldium when they realized that their experiences at big tech companies with fully secure sign-in solutions were so different from the messy spreadsheet-powered methods used by smaller startups. “We realized there has got to be some solution for people who can’t spend $100 million on an IT organization, but still need more control over their app administration,” Jabes said.
Meldium was founded in August 2012, and had already started to get some traction and customers before entering the current YC class. But the founders say that they entered YC in part because with the priceless strategic and product input provided by the program, as well as the industry clout that comes along with being a “YC company,” Meldium has started to really take off in terms of its clientele. The service is now being used at a number of companies and organizations nationwide, one with as many as 250 staffers — and this is all a full month before YC Demo Day is scheduled to take place.
Built for how groups are, not how they should be
In all, I think Meldium is a well-made and thoughtful product that targets a real issue. Most importantly, it fits right in with how groups and small businesses already operate, and allows them to be secure without a big shift in behavior (say, not using third-party apps at all and converting to a strictly Microsoft Office or Google Apps environment.) It’s a very promising product debut from a solid team, and it’ll be exciting to see the company grow.
Here are some screenshots of Meldium (click on each to enlarge):