As far as group chat tools go, HipChat is among the best available options, and now the Atlassian-owned company is introducing a free tier to its existing pricing plans. The entry-level free plan will offer fully featured access to HipChat, but be limited to a maximum of five users – once a sixth comes on board, pricing will revert back to the standard $2 per person.
The introduction of the new pricing tier is obviously a great way to attract new users, and a means by which Atlassian and HipChat can fend off any challenges from would-be competitors just setting out with their own competitive platforms. Speaking with HipChat founder Pete Curley about the decision, he admitted that it’s meant to give users who might otherwise look elsewhere for a free option a taste of what HipChat and its advantage in terms of years of experience.
“This also works well for us because all of our adoption is all bottoms up,” Curley said, explaining how it’s meant to maximize the existing traction HipChat has seen. “Everyone starts from some small team as part of some small department and then it spreads like a virus from there.”
HipChat reported 3,500 paying customers on board back in February, and Curley says the number of those customers affected by this new move could be in the “thousands.” That means in the short term at least, it could be sacrificing a lot of immediate revenue in exchange for a chance to dramatically increase the rate at which new users come on board. It’s a calculated risk, but it’s also a way that HipChat can help others who were in the position it was in when it first started out.
“For the two and a half years that we were on our own we were bootstrapped, and so obviously saving money and finding any tools to get the job done were our primary concerns,” he said. “So there are a lot of HipChat customers, small teams, startup teams, college students who are in the same boat and who will be affected by this.”
With its new native Mac app and other native apps for Linux and Windows planned soon, I suspect that HipChat will be a hard drug to kick for new users who sign up on the free plan, so I think this is a gamble that should ultimately pay off. And regardless of how it works out for HipChat, it’s great news for startups looking for a group chat and IM tool on the cheap.