Tomfoolery, the mobile app lab founded by ex-Yahoo and AOL execs that aims to make enterprise apps capturing some of the light and free nature of consumer services, is today debuting its first product: Anchor, a real-time conversation app. Tomfoolery has two aims for Anchor, which is coming out first as an iOS and web app: for it to become a central repository for all kinds of work conversations; and for Anchor to become, literally, the anchor for its bigger strategy to create many more enterprise services down the line.
Tomfoolery announced in January 2013 a $1.7 million seed stage round from Andreessen Horowitz, David Tisch, and a number of Yahoo and AOL veterans including Jerry Yang at AME Cloud Ventures, Brad Garlinghouse of YouSendIt, Ash Patel at Morado Ventures and Sam Pullara at Sutter Hill Ventures, among others.
And it comes amidst a number of other startups that are tapping into the surge of interest in smartphones and mobile apps to make IT services for businesses more engaging and useful. Coincidentally, just earlier today another Jerry Yang-funded startup aimed at small business apps also announced its entry into the world: NumberFour, based out of Berlin and headed by ex-Yahoo exec Marco Boerries, is hitting the ground with a $38 million Series A.
Kakul Srivastava, the ex-Flickr exec who is the CEO and cofounder of Tomfoolery, says that the impetus for launching a conversational app first comes from the fact that conversation apps that exist today, such as Yammer, Convo and Socialcast, are still lacking in some of the basic features that consumer apps can bring. Yammer for example still does not have real-time updates; Convo has buggy mobile apps; and so on.
The other side of it is that — at least in the way that Tomfoolery envisons Anchor being used — work apps should be built to be used for more than work. “Many of us spend more time at work than anywhere else,” she notes, adding that to work better with people, you need to know them better.
Anchor provides one way of doing that. The app lets and encourages users create any number of groups for conversations, with some dedicated to, say, sales prospects, or the progress of a certain task; and others dedicated to things that are completely unrelated, such as food that people like to eat. The whole experience is just as visually focused as it is around text updates, with a camera button right next to a texting window to upload pictures on the go, and location tagging built in.
Having a look around the app during a demo yesterday, which Srivastava did using her own account on the app, I caught an accidental glimpse of a lot of different directions the company is taking the app, and I can say that if and when these different ideas pull through, Anchor could actually prove to be something quite interesting.
There are plans not just for more apps for established smartphone platforms like Android, but for wearable devices (with some testing already happening on some of them) and more. What do wearables have to do with enterprise? This is almost the point of Tomfoolery: they’re trying to think ahead for times when this might be a problem that needs a solution. In the meantime, Srivastava points out that apps like these could be one more way for people to keep up to date and check in with their colleagues — for example when they’re on a run, or using Google Glass to navigate an unfamiliar territory.
On top of that, the company is talking with a number of other startups and founders for how Anchor could integrate into other apps — for example cloud services to provide storage for images, videos and other files.
The bottom line for me is that Tomfoolery is small (only 10 people), full of experience, and hungry. This makes them more likely to move fast — faster than a now very large Yammer, owned by an even larger Microsoft — and maybe break a few things in the process.