After securing backing from Betaworks, and more quietly Zynga founder Mark Pincus, ChatGrape, the enterprise and team messaging app that pitches itself as a more ‘intelligent’ Slack or HipChat, is launching publicly today.
Previously, the service was running as a private beta while the Austrian startup continued to refine the service — specifically its natural language processing technology and “deep service integration”.
Both are designed to help teams communicate more efficiently, and in particular reduce what co-founder and COO Leo Fasbender calls the “look-up factor” when linking to and referencing external information, such as a document, calendar entry, or code repository update, from within the app’s chat box.
“Our aim is to eliminate the ‘look-up factor’; the time you lose whenever you interrupt whatever you’re doing to look something up,” Fasbender told TechCrunch in December.
“This is a growing problem, because modern companies use an increasing amount of specialized tools for specialized services, like Trello for task management, GitHub as a code repository and Google Docs for online collaboration. The consequence is an increasing amount of time wasted switching between these services and looking for information and data that is scattered across different cloud services.”
To solve this, along with offering the standard enterprise and team messaging features, akin to the hugely popular and well-funded Slack, ChatGrape has built what is essentially a search engine that indexes various tools and services that you connect the app to. These include Box, DropBox, Google Drive, GitHub, BitBucket, Jira and others.
Typing # directly into a chat triggers ChatGrape’s smart autocomplete — now called the ‘Grape Browser’ — enabling you to quickly look up and link to/reference files or data from any supported third-party service.
The startup also offers an API, making it possible for companies to integrate their own internal data into the chat app.
And to coincide with today’s public launch, ChatGrape has given its look-up functionality a further boost by letting you search and add data from public external sources, not just those to which you explicitly connect the app, such as GIF sharing app Giphy.com (please no!) and YouTube.
In addition, the Grape Browser now includes the ability to preview files and information as part of the look-up process, which is another potential time-saver.
Meanwhile, the startup’s bigger vision is to make its chat app even more intelligent by employing further natural language processing to detect and trigger workflows automatically, such as the ability to recognise dates, questions, assignments and to-dos.
A modest example of this is ChatGrape’s integration with Google Calendar coupled with what the startup calls “smart date recognition”. By typing #this week or #tomorrow, ChatGrape is able to fetch the relevant calendar data.
However, as I’ve previously noted, the idea is to expand this significantly in the future. So, for example, a quick poll could be created by typing “@Marketing Team, should we do this new banner in green or blue?”. Or a task could be assigned by typing “@Peter, I need you to get the new homepage done by Tuesday 5pm!”, triggering the task and timestamp to be added to Wunderlist or another to-do app.