PeopleDock - A private social network and collaboration platform for your business

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With the introduction of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, social networking has touched each and every sphere of human life and businesses are no exception. With Ning and other closed group social networking platforms, it’s been proven time and again that collaboration boosts productivity. And for businesses this can happen only when the employees are well connected through some central link. PeopleDock is one such platform. PD is still in an 'invite-only' mode, but will be thrown open to public very soon. Jubin Mehta from YourStory caught up with entrepreneur Venkat Yeleti to know more. Excerpts from the interview:Describe PeopleDock in brief. What is your target market?

PeopleDock (PD) is a social platform that enables you to communicate and collaborate with other people within your office. To start with PD can significantly reduce your dependence on email for office communication and collaboration. PD is designed to be secure, efficient, and private to your company.

Our typical target company fits the following profile –

  • Has between 2-250 employees (startups, small and medium companies).
  • Uses email as the main (in most cases the only) communication tool.
  • Has clients/employees located in different time zones.
  • Does not have a viable intranet of any kind.

I understand the beta version just went up a couple of months ago, what kind of traffic are you generating?

We average around 350 unique visitors a day and growing. Traffic is mostly from the United States followed distantly by India and United Kingdom. We haven't done any marketing and as a policy we don't engage in any external SEO services. So we believe most of the recognition happens through word of mouth or when somebody 'Likes' us on Facebook. We have kept our blog (http://blog.peopledock.com) simple and lucid. That has been generating some traffic.

Networking has hardly any space for new competitors. What do you think will make PeopleDock click?

We are in the enterprise space. PD makes social software for businesses. This is a niche that is yet to reach its tipping point. If you look at the evolution of office communications, the shift has been from letters to fax to email to instant messaging. The next wave of evolution is going to be 'social software for office'.

Our foundation is our user interface (UI) and the user experience (UX) it brings. Most people are shocked at its audacity because PD thumbs its nose at traditional 3-column web design. We have developed what we call a 'tab-in-tab' architecture'. Everything is organized into tabs. One of the greatest advantages of our UI is its extensibility. New modules can be added or dropped with ease.

After all the commotion about pedigreed founders, VC funding, feature lists, and scalable databases dies down, the litmus test boils down to how usable the software is. PD is not just intuitive; it is a pleasure to use. That's why we believe PD will click.

On which platform has the website been developed? Have you invested in anything else?

PD is built completely on open technologies. We use the LNMP (Linux-Nginx-MySql-PHP(Zend)) stack. We are in the cloud. EC2, S3, Load balancing, etc. are some of the areas we work on.

Security is a feature you seem to cherish. Tell us a bit more about that.Hmm, we see security as more than just a feature; it is a never ending process. You can lock up all your data in a vault in the Mariana Trench and be 100% secure. That’s not what we want. At PD security means:

Security in transmission and storage: Security at PD starts with an 'always-on' SSL connection (AES-256, TLS 1.0) between the user’s browser and PD’s servers. This is the same standard banks use to protect your financial information. Content like your files, documents, photos, etc. are stored in Amazon S3 that provides 99.999999999% (eleven nines) durability and 99.99% availability over a given year.

Securely available on demand: Our web servers scale automatically to handle sudden increases in traffic. Our databases are synchronously backed up in geographically separate zones. Failover switching happens automatically.

Securely shareable based on your privacy settings: You can govern who can access your content on PD via four privacy settings (private, friends-only, friends-of-friends, and public).

Did you bootstrap or are were you funded? If funded, how did you generate the fund?

We have been a bootstrapped startup. Only recently did we sign our first angel investment. From start, we believed in creating a beta before seeking external funding. Rarely did we use a powerpoint presentation when talking to investors. We just talked about how office communications are evolving and how 'social software for office' is going to be the next phase of this evolution. Then we do a live demo of PD.

When do you see PeopleDock starting to generate revenue?

PD is free for your entire company. A paid version costs USD 5.0/user/month. Paid version gives a company a powerful set of administrative tools via which they can control how their instance of PD is used. Except for the admin tools and priority support, both free and paid versions carry the same feature set and are equally secure.

PD is in beta. As a policy we don’t solicit any payments as long as we are in beta. We expect revenues to trickle in after PD sheds its beta status (late 2011).

How big is your team? What are the challenges you faced?

We are a team of five. Our greatest challenge has always been finding great talent. A brilliant engineer is more willing to sit idle on a bench in a traditional Indian IT firm that does outsourced work rather than work in the exciting world of startups. We hope that changes.

For more details, please visit - http://www.peopledock.com

- Jubin Mehta