Collaborating with Pablo

'teambox-200�120'I’ve been using a project collaboration Web service called Teambox for several weeks. I was drawn to it, frankly, because it was free and seemed to meet my needs for a Web site relaunch project involving a committee of several people all in different cities.

The Twitter-like design is intuitive for me.

One night I sent an email about a minor bug and got nearly an immediate reply from a real person who signs his emails merely as “Pablo.” Eventually, I learned more about Pable and his Teambox.

I discovered from reading the site’s blog that it is not a Silicon Valley or New York startup, but is based in Barcelona, Spain. Yes, Barcelona.

The company just launched a pay plan, but continues to use a freemium model of a free level of service and various paid plans.

In a series of emails with the founder, I learned his name is Pablo Villalba and that the company has six employees with open source developers scattered about the world Spain, Canada, Germany, France, Russia and the United States.

“We started developing Teambox two years ago, when we needed a tool to manage our own projects as a startup,” Villalba said. “At the beginning it was only an internal tool, and then it was released in Spanish. We’re now the number 1 tool in Spain for project collaboration.

“Then we did a complete re-write to target twitter-like communication. So far, we’ve been funded by local Business Angels and we’re planning to move to San Francisco to keep the startup running and growing.”

Here’s a brief Q&A:

Yours is a familiar story. Company starts on one idea and along the way a side idea before the product (like Twitter’s development for example). How did you come to realize that the internal tool was really the more viable product?

In order to start a real business and stop selling our time and skills, we needed to have a product. We realized the moment somebody saw what we had and said, “I just paid 6000 euros for something worse than this”. At that moment, we started learning about marketing and adapting what we had for the public.

How have your been marketing your product?

So far, simply word-of-mouth. Our users have been responsible for most of its success, blogging and tweeting about it.

Recommendations from trusted sources can do wonders!

If someone asks, ‘How is this different from Basecamp?,’  what is your answer?

Teambox is like Twitter for project management. It brings your team together in a horizontal communication structure.

Tools like Basecamp are great for client work, having a place where you can share results with them. Teambox is meant for ongoing projects, that evolve with time and where daily communication is important.

We offer some more features (auto-refresh, activity feeds, email notifications), and multi-language support.

Teambox is also developed under an open-source license, meaning you can download and host your own copy.

Who is the target market?

Developers, designers, consultants and marketers. From any country.

Is this your first startup?

First one was an e-learning academy. It’s still profitable, but I’m not running it anymore.

Second one has to do with sustainable field work for power lines. We deploy cable for power towers with green helicopters. It reached break-even two months ago, and it’s still growing. I only own 50% of this company, and I don’t run it anymore.

Teambox is taking all my time now.

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