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How startups, like GateGuru, use Google Apps

Google Apps can be a catalyst for startup companies looking for basic collaboration tools. GateGuru co-founder Dan Gellert explains how.

How much do you travel? Well, if you're like me - you travel a lot. By the time we get to March, I will have logged 155,000 miles to 73 locations in the last four years.

GateGuru is a pretty awesome app for iPhone or Android that helps travelers keep track of their flights as well as navigate strange airports. Imagine a virtual travel agent keeping you updated with the latest delays or gate changes, combined with Frommers meets Google Maps for airports. Get the picture?

Silicon Valley Insider called it "Yelp for the airport," and the app has a four-star rating in the iTunes App Store.

Google Apps

I spoke with Dan Gellert, GateGuru's co-founder, about how his company has been using Google Apps, as part of a three-part series on how different types of companies work on the Apps platform. GateGuru has been a Google Apps shop since 2009, so their implementation is of "medium" maturity.

GateGuru also completed their migration with no help from a Google partner. That may not have been the fastest or cheapest way to do it, that's how a lot of startups go about it.

So far, GateGuru has discovered two key lessons:

  • They were surprised at how big of an adjustment the switch to Google Apps ended up being
  • But two years later, they are really glad they made the move

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"It certainly took longer than expected to really understand the features, functionality and design of Google Apps, but once my organization did, we were in a very good place," Gellert said.

The big piece, for GateGuru, was collaboration.

"With the most recent upgrade to Google Docs, the idea of opening a read-only copy of a doc is gone, as multiple collaborators can be editing a doc at once - this is a really powerful shift," Gellert said.

The hardest part of the Google Apps implementation, for this startup, was the beginning.

"Be patient," Gellert said, "because, at times, it can get frustrating. I say this in regards to the adjustment period, but also there is nothing more frustrating than points in time when your email is unavailable to be accessed - this doesn't happen all that often (and increasingly less so), but when it does it is really painful."

Gellert recommends a few best practices for tech companies who are in the midst of making the jump from Lotus or Microsoft to Google.

"While it wasn't a big deal for us, I think security is one thing that larger organizations need to do some real due diligence on when thinking about making the jump from Lotus or Microsoft to Google," Gellert said.

Some companies may not event want to "go Google," 100%.

"While we use Google Apps for Mail, Calendar, shared Documents and some editing around simpler documents," Gellert said "my company still uses Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint as these are really great tools to convey deep powerful messages, and Google Docs doesn't handle certain visual elements or pictures very well."

It's hard not to agree with Gellert - for all of its' recent improvements, Google Docs sorely lacks visual element manipulation tools of a "business class".

Gellert accepts these limitations, and his team lives with them.

"While we are a convert, today, of most of Google Apps, and I predict that in the future we will increasingly use their solutions - today it is important for companies to realize that there are some limitations to their suite," Gellert said.

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About

Adam Metz is the VP of Business Development at Metz Consulting the social concept, a social customer management-consulting firm, based in Oakland, California. Metz has consulted with companies since 2006 on how to acquire, manage, monetize and retain...

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