Google Apps

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...

2 comments
VonVictor
VonVictor

VonVictor Rosenchild Founder, President, and CEO WayZen Inc. Brooklyn, New York Hello, I just started my company WayZen Inc., a business application design and development company. I am currently working on a Content Management System focused on Big Data management, Apache Hadoop, MapReduce, Zookeeper, Hive, HBase, Pig, Cassandra, etc. I started my company out of my own pocket and on a shoestring budget. If I told you the rest of how this company is starting, you wouldn't believe me at this time, so I kindly ask you to wait for the movie and book. I am waiting to complete the two applications that I am building to seek funding, in the mean time, I am working and doing web design on the side to put money into building WayZen Inc. Bootstrapping may not be easy, but at least I know what I can do, and I find work-arounds to accomplish the task before me and set milestones as I go. I believe this is making me a better owner and president of my company, because I know how to work with an extremely small budget. For example I purchase software, hardware, and take full advantage of Cloud Service Provider (CSP) services, such as Google's - Google Apps for Business, Yahoo! Small Business suite, Microsoft Bizspark, Microsoft's Windows Live, Box.net, etc.., in addition, I use a lot of Open Source software, IDE's, and SDK's. I once seen a YouTube video of a man in Eastern Europe, who apparently had very little money, but he was so determined to build a computer, and teach himself programming that he put together an ad-hoc computer without a case and it worked! I felt sorry for him and wanted to send him one of my laptops because anyone with that drive and determination, coupled with innocation and creativity should be given all the assistance they can to achieve their goals, and expolore their creative potential, think of the accomplishments he could achieve. We are all born with the greatest computers and software on the planet, the human brain and mind. All we have to do is use them in a positive and creative way, and enhance them with education and training. If one cannot afford to go to a college or university, there is nothing stopping them from going to the library and from purchasing the things they need to teach themselves, after all, look at Mr. Warren Buffet. I take my inspiration from the Wright Brothers, they failed many times, were laughed at, were ignored, and then some even fought with them, but in the end, they won! So not matter what, never give up on yourself, your goals, your dreams and your hopes. Keep getting up when you are knocked down and keep moving forward, and I believe you will WIN! Kindest regards, Von'Victor Rosenchild Founder, President and CEO WayZen Inc. Brooklyn, New York

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Dan Gellert mentions that his employees have to make some allowances for shortcomings in Google Apps, does that flexibility exist in your organization? Is that a product of a startup culture?