"The way we work has evolved," says CEO Steven Berlin of startup firm Uskape. Our 20th century desktop, workday tools have all migrated to the digital realm. But these new applications don't work together, resulting in a frustrating game of "hot potato" when you're trying to create visibility and get stuff done.
So frustrating for Berlin, in fact, that he cofounded Uskape in order to do something about it.
Currently in private beta, Uskape is building a unified workspace software solution to "connect the dots" between contacts, messages, documents, notes, and commitments in order work better at the office and via mobile, gain visibility, and prioritize. The plan for general availability, says Berlin, is to improve the solution based on user feedback, with an eye towards a public launch in 2015.
In this recent email Q&A, Berlin discusses his firm's value proposition, trends in the unified workplace market, what private beta users are saying, what Uskape's benefits are, and his target market and goals.
TechRepublic: What is the founding idea behind Uskape? What observations and experiences led to your decision to pursue the venture?
Steven Berlin: I founded Uskape because I was extremely frustrated with the disorganization and total chaos involved with managing a number of startups at one time, and the fact no one productivity or collaborative tool, or any combination of the two, seemed to help. I realized that even though there are all these tools out there, they don't talk to each other and work together to bring context to work for the user.
I spent so much time jumping around that I felt as if nothing was getting done at the appropriate pace. So I decided to fix it.
TechRepublic: Let's say you met me, and I'm a potential Uskape customer. What's your elevator pitch?
Steven Berlin: The way we work has evolved. Almost every tool we once kept at our desk is now packed into our personal computers and easily accessible anytime, anywhere via mobile devices. Yet most of these different tools don't play nicely together, resulting in a disconnection that has turned work into a game of "hot potato" as you jump from tool to tool just trying to get some work done.
Uskape brings your digital life together by connecting your contacts, calendar, commitments, content, and conversations to one place, creating a connected workspace.
TechRepublic: What are the main trends in your market space going into 2015?
Steven Berlin: The current market is crowded, sophisticated, and mostly trying to solve for the symptoms rather than fixing the underlying problem for users. The increasing trend of connectedness and collaboration includes a myriad of applications that are trying to improve communication through collaborative tools that negate the need for email all of the time, as it's often not the most productive way to manage work.
However, what these tools are all missing is the more fundamental issue of how we as individuals work today, not just as part of a collaborative team. The belief that you can only help others once you have helped yourself is something that has guided our development, and continues to prove successful as individual empowerment is key to success.
TechRepublic: What kind of feedback and traction have you been seeing with your users during the beta period?
Steven Berlin: Our users have spoken loudly about the desire to get everything on one page view, where their work and personal life makes sense in one organized space. The lines between our personal and professional lives have become increasingly blurred, and the two can no longer exist in isolation from each other — our users want to bring their worlds together.
TechRepublic: What would productivity and collaboration look like in a company using your solution?
Steven Berlin: Productivity would look different on both the individual and the company level. On an individual level, users will be able to save time each day because they won't be sifting through their emails to find correspondence, tracking people down to determine project status, wasting time closing and opening apps, and connecting the dots between their work... the list goes on and on.
Uskape is going to revolutionize the workspace. This in turn will affect the operation of the company as a whole. For example, companies will see higher efficiency and productivity from their employees, and the increased transparency that Uskape provides with commitments and projects will allow team members to collaborate and track each aspect of a task in real time.
TechRepublic: What kinds of organizations are in Uskape's target market?
Steven Berlin: Uskape is targeting a wide variety of verticals, because the idea of a connected workspace is applicable to most businesses. The key sectors where we see Uskape being most useful from the outset are in the small to medium sized business arena, which includes creative agencies and professional services shops such as talent management, advertising, PR, and law firms. These companies require organizational discipline from each member of the team, collaboration, transparency, and time management.
The idea is that anyone can use Uskape and set it up quickly, so an IT department doesn't have to customize each function. By thinking about how each individual works at these organizations, as opposed to just focusing on the collaboration aspect of work, we are aiding in better work and life management, not just better project management.
TechRepublic: What are your main goals over the next year?
Steven Berlin: Our main focus is on the commercial launch of Uskape, the expansion of the product's features and functionality, and the delivery of vertical-specific versions into targeted industries, like legal and creative agencies.
TechRepublic: What are the most important things you've learned on the road to becoming the CEO of a tech startup?
Steven Berlin: Listen (to customers) and learn (from mistakes). We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we speak. Customer feedback and insights are invaluable if embraced and appreciated. Mistakes are okay. Failing to learn from mistakes is not.
Brian will do client work for AtTask.
Brian Taylor is a contributing writer for TechRepublic. He covers the tech trends, solutions, risks, and research that IT leaders need to know about, from startups to the enterprise. Technology is creating a new world, and he loves to report on it.