Looks are deceiving. Several sources reported that Smartsheet, the web-based “spreadsheet creation” service, has raised $2.69 million in a Series A-4 of funding, led by Madrona Venture Group. The true part is that they received funding – congratulations – but what everyone got wrong is calling it a spreadsheet service. It is not.
Smartsheet is in the business of collaborative task management & tracking, and they came up with a simple idea: why not use an interface that just about all computer-users are familiar with: the spreadsheet. Clearly more users are familiar with the look-and-feel of spreadsheets than with task management / project management systems. I think it’s a great approach – no wonder Smartsheet won two awards at the recent Under the Radar Office 2.0 event.
Another Under the Radar participant, and one I happen to like chose a similar approach: Wrike allows users manage projects without having to use project management software – it’s all done via email. Interestingly, everyone got this one – nobody’s calling Wrike an email system, just because they manage projects via email. . By the same token, Smartsheet is not a spreadsheet service – for online spreadsheets you’d have to try EditGrid, Zoho Sheet or Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
This paradigm shift – ignoring the more complicated UI of special systems and using widely popular, familiar systems to carry out more complicated tasks – is not unknown even “heavy” enterprise software: a prime example is SAP’s Duet: accessing ERP functions via Office apps.