ActionThis, a Wellington, New Zealand based startup, today launched a "Get Things Done" task management app. It enables people to create and track project management items and tasks, either using a browser interface (free) or within Microsoft Outlook (premium, subscription-based). Note that at the bottom of this post, there is a special offer for R/WW readers - 1,000 free Premium accounts.
Seeing as we live in the same city, last week I caught up with ActionThis CEO Ed Robinson and Chief Marketing Officer Tim Howell, to get a demo of the product and see where it's headed. As a side note, it's worth noting that ActionThis isn't the only web-based task management app in town - PlanHQ is another Wellington-based startup offering a similar product (I met both startups on the same day). However the two products tackle different niches - I'll explore PlanHQ in an upcoming post.
Crowded Market - What's the Differentiator?
ActionThis is going after a global market - and it's very crowded. 37Signals for example offers Basecamp, which tracks tasks online too. But everyone has their favorite. In August, Josh Catone wrote that his favorite is The Online CEO. You can take your pick of online To Do list products - SolutionWatch listed 25 of them last year. So what differentiates ActionThis? It actually has a very good one - it neatly integrates with Microsoft Outlook, which millions of people already use for task management. What's more, integration with Microsoft Project and Windows Mobile are coming soon.
The target market for ActionThis is small and medium sized businesses, as well as departments and teams within enterprise. Ed told me that ActionThis will be especially useful for distributed teams.
The Microsoft Office integration is key to ActionThis' potential success. ActionThis is backed by Intergen, a local web development firm that has a close relationship with Microsoft. CEO Ed Robinson comes from Intergen and also worked for 6 years at Microsoft in Redmond, as a program manager. So ActionThis is playing to its strengths and has created an online task management product that can be used in conjunction with Microsoft Outlook, potentially tapping into a huge user base. In the demo I saw, creating a new task within Outlook was as easy as creating an email - and there are tracking features in ActionThis that are missing in Outlook's native task feature. See screenshots below.
ActionThis task in Outlook
Attaching ActionThis items to an email in Outlook
Special Offer for R/WW Readers
ActionThis is currently being offered as both a free and premium version. The free version is web-only for single users. The premium (subscription) versions of ActionThis start at US$10 per user per month - and basically for that you get the Microsoft integration.
There is a 30 day free trial for the premium version. However ActionThis is offering 1,000 R/WW readers a free ActionThis license for 12 months. To take up this offer, click here and enter the following code: RWW1007. This promotion is only available to first time subscribers to ActionThis and it will end when 1,000 people have signed up using the unique code published here.
ActionThis is essentially two separate products: the web-based version and the one integrated into Outlook. In our meeting Ed Robinson described this as following the "good, better, best" concept, where the Web version is 'good' and the Outlook one 'better' (as it offers more functionality). The 'best' will come when ActionThis adds Microsoft Project integration in the near future (1-2 months time).
I also asked how ActionThis in Outlook differed from Outlook's native task management feature. Ed replied that Outlook native tasks are limited to "peer to peer" interactions within groups, whereas ActionThis offers a central overview and additional features.
ActionThis is marketing itself as a web-based product, but it's also tapping into Microsoft's marketing of the "software as a service" concept. Microsoft hasn't yet built web-based functionality into Outlook tasks, at least not as well as ActionThis, so this small Wellington startup is banking on Microsoft users all over the world signing up to its 'value add' service. Of course the risk is that Microsoft evetually releases similar functionality itself, but until then it's a potentially lucrative market for ActionThis - provided they can convince users that the added benefits are worth paying for.