Social information sharing startup HiveLive launches their LiveConnect Community Platform today at the Defrag conference in Denver, but it’s not HiveLive’s first appearance on the web scene. In 2006, they opened a private beta that looked to some like just another Web 2.0 social sharing site. Now they’re finding success bringing the social web to businesses.
If this were 1999, you might say that HiveLive moved from a B2C (business-to-consumer) model to a B2B (business-to-business) model. But it’s 2007, so instead let’s call it Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0. Even that label is a bit misleading, though, because HiveLive is succeeding with nimble and innovative smallish organizations rather than the lumbering, multibillion-dollar giants that you might think of when you hear the word “enterprise.”
What is HiveLive?
HiveLive’s social sharing platform provides all the pieces you’d expect: user profiles, blogs, discussion forums, wiki-style editing, RSS feeds, and more. But it uses an architecture that makes it very easy to customize — without coding. HiveLive also includes features the business market demands, such as granular privacy settings, customizable skins, and moderated content editing.
HiveLive introduces the concept of a “hive” that brings people together with information. Instead of choosing from a set of predefined features like a blog, wiki, or discussion forum, HiveLive community creators (and even community members, if administrators allow it) define their own semi-structured information types using a web-based interface (shown below) rather than by writing custom code.
Hives serve as building blocks for creating flexible, customizable and social information spaces. You can use a hive for blog postings or wiki sites or, of course, forums. You can also use one for other social information sharing — classified ads, recipes, feature ideas, bug reports, video sharing, and more. For example, a file-sharing hive is shown below.
But is it enterprise scale?
While HiveLive says it’s currently in talks with very large businesses, the company has initially shown traction with smaller organizations using forward-thinking business models. Current customers include Alpine Access, a telephone support outsourcing concern that relies on home-based personnel; Rally Software, a SaaS (software as a service) provider of Agile development tools; and Stanford’s new Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, a “D-school” for multidisciplinary studies of design thinking.
HiveLive’s competitor Jive Software (profiled by GigaOM recently) may find it easier to work at enterprise scale, as Jive’s ClearSpace provides a Java-based, deploy-your-own solution that will fit into many big companies’ IT infrastructures. HiveLive, on the other hand, is a hosted service based on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) reflecting its Web 2.0 roots. ClearSpace’s genesis, by comparison, was in knowledge bases and online discussion forums.
HiveLive claims to be “the first community platform to seamlessly integrate social networks with information networks” but they’ll compete in that space not only with Jive’s ClearSpace but also with Drupal, Ning, and even Microsoft (MSFT) Sharepoint. But Drupal requires coding for customization, Ning doesn’t offer the fine-grained permissions that HiveLive has, and Sharepoint will be mostly of interest to those with Microsoft-based infrastructures.
HiveLive hasn’t given up on Web 2.0. But their focus right now is on enabling communities that are company-sponsored rather than organically formed. CEO John Kembel says that in the future they’ll open up HiveLive capabilities for personal use in a controlled way. He notes that the original private beta of HiveLive still exists, as Hive Commons.
HiveLive took venture funding last year ($1.65 million in an institutional angel round) and signed their first enterprise license the same week. Venture capitalist and HiveLive angel investor Brad Feld says that Hivelive’s strategic shift was “a deliberate, logical, and very successful one.”
So it seems HiveLive agrees with GigaOM boss Om Malik that the big opportunity for Web 2.0 tools lies not in winning 53,651 users, but rather in making social tools ready for business, whether you call that Enterprise 2.0 or not.