With a look very similar to 37signals‘ web chat product Campfire, but with some added features such as one-to-one messaging, notification noises and file-sharing support, HipChat is targeting startups as customers — its largest plan maxes out at 100 people.
There are already lots of products filling this need for casual and convenient corporate communications — for instance, Socialcast (which, like us, is funded by True Ventures, where Om Malik is a venture partner) and Yammer, or an IRC client. However, in just a 30-day private beta period, HipChat reports it had 500 companies sign up and more than 100,000 messages sent. And some of these users are already paying. So that’s a pretty good sign it’s not superfluous!
However, I think the issue with these tools is that it often isn’t enough to do one thing well in the corporate environment. When your paying customers are asking for more and more features it’ll be hard to avoid being a general collaboration tool.