Jostle lands additional $3.1M for anti-social intranet

Jostle (jostle.me) is a company positioned as a competitor to work media tools (enterprise social networks) like Yammer, Jive, Podio and IBM Connect. They announced an additional $3.1 million in funding from private investors, bringing the company’s equity investment up to $4.6 million. Notably absent are venture capitalist and angel investors.

Jostle’s positioning is way, way out of the sweet spot where other work media companies have tended to cluster. The company’s marketing message includes the claim that ‘social business is too social':

via website

The problems with enterprise social tools

Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have dramatically changed how people interact. Many vendors quickly replicated these consumer approaches to create the first generation of enterprise social platforms (aka Enterprise 2.0). Results have been mixed.

First-generation enterprise social platforms are failing because they:

  1. Presume mass collaboration will spontaneously break out.
  2. Mimic consumer products designed to entertain.
  3. Fail to engage the workplace, ignoring company culture and structured teamwork.
  4. Inflict massive change, changing both work processes and where information resides.
  5. Often challenge how decisions are made and confuse leadership.

Although many companies have now experimented with enterprise social platforms, very few have succeeded in making them mission critical to how work gets done.

I don’t buy their reasoning about social tools being too social.  In fact, one of my biggest complaints about today’s work media platforms is that they don’t support the open follower model as implemented in Tumblr and Twitter. The specific points they make are unsupported. But what they’ve built makes it clear that this is a tool for people who reject the more fast and loose style of work that seems to arise when work media tools are adopted and a more distributed decision making supplants top-down control.  The tool specifically enshrines the hierarchical organization chart as the central metaphor of company operations.

Jostle does not have status updates and activity streams as the central communication paradigm, instead they make the point in their demo that Jostle automates email lists for every organizational group. Again, Jostle seems to be positioned for companies that are tightly wedded to email and hierarchy. Yes, they soften things a bit by offering up a huge people wall — a mosaic of the face shots of all the employees — but that seems like eye candy, and less a part of the true operational model of the product. While ‘Activity’ is a major aspect of the user experience, it mostly looks like reporting stats from various projects used to ‘drive culture’ as their literature states, like how many profiles have been updated or viewed, but not critical information flowing from the projects. And the ‘News’ view is meant to be a replacement for the company newsletter. Lastly, Jostle implements a ‘Library’ — a document repository — that supports document sharing with designated curators. Yawn.

In the final analysis, Jostle isn’t really a competitor to work media: it’s a substitute, or maybe better said, a wholesale rejection and retreat from work media premises. Jostle is a organization-centric intranet, being marketed as a solution to work media-style collaboration, but it just doesn’t line up on a feature basis. Jostle provides a fluffy organizational profile directory and intranet, supporting pre-social notions of communication (principally email), and as far as I can tell lacks any notion of bottom-up collaboration, like activity streams, status updates, tasks, or projects.

There may in fact be a market for an explicitly anti-social tool, for companies where management is worried about the impacts of social software, but need to share documents and provide a company directory for lightweight expertise management purposes. But I think the investors are making a bad bet on a company ideologically committed to the past.

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Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Lead analyst Gigaom Research

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  1. Hi Stowe,

    Indeed we are very different from the ‘enterprise social’ crowd. We place less emphasis on the standard social tools (microblogging and activity streams) and focus on discovering expertise, understanding who is doing what, fostering teamwork and driving culture.

    As you say, we are an “organization-centric intranet”. We are able to bring the vibe of the organization to life, making employees feel part of an organized, extended team accomplishing things together. Our focus is on connecting the organization as a whole, rather than imposing huge change by shifting organizations from structured teams to peer-to-peer networks. But if you want to shift your culture to becoming more collaborative, we can provide a meaningful way to drive that evolution.

    Work gets done by structured teams — speciallists coming together to tackle a common goal. We clarify that structure, be it hierarchical or collaborative, formal or ad hoc. Communities of practice, self-managed teams, self-structuring teams, etc. are fully supported. If you don’t have a hierarchy, we can clearly reflect this. If teams form from the bottom up, we make it easy for people to declare their participation in a team.

    We do provide an Activity Stream and are coaching customers on the practice of “working out loud”. http://www.jostle.me/blog/misunderstood-as-a-leader-its-time-to-work-out-loud/

    We are out to profoundly change how organizations enable their employees and have clearly set out our views on what this involves: http://www.jostle.me/our-manifesto/

    And yes, this is a “wholesale rejection and retreat” from the approach adopted by our ‘enterprise social’ competitors. Jostle on.

    Brad Palmer
    CEO and co-founder of Jostle Corporation

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