Sunday, June 14, 2009

Interview of Shan Sinha CEO and Founder of DocVerse

Web-based applications are not uncommon any more. Due to its easy access, many people are now moving towards these applications. Doc Verse is such an easy web-based application that enables users to work on group power point presentations. The best thing about DocVerse is that this software would not create any problem with the existing software on your computer. The software developed by DocVerse is a plug-in software that syncs with your MS Office (any office version starting from 2003). You would not need to buy any extra-software. Though in the testing phase, the software is very easy to install and use. If you have a group power-point assignment and it is hard for group members to sit together to work on it, then download DocVerse, install it on your computers and start working immediately from your homes.


I came to know about DocVerse from a report of Tech Crunch and then I became interested to do an interview. I contacted them by email and Shan Sinha (CEO/Founder) was kind enough to answer all my questions. Here is the interview for the readers:

Razib Ahmed: The economic recession is going strong and all business organizations, big and small, are desperate to save money and cut-costs. Now, is the best time to start-up your own web-based applications because people would look into them. In such a situation, you went after developing plug-in for Microsoft. Why did you go for developing a plug-in application?

Shan Sinha: To be clear, our product includes a plug-in as a means to an end. It’s important to realize that whether your application is a desktop application or a web-based application is less important than focusing on building a great product that people will use. In our particular case, the problem with most collaboration software is that they don’t adapt to how people work and instead ask people to adapt to the software. Most people start by creating documents on their desktop. As soon as they have to take an extra step to “put” the document somewhere else on the web, you’ve lost them.

Integrating into Microsoft Office lets our users seamlessly take advantage of web-based functionality without having to change how they work.

Razib Ahmed: Do you have any plans to start-up your own web-based application in near future?

Shan Sinha: We already have a web-based tool that people can use to view, share and provide feedback on their documents. We view our product as harmonizing the benefits of web-based applications with software that 90% of people have on their desktop.

Razib Ahmed: Some people are saying that online office suits would replace Microsoft office software. Is it possible? What do you think about it?

Shan Sinha: I view web-based Office applications as a complement to desktop applications. People should be able to share, edit and access their documents however they like. If that means someone needs to share and edit their document on their desktop, they should be able to do that. If someone needs to share and edit their document through the browser, they should be able to do that. Regardless of where those edits are made or who makes those edits, they should be able to get the latest version of their document any time, by simply opening it.
Think of it like email. Sometimes I access my email using Outlook or any other client on my desktop (for example, on a plane). Sometimes I access my email through a web browser. But I haven’t completely thrown away either one.. I use both, whenever it makes sense to do so.

Razib Ahmed: Do you think that the high demand of web-based applications will only stay throughout the recession? Will the demand of web-based applications drop after the recession ends?

Shan Sinha: I think you are creating a false choice between web-based applications and desktop applications. What people care about is whether a product solves their problems or not. What IT managers care about is reducing their cost and management overhead.
The web is simply a software distribution mechanism. The applications that people demand are those that provide the maximal benefits by solving their problems in the best way possible while minimizing the difficulty and cost of using the application.
As a thought experiment.. I assure you that a web based application that requires you to fill out 10 pages of forms to register will have worse usage than a product that requires a very light weight install and no registration process.
People don’t care about whether something is coming from the web or is on the desktop. All they care about is whether it’s easy to use and does something that makes their lives better.

Razib Ahmed: Currently, you are working on developing plug-in applications for MS Powerpoint. Do you have any plans extend the function of this plug in to support other MS office programs?

Shan Sinha: We will be releasing support for the entire Office 2007 suite (Word & Excel) later this spring and will also be expanding support to Office 2003 soon after.

Razib Ahmed: In third world countries, many people use the pirated version of MS office. If they install the DocVerse plug-in, will it create any problem for them?

Shan Sinha: Our licensing agreements remain separate from the licensing agreements for Microsoft software. We are not sure if unlicensed Microsoft software supports our plug-in.

Razib Ahmed: When are you going to release the fully developed DocVerse?

Shan Sinha: As I mentioned, we will be releasing support for the rest of Office 2007 and Office 2003 in the coming months. We will make our product generally available when we feel that it is ready for general usage.

Razib Ahmed: One of the major applicants and beneficiaries of such web-based applications are school and university level students? Do you have any plans to develop web-based software targeting the student community?

Shan Sinha: Our product is very well suited to be used by students. We already have students in several campuses using our product. One great example includes how MBA students at Harvard Business School and University of Michigan School of Business have already begun using our product in a significant way.

Razib Ahmed: Currently, Microsoft office is also used in mobile phones. Do you have any plans to develop a version of DocVerse for Office mobile?

Shan Sinha: We have no immediate plans to support Windows Mobile but would be open to hearing customer demand for it, and if it is large enough, we will build it.

Razib Ahmed: Can you tell us a bit about your background and about your company?

Shan Sinha: My co-founder and I left Microsoft in October of 2007 to start DocVerse after recognizing an opportunity to change the way people work with each other. We ended up raising our first round of funding in the summer of 2008. We released our first product in Feb of 2009 and are now growing quickly.
Before DocVerse, my co-founder and I were both at Microsoft, doing product strategy for SharePoint and SQL Server. Prior to Microsoft, I started a mobile enterprise applications company, which we successfully sold in 2001. And before that, I started my career at another health care, dot com start up. I did my undergrad and master’s degrees in Computer Science at MIT. I was born and raised in the US and currently live in San Francisco.

(This interview was first published in this blog on March 2009 but then it got deleted for technical reasons. Now, I am again giving it for the readers.)

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