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October 20, 2008 9:00 PM

Smartsheet's overhaul: lower prices, slick registration-free approach

Posted by Brier Dudley

Smartsheet found that most of its customers don't want to have to remember another URL, username and password - it's a barrier to using new online services.

So the Bellevue online collaboration startup came up with a new approach:

Smartsheet developed new tools that enable people to use its online services without having to register or log on, according to Chief Executive Mark Mader.

Project teams surveyed by the company generally have about 17 people, of which two are the primary organizers or project "owners." The other 15 participate only now and then, providing updates or contributing files.

Among the 15, the "sensitivity and tolerances of learning anything new was a tenth of the owners of the process,'' Mader explained.

To lower the barrier to participate and use the new tools, Smartsheet's using time-limited security tickets that are delivered via email sent by the owners. A team member may receive a request for an update, which grants access until that update is completed, for instance.

Mader has more perspective on his blog.

I'm hearing from other startups that are also exploring ways to attack registration fatigue, especially now that they're doing everything they can to attract and retain customers.

Mader said the company's not immune from the downturn but response to the beta was good and the company had big growth in September.

"When you look at our price point, convincing someone to drop 10 or 60 bucks a month is a lot different than slinging enterprise software to them,'' he said.

The 12-person company's had 50,000 people use its software in 25 countries since it launched in the fall of 2006. Mader said it's going to seek another round of funding within the next six months.

"The money will flow to the people who can show the good traction,'' he said.

Smartsheet's also rolling out a redesigned interface, for which it enlisted help from Seattle's Jackson Fish design shop. The overriding goal was "simplifying the workflow and the user experience and really let people not have to go through any type of training use the service,'' Mader said.

Also new is an affiliate marketing program and new lower prices. Smartsheet's service will now cost $10 to $60 per month, down from $25 to $150 per month.

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