A new startup is targeting the profitable workplace productivity area with an open source approach to project management and know-how – and it’s receiving support from a who’s who of investors from across the technology spectrum.
AppFlowy, as the company is called, has raised $6.4 million in funding from several notable founders including Matt Mullenweg (Automattic); Steve Chen (YouTube); Tom Preston-Werner (GitHub); Bob Young (Red Hat) and Amr Awadallah (Cloudera). The seed round is led by OSS capital.
Helping workers become more efficient is big business, as evidenced by the likes of The idea hit a high of $10 billion evaluate behind the remote work-driven demand for collaboration software. However, as proprietary software, businesses – especially businesses – may be hesitant to engage with a technology over which they do not have full control.
And this, in essence, is what AppFlowy is looking to solve with a self-hosted solution that goes some way to addressing the security and expansion concerns of incumbent providers.
Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, AppFlowy includes tools for managing projects, taking notes, tracking the status of individual project items, viewing deadlines, creating documents, and other items that may be familiar to those who use similar virtual workspace tools.
However, AppFlowy’s promise is about control and customization, allowing companies to customize their workplace with modular building blocks that can be optimized for specific use cases. And because it’s open source, AppFlowy is able to support community contributions, which accelerates new functionality.
But AppFlowy sees itself as a better fit for industries with strict data privacy restrictions.
“Most proprietary collaboration tools in the workplace have one major limitation – it’s too difficult or too expensive for their customers to have 100% control over their data,” co-founder and CEO Annie Anqi Wang said in a blog post. “As a result, vendor lock-in has become difficult to crack. Users often feel anxious when entrusting their sensitive data to these devices, naturally concerned about their longevity.”
To the cloud
Established two years ago by Wangformer product manager of ByteDance, and CTO Nathan Foo who was previously a software engineer at TikTok’s parent company, AppFlowy came to GitHub under the “copyleft” AGPL-3.0 license in November 2021 and went on to pass 30,000 “stars” in its first year.
With $6.4 million in the bank, the company is now well-financed to build the platform into a money-making business. AppFlowy introduces self-hosting through Supabase (an open source alternative to Firebase) at early September, serves to store data for those who want to host AppFlowy in-house. But with its funding, the company also unveiled a cloud product, designed for deployment on cloud platforms such as Amazon EC2 and Azure virtual machines.
“Going forward, we will support team collaboration and enterprise offerings based on AppFlowy Cloud,” Wang told TechCrunch.
In fact, while self-hosting gives companies unrestricted control over their data, it also comes with maintenance costs and challenges that not all companies are willing or able to cover – which is where AppFlowy Cloud enters the fray.
With the promise of end-to-end encryption (E2EE), AppFlowy hopes to sway businesses hesitant about relying on the cloud due to security concerns — though E2EE is completely optional, and some businesses may prefer not to activate full encryption given that. it limits some of the things users can do. This includes real-time collaborative editing of documents, while it may block integrations with some third-party services, among other obstacles.
“People always prefer E2EE for the best security, however, there are many reasons why some people may choose not to opt for E2EE,” Wang said. “Users who prioritize speed and performance can choose E2EE, (and) the lack of recovery options (means) that only the user has the decryption keys. An organization can (also ) who choose not to use E2EE due to regulatory compliance, data retention policies, and management considerations.
It’s also worth noting that companies can adopt a hybrid local/cloud approach to AppFlowy, which enables them to keep their instance local and only sync to the cloud when needed.
“This approach offers a combination of offline experience and cloud connectivity, depending on the user’s needs and preferences,” Wang said. “Data is used in a local environment, and can be uploaded to the cloud if users want to back-up or share it. However, users also have the option to keep syncing.”
Eventually, AppFlowy Cloud will also be the company’s ticket to monetization, although it will initially be offered completely free.
“We plan to adopt a freemium model for AppFlowy Cloud, which means that some premium features will not be included in the free tier,” Wang said. “As these features are still under development, there is no paywall at this time.”
AppFlowy’s cloud platform is available in private beta right now, with a full public launch said to be coming “soon.” The company also said that it is working on a mobile app that is scheduled to launch next month, and will help AppFlowy to be fully cross-platform.