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5/30/2012
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Wrike Goes Freemium For Social Project Management

Wrike offers free version for 5 "power users" and unlimited collaborators, to battle rivals including Asana, a startup from a Facebook co-founder.

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Wrike CEO Andrew Filev used to take pride in growing his social project management company without giving its product away for free. But amid intensifying competition, Wrike is introducing a free product he claims is better than many competitors paid plans.

"The task and project management space is fairly crowded," Filev said. "We see that there's a gap between the free competitors and the paid products, so we're introducing something in the middle."

Wrike's free plan includes five users and unlimited "collaborators," who might be project participants who need to view tasks that are shared with them, post comments, view or upload files, and mark tasks done. Collaborator licenses are distinguished from the accounts of active users who will be making and updating project plans.

[ Is this the way to see social business in action? See Mindjet Connects Vision, Action In Social Platform. ]

Filev said he aimed to create a "fairly generous" freemium offering that would be useful to small organizations, even without upgrading. "If you're a non-profit or a church, you could have five people coordinating the work of 200 people."

Premium versions of the service start at $49 per month for five users, with features such as Gantt chart views of activity, Outlook integration, and workload tracking. From there, it goes to $99 for 15 users, $129 for 25 users, or $199 for up to 50 users. Collaborator accounts are free in all cases.

Wrike is one of several cloud software services aiming to remake project and task management in the mode of social interaction, where an activity stream of tasks assigned and completed is one of the centerpieces. Filev talks about a work graph created from project relationships, just as the social graph is built from social connections. This is not necessarily a new trend. Web-based project and task management applications like Basecamp from 37Signals were among the first successful examples of cloud software.

The freemium strategy of companies like Yammer has been imitated by many social software startups, and Spigit's Icon is another recent example of using a free product to grab the market's attention. The tactic is also being used by Asana, one of the newer social task management services, which recently garnered New York Times coverage because it's run by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. An early leader of Facebook's server technology team, Moskovitz derived the Asana software from project tools initially developed for Facebook's internal use.

"Unfortunately, I don't have a Facebook pedigree--we have to compensate [with] other things," Filev said. He claims not to be intimidated, saying Asana still has to prove itself through customer adoption. "The space has always been pretty competitive. When we started, Basecamp already pretty established," he said.

Wrike was one of the early participants in the Jive Apps Market and has implemented the latest OpenSocial application embedding features in the Jive Platform, but it can also be used as an independent social application. Wrike also integrates with important cloud platforms such as Google Docs.

Filev said Wrike experimented with offering a free version of its product through the Google Apps Marketplace and was encouraged by the results. "About 5% of the free accounts converted into paid," he said. If that holds up as the offer is broadened to all Web users, it should grow Wrike's customer base substantially, he said.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

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