Startup Of The Week: Qwaq Brings Virtual Reality To Enterprise Collaboration

The startup lets users create avatars and navigate a Second Life-esque environment while they collaborate on projects.
Qwaq nails the trifecta of hip IT technologies: It's a software-as-a-service offering that combines enterprise collaboration with an interface like Second Life. Users create avatars and meet in a virtual 3-D environment to share and edit documents and use corporate applications. Now, if it could just do something about the name.
--Andrew Conry-Murray


 Greg Nuyens, founder and CEO

Nuyens wants Qwaq to be just as good as reality

HEADQUARTERS: Palo Alto, Calif.

PRODUCT: Qwaq Forums

PRINCIPALS: Greg Nuyens, founder and CEO; David Smith, CTO; Anne Dorman, CFO

INVESTORS: Alloy Ventures, Storm Ventures

FUNDING: $7 million


Qwaq augments enterprise collaboration with Qwaq Forums, 3-D virtual environments that let avatars interact with co-workers, create and edit documents, and use applications. CEO Nuyens says 3-D is more than just slick graphics. "The fact that you give a team a place that exists is extremely significant. You get social transactions. It builds trust among team members."

Qwaq lets you upload, share, and edit documents, such as Word files or PowerPoint slides, with co-workers. It also lets you run applications inside Qwaq Forums. For example, doctors in different locations could use a medical imaging application inside a Forum. Users also can launch Firefox in a Forum to browse the Web. Qwaq offers a SaaS option or an appliance deployed behind your enterprise firewall. The appliance version is required if you want to run applications inside a Forum.

SharePoint dominates collaboration. Web-based collaboration providers, such as Central Desktop, Socialtext, Basecamp, and PBwiki also compete, but no one else offers the 3-D experience of Qwaq.

The hosted and appliance versions require Qwaq's own browser, which includes VoIP and text chat capabilities. The hosted version uses OpenOffice, while the appliance supports Microsoft Office. Access control is based around Forums. With the appliance, administrators can grant user access via Active Directory. In the hosted version, anyone who creates a Forum can invite others. The software currently lacks fine-grained permissions--all shared documents can be copied by anyone in the Forum.

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