David Byttow learned just how much goes unsaid inside companies while he was running Secret. Blasting private information out publicly causes harassment, which led Secret to flame out and give investors back some of their money.
But now Byttow is channeling his insight into a new startup called Bold, which he tells me is a “platform for writing long-form content at work. Use cases include things like engineering tutorials, product specs, memos, onboarding docs, etc.”
Bold’s bots and bot platform can help you write better, a Discuss on Slack button lets posts instantly start internal conversations, and you can even right in code. Polished pieces can be flipped to become publicly visible.
One surprise: there’s no anonymity. Byttow tells me “It’s incredibly important that people feel like they have a place to share their thoughts, but anonymity is not the answer because it’s polarizing and can skew toward negativity. Positivity and optimism are key, especially in growing companies. So we decided not to add anonymity as an option.”
For now, Bold is in free private beta as a publishing and editing platform, but will eventually charge on a per-use, per-month basis. You can register here for early access.
Byttow was originally funding Bold, but his four-person team pulled in $1 million from Index Ventures this summer. That’s despite Byttow taking $3 million cash off the table for himself during Secret’s $25 million Series B less than a year before the startup imploded. You’d think VCs would be a bit more skeptical.
Secret had amassed 15 million registered users before flaming out. The problem was that with little info about them, they were tough to monetize. This time around, Byttow tells me “we want to build a product that companies will want to pay for because it’s the best and provides functionality that nobody else is doing.”
Bold will have to battle with Google Docs, Dropbox, Paper, internal WordPress installations, and other places to keep company text. And if businesses want to speak to the world, they can always hop on Medium.
But Byttow is betting on bots to give Bold an edge. These “Assistants” live on the otherwise clean writing canvas, and give you advice or keep you calm. He says the move was inspired by when “A long time ago, I worked on a Google Wave robot system.”
Byttow writes “The Hemingway assistant makes your sentences more concise and active by suggesting changes as you type. The Ambience assistant helps you think by playing ambient background noise, such sounds reminiscent of sitting Café de Flore on a rainy day.” Bold is also planning a third-party platform so devs can build their own assistants, which could make the startup more defensible.
Without the protection of anonymity, employees might be apprehensive to change behavior and post their thoughts instead of more quietly telling their managers.
The challenge will be for Bold to prove it’s necessary. Yes, “Everyone has opinions and ideas, yet they often go unshared”, as Byttow writes. But there are plenty of good-enough ways to distribute them that don’t cost a monthly fee.