Driftt, out to improve collaboration on documents, collects $15 million

The Driftt team, from left: David Cancel, Marshall Moutenot, Alden Keefe Sampson, and Elias Torres.
The Driftt team, from left: David Cancel, Marshall Moutenot, Alden Keefe Sampson, and Elias Torres.

So much happens in five years…

In 2010, I covered the initial funding of a Cambridge startup called Performable, which was out to help websites hold on to more of their visitors. In 2015, those same two entrepreneurs are collecting capital for a new idea, Driftt, from the same venture capital firm that initially backed Performable, CRV. Between 2010 and 2015, they got acquired by HubSpot for $20 million, helped that company rebuild its digital marketing product and grow its software development team, and left in September 2014, just before HubSpot’s IPO.

The four-person Driftt team is working out of CRV’s Kendall Square offices (in 2010, the venture capital firm was still known as Charles River Ventures, and headquartered in Waltham). The co-founders are David Cancel and Elias Torres, and not long after leaving HubSpot, they recruited two engineers from Twitter’s Cambridge office, Marshall Moutenot and Alden Keefe Sampson.

Cancel isn’t divulging much about what Driftt is up to. But he will say that the company wants to create new ways for people to work together on documents — adding and editing and annotating them — on a variety of different devices, like smartphones and tablets. And Cancel says the company will likely take a common software-as-a-service approach to selling its product, pitching it to small teams within companies at first, rather than trying to sell it on a company-wide basis.

“We’re just developing the product,” he says. “There’s no artificial deadline for launching it, but there’s always a sense of urgency. The goal is to be working with larger and larger groups of customers every day,” he says, and to continue refining the product based on their input. When we talked about new collaboration platforms that have been defining this new era, among those Cancel mentioned were Slack, a messaging system, and Quip, a Web-based word processor.

Driftt’s funding round wrapped up just before the holidays. The cash comes from CRV, Cambridge-based General Catalyst, Boston-based NextView Ventures, Founder Collective in Cambridge, Visible Measures CEO Brian Shin, and a number of senior HubSpot executives, including co-founder Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. Cancel says he raised a rather large first round so that the company can stay focused on product development — and bringing on more team members. (Also, he had to buy the domain Drift.com for any prospective employees or customers who mistype the startup’s name. It had been home to a forum related to cars and drifting.)

Nothing yet on Driftt’s website, aside from a form that allows you to request an invite to the company’s on-going beta test, and the company’s mission statement: “…to help people like you work better together. Anywhere, anytime, on any device.”

(Side note: I find co-founder Elias Torres to be not-very-scary in person. But perhaps cameras make him angry…)

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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