The former CTO of Facebook is reimagining the word processor.
At 34, Bret Taylor already has one of the most impressive résumés in Silicon Valley. He has been a creator of Google Maps; a cofounder of FriendFeed, one of Facebook’s earliest acquisitions; a creator of Facebook’s ubiquitous “Like” button; and Facebook’s chief technology officer. He is one of those rare engineers who are equally comfortable writing code and taking a stage to tell people about it.
Yet even the best engineers and entrepreneurs mess up, and that’s where my mind went when I learned of Quip, his latest venture. Quip is rethinking the word processor and other aspects of the “productivity software” that Microsoft has dominated for a generation. Apple and Google have made small inroads into Microsoft’s Office empire during the past half-decade, but their marketing and software development budgets are effectively unlimited. Why would a startup try it?
Taylor understands—even embraces—the skepticism. But what gives Quip a chance against the likes of Microsoft, Apple, and Google is that the rapid shift from desktop and laptop PCs to tablets and smartphones is changing what consumers want from their software, and Quip wasn’t conceived for a desktop- or laptop-dominated world. It is meant for people who often collaborate on documents while away from a desk in a traditional office, possibly on many separate devices over the course of a day (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies: Mobile Collaboration,” May/June). Today, we might use a combination of e-mail, file attachments, and instant-messaging streams to deal with this. Quip puts all those functions in one place, keeping track of who changed what in a document and who said what about those changes. It makes it possible to have quick back-and-forths with a group of people without dragging them into a meeting room or setting up a conference call.
Many people thought Taylor was being irrational when he left Facebook. Though he’d made millions in its IPO, he left more on the table by leaving. But Taylor knew exactly what he wanted next on his résumé. “I had influence at Facebook,” he says, “but at the end of the day I was executing someone else’s strategy.”
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